Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Economy of Salvation

(25th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year C; This homily was given 22 &23 September, 2007, at St. Mary's Church, Cranston, R.I.; read Luke 16:1-13 and CCC #258, 1066 & Glossary)

Some of the most powerful and beautiful teachings in the Scriptures are found in the New Testament, in the parables of Jesus Christ; He simply is the greatest Teacher of all time. One of the reasons for His effectiveness and ability to communicate His message so well—to the people of His own day, and to the people of ours—has to do with the examples and illustrations He often used from everyday life.

The parable we hear this weekend, the Parable of the Unjust Steward, is no exception. Christ talks to them about landowners, stewards, debtors and creditors; they were very well acquainted with that system.

We ourselves are also familiar—perhaps too familiar—with some of the very same things: debt, credit cards, bills and payments. All of these things, obviously, have to do with the economy. They make up the economic system. All civilizations and cultures have some kind of economy, however primitive it may be. In order for a society to function it must have some sort of an economy.

That word itself, Economy, is taken from the Greek word oikonomia, and it means literally the “management of a household.” It describes how someone conducts their affairs; how they manage their life.

The Fathers of the Church, however, tell us that there is an economy in God Himself! They call it the “economy of salvation.” It does not mean that God has a credit card, or that He is investing at the New York Stock Exchange. The “economy of God” or the “economy of salvation,” refers to the way God “manages” His household, the world.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

The economy of salvation…refers to God’s activity in creating and governing the world, particularly to his plan for the salvation of the world in the person of Jesus Christ, a plan which is being accomplished through His Body the Church, in its life and sacraments.

—Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Glossary, “Economy of Salvation”

The “economy of salvation,” then, is basically “what God is up to” on an everyday basis; how He is guiding the course of human history. If you want to know how God is managing Europe or the United States, how He is dealing with Cranston, Rhode Island, or your own household and your own life, then you need look no further than the person of Jesus Christ. That is what God is up to.

Christ is God who became man and walked right into our very lives; He entered into our economic system, into our homes and families. He reached out and touched those who were sick, and healed them. He gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. He suffered and died on the cross so that we could be forgiven for our sins and find new hope and new life in Him.

Jesus Christ rose again from the dead and invited us into His very life, a life that will never end. By our Baptism we can live in Him and through the gift of His Body and Blood to us in the Holy Eucharist, Christ lives in us. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can be forgiven for all our sins and make a brand new start with God.

That is the “economy of Salvation” in all its splendor! That is how God is managing His household.

The challenge Christ issues to us this weekend is simple and clear: To be active in that economy! We are not called to sit back and wait for God to do something in our lives. We cannot be unresponsive to so great a gift! Jesus contrasts those who are inactive and unmotivated in their Christian life to the people of this world who are over-active in the economy and worldly affairs here on earth:

The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
—Luke 16:8

The illustration He uses is the Parable of the Dishonest Steward. Make no mistake about it: this man is a scoundrel! He is a thief. He’s embezzling money from his boss; taking what does not belong to him. And he’s been caught! He is about to get fired, and rightfully so.

Jesus in no way condones what that man has done. But what the parable draws our attention to is the reaction of that scoundrel as soon as he figures out that the game is up: he gets active. This man got busy! He used all his energy, his efforts, gifts and abilities, everything he had, to make sure that he would be well taken care of in this world. He made sure he was well covered when it came to worldly wealth.

Jesus is essentially saying: If only my people were that active in their pursuit of eternal wealth!

He is challenging us to use all our energies, our efforts, gifts, abilities and resources, to seek the Kingdom of God and to make sure we have a place in the eternal kingdom where He lives and reigns forever. Because, in the end, the “economy of Salvation” is not about money. It is not about possessions, or property of anything so mundane.

The “economy of salvation” is ultimately about heaven. It’s about eternal life. We can ask ourselves this weekend: How much are we investing in that economy? Certainly in our generosity with time, talent and treasure, but more than that; also in the way we live and the way we love? How well are we investing in that “economy” which will earn us dividends in an eternal life with God?