It is a pleasure to visit with all of you and to celebrate the 75th Anniversary Mass of the Novena to St. Jude here at the nationwide center of St. Jude devotions. I am sorry to say that Fr. Sal Furnari is not able to be with us this morning because his father, Salvatore, passed away two days ago and Fr. Sal had to travel home to New York for the funeral arrangements. I am pleased to greet the Pallotine priests that are with us this morning along with my brother deacon, Doug Kendzierski.
II. The Shrewd Steward
A. In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the shrewd steward who is about to lose his job and has to give an accounting to his master. The steward does something that is calculated, and for good reason; he isn’t skilled or strong enough to work and is too proud to ask for help. Therefore, he calls in his master’s debtors and forgives them part of their debts, thus making himself look favorable in their eyes. He used his last hours in charge of his master’s property to extend a world type of mercy to others by relieving their debts.
B. To be sure, the clever steward is no model of repentance. He is a “child of this world”, driven by a purely selfish motive – to make friends and be welcomed into the homes of his master’s debtors when he is out of work. Yet his shrewdness is commended as an example to us. Jesus says to us, “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Here Jesus doesn’t mean to praise the dishonesty of the steward who prepared for his future security; rather, Jesus is commending the steward’s prudence in looking to the future and in making the most of a difficult situation – not giving in to discouragement or despair.
III. The Shrewd Christian
A. As you know, many people go out of their way and even make sacrifices in order to improve their lifestyle or standard of living. How many people today work very long hours or go to extreme lengths to acquire more wealth, power, or status. The steward in the Gospel got himself into trouble not because he worked hard and honestly, but because he used his time & energy to extort money from his master’s debtors. Most likely, he charged them more than they truly owed his master so that he could make a profit off of them.
B. As Christians, we too have to be as shrewd as the steward. But the astuteness to which we are called has nothing to do with dishonesty or selfish gain. Rather, we too have to go out of our way to secure our future, our spiritual future. We have to put the same amount of zeal into our service to God as the children of this world put into their pursuit of money, power, & pleasure. There are two dimensions to our service to God: the material and the spiritual. In the material realm, we should have an authentic concern for the needs of the poor and the vulnerable around us. We need to make sure that those in need have access to good education, job training, affordable housing, and healthy food options; we have to be so smart and discerning that we can see Christ in the poor. In the spiritual realm, we have to work tirelessly to ensure that our souls gain heaven by avoiding sin, by growing in virtue, and placing God at the center of our lives through prayer and penance.
C. At times, it seems that the “children of this world” are more determined in the pursuit of their goals than we are. But the Lord wants us to put everything we have into pursuing heaven; He wants us to be at least as determined in this goal as those who engage in worldly affairs are. Jesus reminds us at the end of the Gospel, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” So, we must serve God with all our heart, both with the natural gifts He has given to us, as well as with the supernatural gifts He has given us. Everything should be directed toward God, whether it is growing in love of God through prayer, Scripture, and the Sacraments, or growing in love of our neighbor by living the virtues of justice and charity.
IV. Supernatural Gifts
A. Certainly we have to use human means, our natural gifts, to serve God through the service of our neighbor, but we also have to employ the supernatural gifts that God infuses into us. We can never place our trust solely in our personal talents or ideas. We must always rely on God’s grace and on the virtues of faith, hope, and love that He freely gives to us. God’s grace works in and through us and in and through others we call upon.
B. God also gives us help through many channels, and one way He assists us is through the prayers of powerful intercessors. St. Jude is one such powerful intercessor. Given the title “Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes”, St. Jude is a beacon of hope for anyone who is about to give up or is about to despair. In spite of, or more likely because of, all the advances human society has made, people find themselves under incredible stress and have difficulty coping at one time or another. We are finding that technology and other man-made innovations are unable to provide comfort and hope when it is truly needed. Therefore, many people turn to St. Jude when they feel the most helpless and alone. St. Jude has proven to be a true friend and a beacon of hope to those who call on him – he is always willing to help no matter how desperate the need. And in today’s tumultuous times, we need him more than ever.
C. St. Paul exhorts us in the second reading, “I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone.” How many intentions for others have been made here at the Shrine of St. Jude, from all over the world, for those who need them so desperately! This Shrine is a source of charity and consolation for countless people and souls as we call upon this great saint for ourselves, our loved ones, and the many people who ask us to pray for them. For 75 years the Novena to St. Jude has provided hope and peace for countless people, and I pray that it will continue to be a source of favors and answered prayers through the powerful intercession of St. Jude for many years to come.
St. Jude Thaddeus, pray for us.