That we may be shrewd, clever witnesses

25th Sunday Ordinary Time
Amos 8: 4-7, 1 Tim 2: 1-8,
Luke 16: 1-13

As Father said, my name is Deacon Stephen Durkee. I am a seminarian from the diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have the great privilege of serving here, at St. Emily’s, for the year. I look forward to worshiping with you, learning from you, serving you, and most importantly growing together in our relationship with Christ as a community of believers.

 In Saint Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he exhorts the people to pray for each other because this is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved.

 I love this message from Saint Paul. God desires for all of us to go to heaven. Consequently, God sent his son Jesus to bring us into full communion with him. Our evidence for this is from the Gospel last week. We heard three parables from Jesus that illustrate how God is accomplishing salvation in our lives. 1) parable of the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep, 2) the woman who searches for her lost coin, and finally 3) the story of the prodigal son. What does this teach us? It teaches us one of the most beautiful qualities about God – that is, God loves us so much the he never gives up on us. God is always seeking us. The reason we know this to be absolutely true is that God sent Christ to find us and to bring us back to him. 

 Saint Paul certainly expresses this in his letter to Timothy but he also points out how God uses all of us here, the christian community, to carry out his plan of salvation. Again, Saint Paul writes to Timothy, pray for each other because this is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved. What is amazing about Saint Paul’s request here is the assertion that our prayers are part of God’s plan for bringing salvation to our friends and family. In other words, just as Jesus was sent to bring us back into a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father, he sends us to bring people to Christ, so that all people can come to know of God’s saving love in their lives. 

 These words from Saint Paul are very important for me. The reason is that they explain, why I not only feel called to be a priest, but why I desire to be a priest. When I was younger I never wanted to be a priest. My dream in life was very specific and simple. I wanted to be married to a beautiful wife and have 12 kids. I also wanted to be a Math teacher and to coach High School Basketball. But in my sophomore year of High School I returned to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  

 Friends, it was that confession in the 10th grade that changed my life. It was my first encounter with the love of the Heavenly Father and it became the driving force behind my vocation to the priesthood. The experience of God’s love and mercy, through that priest, had changed my life, had given me hope, but it did more – it gave me a vocation.

  But answering God’s call to explore priesthood as a possibility for my life wasn’t that easy. I spent the first couple of years running away by continuing to pursue my dream as a Math teacher at Central Michigan University. After my first year at Central Michigan, I was at home mowing the lawn. This took about two hours and so I actually enjoyed it very much because it became a time of prayer. About halfway through, the Lord spoke very clearly in my heart. He said, “Stephen, I want you go to seminary, you will be a happy priest”. Friends this was the last hurdle for me to jump before I could go to seminary. I needed to believe that I would be a happy priest.  

 The point I’m trying to articulate is that experiencing God’s profound love always demands a response. For me, after learning through this experience of confession that I was God’s beloved son, I began to feel called to the priesthood. Simply put, my life was so changed by that one confession – where a priest represented the love the Heavenly Father for me at an important time in my life. Now this is why I want to be a priest: to help God’s people come to know the Heavenly Father – that all of us here, will know, that we are God’s beloved daughters and sons in Christ. 

 What I hope for all of us to recognize is that God used someone else, namely this priest, to help me come to know him more deeply. But God doesn’t just use priests to make his love known to the world. He uses all of us gathered here today. This is a truth that we can glean from the Gospel. Some of us here might be wondering why Jesus praised the dishonest steward, and we would be right to do so. But Jesus isn’t praising the dishonesty of the steward, rather he is praising the shrewdness he used to accomplish his goal. Listen to the words of Christ, For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.

 We are the children of light. And God wants us to “be preoccupied with the salvation of all men”. He wants us to act with the same shrewdness in the quest of the kingdom – for both ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we can ask ourselves how are we responding to our vocations? How are we a window to Christ for others? How am I using my gifts and skills to promote the Gospel? 

 Friends, as we prepare to receive the holy Eucharist today, may we be grateful that God desires for all of us to be saved. But as we receive the Eucharist, may our prayer be that we each respond to God’s love and plan in our lives by being shrewd, clever, witnesses of the Gospel – so that others may come to know of God’s love in their lives as well. Let us trust that God shows himself to others through each of us.

Pax,

SJD

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