25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 19, 2010
Tit for Tat
I was in the grocery one time looking for my favorite green tea. I was surprised to see on
the shelf a new product called “Honest Tea”. It appears harmless but it sounds deceiving.
Anybody who hears that name would think that the virtue of honesty is now for sale in the
grocery. Definitely, this is a clever marketing ploy. But this also reveals how the worldly
people are using and taking advantage of the spiritual values in the pursuit and advancement
of their goals and agenda. Let me cite a few more examples. We use Abba to call God our
Father, but the music industry used it as the name of that famous singing and swinging
group. We address the Blessed Virgin as Madonna, but it is the name of a rock star. The
cross is the symbol of our faith, but is now used merely as bodily decoration in rock concerts.
Trust is a Christian virtue, but it is the brand name of a condom. And of course, love, the only
word that is used to describe God, has practically lost its true meaning. All these are part of
the devil’s plan to secularize the sacred and trivialize the true faith.
Sacred realities are being used for secular purposes. How many times have we heard about
a church where rock concerts were held? Have you heard Gregorian chant mixed into heavy
metal rock music? How often did we witness the sacred Host, because of the common
practice of Communion-in-the-hand, being subjected to profanation and desecration? We
know of many instances when the sacred Host is taken home as souvenir, or as talisman or
amulet for fighting cocks, or used in satanic cults.
The world is making use of the sacred and spiritual realities to further the agenda of the
worldly people and the devil. Are we not going to do something about it? Have we ever
thought of giving them a dose of their own medicine? Is it possible to make use of the worldly
for the advantage of the sacred? Doing nothing would just confirm what our Lord said: “For
the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children
of the light.”
A gambling syndicate offered a huge amount of money to a poor parish. Surprisingly, the
priest accepted the donation. The people were curious as to what the priest will do with
the money. In fact, many of them were scandalized that he accepted the donation. During
his homily that Sunday, the priest showed the money to the people and said, “My dear
parishioners, this money comes from gambling. This is dirty money. It is the money of the
devil. But we are going to punish the devil! We will use his money to repair this church and
to evangelize people so that sinners will be converted. In short, we are going to punish and
destroy the devil with his own money!”
This story may make some people uneasy. But I am not saying that the end justifies the
means, and that it is all right to accept donations from dirty sources, for that would be
tantamount to condoning or even approving evil deeds. Rather, this is just meant to illustrate
how we can get back at the enemy. In the Gospel this Sunday, the master praised the
dishonest manager. This may sound strange for Jesus to say this. However, he clarified
that this was not for dishonesty that the manager was praised but “for acting prudently” or
shrewdly. Knowing that his tenure of stewardship is about to end, he was smart enough to
make use of his remaining time in office to gain loyal friends. So Jesus said, “Make friends
for yourselves with dishonest wealth so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal
dwellings.” (The New Jerusalem Bible: “Use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make
sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into eternal dwellings.”) That means making use
of this world’s goods for eternal salvation, and using temporal things to attain the heavenly
rewards. Simply put, it is our way of getting back at the devil in this raging spiritual battle.
The global economic crisis and financial meltdown have sent us a very clear message:
economic giants are vulnerable, big banks and financial institutions can crumble, money can
be lost in an instant. They will surely fail us, for they are never permanent. And when they are
lost, they are totally gone – except those that were spent to serve God by spreading the true
faith and by helping the poor and the needy. In short, money and all material resources will
never be lost if they are invested in the eternal treasuries of heaven.
How about that? This sounds like the best deal of all times: using the temporal in exchange
for the eternal, the worldly things to get the heavenly rewards. This is just a matter of faithful
stewardship. If we are trustworthy in administering the passing things of this world, God will
also entrust us with the eternal treasures of heaven. The Church is full of saints who showed
us that this is certainly true: St. Joseph of Arimathea, St. Helen, St. Henry II, St. Louis IX, St.
Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Portugal, St. Hedwig of Poland, St. Ethelbert of Kent
and many others. They were kings, queens, princes and millionaires who used their worldly
wealth and power to help the poor and bring people to God. As a result, they have gained the
eternal riches of heaven.
Money in itself is not the root of evil; rather, it is love of money. When money is considered as
one’s master, that is the cause of so much trouble and misery. Pope John Paul II said that:
“The greatest misfortune of this age is that people consider money as the highest good.” But
when money is used as one’s instrument and servant to help the poor and to worship God,
then it becomes a great blessing. Thus the Lord warned us: “You cannot serve both God and
mammon.” Let us use money as our servant, and let us serve and worship God as our Lord.
Saint Paul exhorts us: “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord
rather than for men, since you know full well that you will receive an inheritance from him
as your reward. Be slaves of Christ the Lord” (Col 3:23-24). This will make us trustworthy
stewards of God’s blessings in this world and faithful citizens of His kingdom.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002