Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Great Deal - Homily for the 25th Sunday in OT (C)

Do you know a deal when you see one?

A few weeks ago, I was in the market for a car. And for various reasons—but it was time. Of course, I didn’t want just any car. I wanted a Ferrari.

Actually, I just wanted a deal. And even better: I wanted a great deal.

And what is a great deal? A great deal is where we get a lot of something while only having to pay a little. Something amazing for not much cost.

Now, no one goes into a car dealership and says, “Yeah, uh, give me your worst deal. I want to pay a lot for a clunker.” No. Give me a great deal.

We all want a great deal.

But the question is: Do you know a great deal when you see one?

*          *          *

The parable we heard today is the Parable of the Dishonest Steward. It’s one of the more difficult parables, I think. So, to help me remember its meaning I like to call it the Parable of The Great Deal.

So here we have this salesman, the steward, who has been making bad deals; he has been costing the company millions. The store owner, the master, wants to know what in the world is going on. So he asks the salesman/steward for a report. Now, the steward knows he’s in trouble. So, in order to save himself, he makes several deals and lines his pockets for a “golden parachute” retirement plan.

Now what’s the problem with this? It’s going to cost the company millions.

And who’s going to pay for that? The owner of the company, the master.

So, when the crowd around Jesus hears this—many of them Pharisees—they would have been shocked. Justice dictates that this steward be fired (and far worse things).

But instead of condemning the man, Jesus praises the man—in effect saying, he’s made a great deal!

But wait? what? Is Jesus advocating cheating and swindling?

Well… in a way, yes.

*          *          *

But we’re not talking about money. We’re talking about something else. And to get there, we have to go back a week.

Last week, we heard about the Prodigal Son. You remember that story: the Prodigal Son squanders half of his father’s money and then repents. The father takes him back and gives him mercy.

Today’s reading takes that theme and goes deeper.

Jesus knows that the Pharisees were business-minded, so he re-crafts the Prodigal Son parable in terms of business. Instead of a father and son we have a business with a store owner and a salesperson.

So, Pharisees, He is saying, who got the better deal—the father or the son?

The Pharisees could reply: the son is getting the better deal. He doesn’t have to pay a thing!

And who is getting the better deal: the master or the steward?

It’s the steward, of course.

So, what Jesus is telling the Pharisees is: look, all of us have squandered so much of what was given to us: our life, our blessings—we’ve lost so much and made deals with sin and the devil. If you are men of justice, tell me: who is going to pay for that?

And could you pay for that?

Could you really pay for the cost of the effects from your sins? Could you ever pay back for the graces and the blessings that you have squandered in your life?

And tell me about heaven: if you could put a price tag on heaven, how much would it go for? … Do you really think you could pay for your way into heaven?

If you are men of justice, my dear Pharisees, note well that you will never be able to pay the cost. You don’t have enough to cover the cost of your sins, much less the cost of heaven.

This is where Jesus points to the mercy of God: He is saying, Look at my Father. He's the master. And he's giving you an opportunity for a deal right now. And it’s a Great Deal. All you have to do is be like the Prodigal Son and come back to the Father. Receive mercy and give mercy. And the Father will cover all the costs.

The cost for your sins? My Father will cover that.

The cost for everything that you have squandered? My Father will cover that too.

The cost to get into heaven? My Father will even pay for that.

Just like the dishonest steward's debts, my father is going to cover that.

So do you know a great deal when you see one? ... And will you take the deal?

*          *          *

This past week, I went to the dentist. I’m embarrassed to say that it had been a long, long time since I had been. I stopped going to the dentist in college and, well, after missing for five years, what was another five? And with each passing year, the embarrassment of what my teeth must be looking like—well, I started to pretend that all was ok.

But this week, by the grace of God, I went to the dentist. And I’m sitting there and I’m thinking: "So, this must be how it feels to come back to confession after fifteen years..."

Dentist, forgive me, it’s been fifteen years since my last cleaning….

Why did I wait fifteen years? Pride… embarrassment…

Ultimately, I had built up into my mind that the cost of going far outweighed the reward.

And we do that with a lot of things, right? Exercise. Going to the doctor. Forgiving somebody.

This isn’t a “P.C.” thing to say, but Jesus says we’re dumb:

…the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light. 

In other words: we’re so anxious to jump on a great deal for a car or for a job or for a retirement plan, but when it comes to the greater deals in life, those that really matter—working on our marriages, spending time with family, going to confession—when it comes to the great deals, we don’t jump at the chance.

And Jesus says that’s dumb. Dumbest of all is refusing God's mercy in confession.

I mean, God is there, saying: “I’m going to forgive you and pay for the cost of your sins. I’m going to pay for what it would cost you to get into heaven. I’m going to pay that.”

And we don’t jump at that? What are we thinking?

Do we really believe this is a bad deal for us? Does the cost of going really outweigh the forgiveness?

Who is this a bad deal for?

It's a bad deal for the Father. In the story of the Prodigal Son, the older brother gets angry precisely because of how bad a deal this is for the Father.

But the Father does it anyway. Because it means having his son back. And having his son back is worth more than all the gold in the world. What the older brother doesn't see is that mercy is a Great Deal for everyone.

If this doesn't resonate with the business-minded Pharisees, then what will?

*          *          *

And so I invite you to confession and so many say *in an Eeyore voice* “No thanks, Father, I don’t want that.”

Are we insane?

I mean, the devil is happy to make you pay full price! And he'll make you pay for all eternity!

Don't we know this is a limited time offer?

This is the whole point of the Parable of the Great Deal: Jesus is saying, hey! you have a chance to “swindle” God out of millions!—the very cost of heaven and your sins—more than the steward did his master. And you’re not going to take advantage of that?

I praised the steward—not so as to promote greed for money, but to show you how upside-down you are: you jump for great deals when it comes to money and cars and jobs and retirement, but you are slow to jump at the things that really matter. You are greedy for money, but not for mercy and eternity.

*          *          *

Right now, God is asking of you One Thing. I don't know what it is, but He is putting on your heart That One Thing that you think costs so much. Maybe it's....

Going to the doctor—friends, the reward outweighs the cost. 

Or maybe it's going to the adoration chapel—no cost at all, eternal rewards.

Forgiving someone.

Getting help for your marriage.

Gong to confession.

We all live as though these cost so much more than what they are worth. But, really, aren’t they worth so much more than they cost?

You tell me.

*pointing to the Cross* Do you know a great deal when you see one?

*          *          *

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you are a generous and merciful God. Please help me to see that One Thing that you want me to do, that you want me to trust you with. Please give me the grace to jump for the Great Deal that you offer in your mercy. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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