1) My father was a hunter.
2) Every fall he would go up into the mountains of New York with his buddies, and hunt deer.
3) And every year he would come back empty handed.
4) But filled with stories about the deer he almost got!
5) He told those stories all year long, and every time he told them, the deer got a little bigger, their escape a little more narrow.
6) It took me a while as a kid to realize what was really going on;
a) my dad was making his hunt look good to cover up the fact that he was a lousy hunter.
7) Looking back on it now I have to laugh. After all who has not done the same?
i) Maybe it is those bills that did not get paid
ii) Maybe it is that job we got fired from
iii) Maybe it is the friendship that has ended
iv) Or the marriage on the way to the divorce courts
v)Whatever the situation, and whoever was at fault
vi) Who here has not sought to rewrite our pasts, to justify ourselves in the present?
8) We certainly see politicians do it.
9) And in today’s Gospel we see the steward doing it
a) Aware that he is about to lose his job,
i) He goes back into the records of the business deals he made on behalf of his boss and rewrites them, charging his boss’ debtors far less than the original sum.
b) It should not surprise us that the debtors would be appreciative!
c) And yet, what is going on with the boss?
i) He praises the steward and it seems that he is praising him for his dishonesty.
d) And moreover, since this parable is from Jesus
e) It seems that Jesus is praising him and thus God is praising him too.
10) This is one of the most difficult parables for a preacher to preach on.
a) For it seems to make a virtue of what for us would be a vice,
b) And canonize this sinful steward
i) as the patron saint of us all,
ii) who justify ourselves through rewriting our pasts.
11) And yet if it seems that way to us,
a) it is because we live in a world where financial transactions are conducted by the rule of law and safeguarded for the most part, from graft and fraud.
12) In Jesus’ day it was much different.
i) Fraud and graft were commonplace,
ii) and the commission a worker got for his work
iii) was the amount he could charge over the amount demanded by his boss.
b) Jesus and his hearers would have known this
c) and thus they would pay attention to something we ignore:
i) That the story begins with the steward getting fired.
ii) And thus it begins with the acknowledgement that this steward was unjust, unfair and guilty.
13) But then he adjusts the amounts,
a) Essentially giving the debtors back his exorbitant commission; in one case 20%, in another, 50%!
14) Try to imagine what this was like to the people in Jesus’ day –
a) an already fired man, who has nothing to gain from his boss either way,
b) still nevertheless returns his commission to the debtors
15) In that act he admits he overcharged,
a) confesses he was wrong,
b) and hopes that these debtors will treat him fairly when he is poor and unemployed
c) since in his honesty he has finally been fair with them.
16) When we read this parable with the words of Jesus that follow it (as the gospel writer Luke intended),
17) About our not being able to serve both God and money,
18) We see why the boss praises the steward’s choice, and why Jesus does too.
a) For in a world where we seek to rewrite our past sins in order to justify ourselves in the present,
b) The steward offers us glimpse of another world,
i) where if we are honest about ourselves in the present, we can rewrite our futures.
19) Most of our past rewrites remain on the level of my father and his hunting skills;
a) However, many others have far deeper consequences.
20) Sometimes our rewrites destroy relationships, families, and, at times, whole nations.
a) Because that is what dishonesty does - for how can anyone relate to a lie?
b) Which is why it is so astonishing when we see someone in power actually be honest.
c) Which of course brings us to pope Francis.
21) Much has been said about him and his pontificate both positive and negative.
22) Many defend him as if he were the savior incarnate; other savagely attack him, claiming he call into question settled doctrine and sows unrest in the Church Most of us fall somewhere in between,
23) But let’s be clear:
24) He does not say the Church is wrong on doctrine,
a) but admits we have erred in how we have communicated it.
25) He does not say we need to change Church teaching,
a) but admits we need to change.
26) He does not call into question any of those things that make the church Catholic,
a) but admits that we have forgotten what the word Catholic means.
b) Being Catholic is not being a small group of likeminded faithful, rooted in law, dedicated to purifying the Church by excluding the unrighteous,
c) but is being a Universal Church rooted in love, in which admit we all are in need of purification, the righteous as well as the unrighteous,
d) and where love of the person is never trumped by insistence on the law.
27) But make no mistake: by saying these things he says something astonishing.
a) He admits that the Church can err; not in doctrine, but in its application
b) Not in teaching, but in the way we teach it;
28) No wonder so many of us are uncomfortable with Pope Francis; he is honest, even when it is dangerous, precisely because he has it on good authority
a) That it is only through such honesty in the present, that we can rewrite our future as a Church.
29) For imagine a world where we were honest about our backroom deals, our secret plans, our errors in judgment, our hidden sins.
30) Imagine a world in which we admitted that our righteousness was really just self righteousness
a) and we too are in need of forgiveness
31) Imagine a world in which we finally admitted that we are called to serve God
a) Rather than through our money, or power or what ever, to make ourselves look like gods.
b) Be we parents, presidents, priests or popes.
32) Imagine that world – because that is what Jesus invites us to do in this parable;
33) And the church does, when it is following its best lights. It is the whole reason why she holds up as examples the lives of those we call saints:
a) The long-suffering Monica
b) The brave and faithful St. Stephen of Hungary
c) The compassionate and charitable Elizabeth of Hungary
d) All of them ways in which that service of God is refracted and shines in the world, like light through a crystal, throughout the ages.
e) Imagine that world
f) But then look for it, in ourselves, and in others. And if we don’t see it, then make it happen.
34) For wherever we do see it and wherever we make it real through our own honesty,
35) We see the Spirit at work in US, rewriting OUR FUTURE.
36) For slavish insistence on rules and laws doesn't purify us and make us more Catholic
37) Honesty does, as does the love that honesty makes possible.
38) It purifies us as individuals, as a nation and as a church, and prepares us for a different future, a better future, the only one worth living for, or for that matter believing in; it purifies us for God’s future. In which our Church fulfills its mission of being Catholic and thus becoming that place where all can find their home.