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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | Faithful and Wise Stewardship

The Faithful and Wise Steward Jan Luyken Etching Bowyer Bible

The Faithful and Wise Steward, Jan Luyken (1649-1712), etching, Bowyer Bible, Bolton, Greater Manchester, England.

“What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time?  Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.” (Luke 12: 43-44)

This week’s Gospel talks about responsible stewardship.  I want to continue my theme from last week and ask if we are being wise and faithful stewards of our Pastoral Area from Yanchep to Lancelin.  It’s interesting that Jesus says that one of the steward’s jobs is to ‘give them their allowance of food’.  Yes, we can interpret this as referring to the Eucharist, but there is more to following Christ than the Mass and the Eucharist.  Christians need to be fed with the Word of God in Scripture, in excellent and inspirational homilies, and in the practice of the Word.  We need to remember that people leave Churches (or don’t even think of joining a Church) if they are not getting fed, if there is no sense of Communion in action.  They may be longing to see the Word of God being carried out in a communal plan.  We could say that a responsible steward gathers and feeds, but a slothful steward starves and scatters.  One of the signs that Jesus was the Christ, was that he gathered the tribes – he brought together the apostles and gathered a great many other disciples around himself; he took the trouble to heal, to talk to the crowds, to exorcise demons, to get out of his comfort zone par excellence.

One of the ways I was fed this week was through a thought-provoking interview of Andrew Bolt of Sky News by Pastor James Macpherson of Calvary Christian Church.  Bolt makes the point that

Tearing down things is a much easier way of asserting your individuality, your strength, your very existence, than creating something.  For every Leonardo da Vinci, there are ten thousand people that find it quite empowering to put a scratch in his work.

Bolt is an agnostic, but very aware that the popular trend of attacking Christianity will remove many of the freedoms and benefits that Christianity has brought to Western Civilisation.  So right here in our own little pastoral area, we need to be creating, gathering and building, witnessing strongly and not keeping our light under a bushel.  This week we have Census night and one of the questions is about religion.  How good have we been at making a difference to our local area’s Census results on the Catholic faith?

It seems to me that we should be asking (of ourselves) questions like these:

  1. Do the members of the church, under the leadership of the Priest, gather to ask questions like the ones I am asking?
  2. What is the mission of a Pastoral Area? Are we expecting ourselves to grow from a Pastoral Area to a Parish without actually doing any work or having a structured plan?  It seems to me that different members of our Pastoral Area  are carrying out some sort of mission in their own way, but there is no co-ordination of our activities so that we all feel we are working towards a common goal.
  3. Do we discuss how we can witness to Christ in our area, and actually form and document some implementable plans?
  4. Is it enough just to attend Mass, and not have any formal plans for outreach to former parishioners, outreach to the sick, outreach to the wider community, outreach to current members of our church who feel they are not being fed?
  5. Is anyone else, like me, interested in building our sense of Community, being fed through Bible Studies, film nights (I have plenty of inspirational Catholic material) and shared dinners.  Does anyone see that we need to meet together to give each other mutual support, plan for the future, reach out to the community and divide up the work so that we can all be assured that our stewardship duties are being addressed?

I am happy to host a discussion, if only I can find others who are on the same page.  Fellow parishioners or, for that matter, any residents of Yanchep, Guilderton and Lancelin, please let me know what you would like to see done in our Pastoral Area (just reply via the comment box – or phone me (Deirdre) at 0400 660 337).  If you are doing something already, please let us know how you are already contributing.

And do watch the Andrew Bolt interview!

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C 19th Sunday 2016

Pdf format:Year C 19th Sunday 2016

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B | God’s Sacred Meal for the Spiritually Exhausted

Elijah fed by an angel, Ferdinand Bol, 1660-1663, Private collection, New York.

Elijah fed by an angel, Ferdinand Bol, 1660-1663, Private collection, New York.

Did God’s prophets ever contemplate suicide?  Not exactly, but Elijah did feel so mentally and spiritually exhausted that he asked God to take his life (not at all the same thing as taking your own life).  In today’s first reading from the book of Kings, Elijah,

sitting under a furze bush wished he were dead. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘I have had enough. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’

Why did he feel this way?  Dr John Bergsma explains:

Elijah was experiencing “ministry burnout.”  Just days before, he had won a great show-down with 450 prophets of the false god Baal on Mt. Carmel, calling down fire from heaven and proving, in front of a crowd of thousands, that the LORD alone was the true God (1 Kings 18).  Such a public demonstration of the power of God would seem like a tremendous victory that would lead to repentance and renewal in Israel, but that’s not what happened.  The queen of Israel, a Gentile (Phoenician) princess by the name of Jezebel, was incensed by Elijah’s victory over her 450 prophets, and vowed to kill Elijah.  When we find him in today’s reading, then, Elijah is fleeing for his life.

Elijah was waging a cultural and spiritual war in the kingdom of northern Israel.  The war was between worship of the LORD and worship of Baal.  One of the major cultural issues between these two religious was sexual practices and family life.  Baal was a fertility god, and one of the ways he was worshiped was through ritual sex or “sacred” prostitution.  What to do with the children that resulted? These could be sacrifice to the god (Jer 19:5). Needless to say, the standing of marriage in a culture with these practices was none too high.

By contrast, the law of the LORD had no place for sex outside of a covenant bond between a man and a woman, which would ensure that the child resulting would come into the world in the safety of a marriage, wherein he or she could be raised to adulthood by his/her own father and mother.  This is “best practice” for human society.  Marriage in Israel was modeled on God’s own fidelity to his covenant with the nation (Mal 2:16 and context).  “Casual” sex, “cultic” sex, promiscuity, and the killing of infants had no place in worship of the God of Israel.

The king of northern Israel, Ahab, had married this Phoenician princess Jezebel, who was a Baal worshiper and was using government authority to promote Baal worship and its debased view of sexuality, marriage, and the value of infant children; and to suppress the religious freedom of the worshipers of the LORD, the God of Israel.

For all his efforts, Elijah was losing this cultural war, and now was in danger of his very life.  We find him fleeing into the wilderness of Judah in order to escape from any of Jezebel’s agents.  There he collapses in physical and spiritual exhaustion, and prays for death.

Yet God extends to Elijah a very gentle mercy in this passage.  Twice he sends an angel to him, to awaken him and prod him to eat a mysterious meal: a jug of water and a cake of bread that inexplicably appears nearby.  The nourishment from this food strengthens Elijah for a forty-day fast during his journey to Mt. Horeb (=Sinai), the mountain where God appeared to Moses.  There at Horeb, Elijah will speak with God and his prophetic vocation will be renewed.

In this passage we see God’s compassion for the weakness of his prophet, expressed in the provision of this sacred meal which strengthens him for the next step in his prophetic ministry.  In Christ, we “have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tested in every way just as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).  He knows our weakness and so has provided us day by day with a supernatural meal, the Eucharist, in which he comes into us and supplies the strength of spirit we need to carry on in our vocations.

Today’s Readings:

Word format: Year B 19th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B 19th Sunday 2015