Jesus tells how to conquer life by Tom Hoopes |

Jesus tells how to conquer life

Tom Hoopes |

Hint: Is herd mentality part of your spirituality?

There is nothing more freeing than knowing who you are and where you are going, with nothing holding you back.

In the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C), Jesus shows us how it is done.

It is easy to forget who we are and just become one of the multitudes.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is being followed by a great crowd who are no doubt excited by what he has just promised: The great banquet of heaven, to which all the forgotten are invited.

But he knows what often happens in religion. At several points in the Gospel, he has stopped and invited individuals to follow him. But this isn’t like that. Now “great crowds” were doing so — not a collection of friends who each had a personal encounter with Jesus, but a crowd who had a group encounter with him.

Jesus’ task is to weed them out — not because he doesn’t want them all (he does) but because he wants them each to be truly his follower.


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So he asks them what he asks us: Are we following him, or just following the crowd? 

First, he tells them they cannot be his disciples “without hating father and mother, wife and children, brother and sisters, and even his own life.”

In Semitic usage, “hate” here doesn’t mean despise. It means prioritize lower. It means that the love we have for Jesus should be different in kind from the love we have for other human beings. For God, we should be willing to do anything and change everything. We should not be willing to do that for fellow human beings.

He is asking: Who are you trying to please? The people around you? Or God?

Next, he reminds us of where we are going, and it’s a place far less pleasant than heaven.

Jesus says “Whoever does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” We often lose the meaning of the phrase “Carry your cross.” We think it just means bearing the burdens we have to bear in life.

It does mean that, but never forget what else it means: The only time you carry a cross after Jesus is when you are being led by your torturer to your death. Our lifelong way of the cross is a lifelong reminder of the fact that we are in the grip of sin that leads to death, Christ’s and ours.

But Jesus isn’t helpless or fatalistic. He knows there is a way to fight back.

His first listeners would have heard “carry your cross after me” and imagined their enemies capturing them and killing them.

And they would have understood his next comments, military metaphors, in the same context.

Jesus says we don’t want to be the guy who starts to build a tower — a defensive structure — and finds out we can’t finish it. We also don’t want to march out against our enemy and be overwhelmed with his numbers, he says.

Jesus Christ is telling us to be on the lookout for the enemy’s approach — and not to let the enemy gang up on us.

What is the tower we build to get perspective on our life? A prayer life, which has to be built and maintained carefully over many days and weeks, months and years. When are we overwhelmed with the enemy’s numbers? When we allow him footholds all around us, in the form of possessions.

Our “lookout tower” is described in the first reading.

Alone, our deliberations are “timid and unsure of our plans,” says the Book of Wisdom, “and the corruptible body burdens the soul.” We can scarce understand our life when we’re dealing with “things on earth” let alone “things in heaven.”

The only way to understand our lives is if we are “given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high.”

The tower that can spot our enemy is built in prayer.

St. Paul and Onesimus show how to give the enemy no foothold by “renouncing possessions.”

In the second reading, from Philemon, St. Paul is writing from jail, “a prisoner for Jesus Christ,” to introduce a slave named Onesimus who is now more than a slave — he is a “partner” now that he is “in the Lord.”

There could hardly be two better examples of what Jesus means when he says “any one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

St. Paul is free and fulfilled even though he is a prisoner. He doesn’t curse his captivity, he enjoys his solitude with the Lord. And Onesimus is free and fulfilled even though he is in slavery, because now he belongs to Jesus Christ.

This is who we need to be in order to meet our enemy: Not tied to relationships that reshape our identity apart from Jesus, and not tied to possessions— but clear of all attachments in Christ.

Then, whether alone or in a crowd, we will know who we are and where we are going, with nothing holding us back. End Quotes



by Raymond L. Burke


Half a millennium after the Reformation, Germans are making trouble again for the Roman Church. This time, Germany’s Catholic bishops have set out to remake the Church in their own liberal image.

The German episcopate this week adopted a statutory framework to govern its upcoming “Synodal Assembly.” The agenda will include reviewing “Church teaching on sexual morality, the role of women in Church offices and ministries, priestly life and discipline, and the separation of powers in Church governance.” And lest there be any doubt about the direction the majority aims to take in these areas, the bishops drafted the statutes with the Central Committee of German Catholics, a lay outfit that advocates women’s ordination, an end to priestly celibacy, and various other concessions to the sexual revolution.

These moves have met with severe disapproval from a broad spectrum of ecclesial opinion in Rome. Pope Francis has asked the Germans to focus on evangelization in their synod. The Congregation for Bishops has described Germany’s “binding synodal path” as “invalid.” And the Church’s traditionalist prelates, most notably Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, are up in arms—in response to the German process as well as to the upcoming Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, also heavily driven by the Germans.

What are the stakes, for the Church and the gospel? Can the German and Amazonian processes be stopped? To find out, I sat down last week with Cardinal Burke at his apartment just off St. Peter’s Square. The resulting interview has been edited for length and clarity.

—Sohrab Ahmari

Sohrab Ahmari: Your Eminence, is the German bishops’ “binding synodal path” connected to the upcoming Pan-Amazon Synod?

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke: They are very much connected. In fact, a number of the great proponents of the thrust of the Amazon Synod working document are German bishops and priests. And certain bishops in Germany have taken an unusual interest in this Amazon synod. For instance, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen has said that “nothing will be the same” after the Amazonian Synod process, the Church will be so completely changed, in his view.

SA: Is Germany’s “synodal path” ecclesially valid?

CB: It’s not valid at all. This has been made very clear. . . . In the letter to German bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Congregation for Bishops [told the Germans] that they are undertaking a process that is basically outside the Church—in other words, attempting to create a church according to their own image and likeness. As far as I’m concerned, this synodal way in Germany needs to be stopped before greater harm is done to the faithful. They have already begun this, and they insist that it can’t be stopped. But we’re talking about the salvation of souls, which means we need to take whatever measure is necessary.

SA: What is motivating the German bishops’ push, both in their own country and in the Amazon?

CB: The German bishops believe that they can now define doctrine, which is false. Otherwise, we would end up with a whole group of national churches, each with their own preferences regarding doctrine and discipline. The catholicity of the Catholic Church is exactly what’s at risk. The Catholic Church is a church that has one faith, one sacramental system, and one discipline throughout the whole world, and therefore we’ve never thought that each part of the world would define the Church according to particular cultures. That’s what’s being suggested in this working document of the Amazon and in Germany.

They say that the Amazon region is a fount of divine revelation, and therefore when the Church goes there in her missionary capacity, she should learn from the culture. This denies the fact that the Church brings the message of Christ, who alone is our salvation, and addresses that message to the culture—not the other way around! So yes, there will be objectively good elements in the culture, inasmuch as conscience and nature point to revelation; there are things in the culture that will respond immediately to the Church’s teaching. But there will be other elements that must be purified and elevated. Why? Because Christ alone is our salvation. We don’t save ourselves, either individually or as a society.

SA: But the proponents of the Amazonian process say there are too few priests in the Amazon region.

CB: So we need to cultivate priests for the missions, and secondly, we need to cultivate vocations among the native peoples themselves. I visited Brazil in June of 2017, and I was visiting with an archbishop who had been bishop in the Pan-Amazon for more than a decade. I asked him directly this question, because there was talk already then about relativizing the Church’s teaching on celibacy to recruit more priests. And he told me that while he was bishop, he devoted himself especially to the development of vocations, and there were a good number of vocations.

Very clearly he said, “It’s not true, this notion that the people in this region don’t understand perfect continence required of priests or don’t respond to it. That’s not true at all.” He said, “If you teach them about the celibacy of Christ himself and therefore the fittingness that his priests should also be celibate, they can certainly understand that.” Amazonians are human beings like you and me, and they can order their lives with the help of God’s grace.

SA: A larger point made by proponents of both the German and Amazonian processes is that conditions in modernity are simply too difficult to sustain the Church’s moral teaching and her discipline, whether involving priestly celibacy or divorce and remarriage for lay people.

CB: I took part in the 2014 session of the Synod of Bishops on the family, and that argument was specifically used with respect to those who are divorced and their being able to enter into a so-called second marriage. It was a German cardinal who said the Church’s teaching on marriage is an “ideal,” that not all people are able to realize it, and therefore we need to give those who fail in marriage the possibility of entering into a second marriage.

But the fundamental error is that marriage isn’t an ideal! It’s a grace. Marriage is a sacrament, and those who marry, even the weakest human beings, receive the grace to live according to the truth of marriage. Christ by his coming has overcome sin and its fruit, which is eternal death. He gives us, from his own being, from his own glorious body, the grace of the Holy Spirit to live in matrimony.

God gives grace to us whether we’re married or celibate. Christ himself is the example. He did not marry. He chose perfect continence in order to be for everyone, to be the savior of all. So he shows the cooperation with grace as it relates to the sexual aspect of our being. So the celibate clergy are also a tremendous encouragement to the married. Because it isn’t easy to be married, either. It’s not easy to be faithful. It’s not easy also to give one’s whole life, to be married until death do us part. And likewise, it isn’t easy to embrace the grace of procreation. So there’s this great mystery of divine grace in our lives, and that’s what’s being missed here. There’s a very strong influence here of German idealism, of Hegelian historicist notions.

SA: But doesn’t our hyper-sexualized culture make it so much harder to adhere to the Church’s moral teachings? I sometimes think that the great saints had it so much easier, either because they were cloistered, or because when they stepped out into the world, they weren’t confronted with such a thoroughly “pornographized” atmosphere.

CB: But even Saint Anthony of the Desert suffered these tremendous temptations. He saw images of naked women in his hermitage. One of our difficulties in life is that sometimes we permit ourselves to see sinful things: This is the great evil of pornography. We see images that stay with us and remain sources of temptation later. But in all of that, God gives us the grace to combat these temptations. Saint Paul says in the beginning of the letter to the Colossians, “I rejoiced to complete in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” It isn’t that there is anything lacking in Christ’s sufferings, except that we have to unite ourselves to them.

This is the mystery. Many today, because of the advances in science and technology, think that life should always be easier and more convenient, and they bring that mentality into the Church. So if there is any teaching that is hard, they simply say, “Well, that can’t be right. It must be all right to fornicate or whatever else.”

SA: Eminence, let’s turn to the legal structures involved: What is a synod? What is its legal or canonical status within the Church’s structures?

CB: The concept has always been there. The fundamental concept of a synod was to call together representatives of the clergy and the lay people to see how the Church could more effectively teach and more effectively apply her discipline. Synods never had anything to do with changing doctrine or with changing discipline. It was all meant to be a way of furthering the mission of the Church. The definition of a synod is based upon the truth that every Catholic as a true soldier of Christ is called to safeguard and promote the truths of the faith and the discipline by which those truths are practiced. Otherwise, the solemn assembly of bishops in synod would betray the mission. A synod, according to the Code of Canon Law, is supposed to assist the Roman pontiff with counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and morals, and the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline. There’s nothing there about altering the doctrine or the discipline!

The working document of the Pan-Amazonian synod is a direct attack on the Lordship of Christ. It says to people, “You already have the answers, and Christ is just one among many sources of answers.” This is apostasy!

Christ is Lord, and in every time and place—this is the genius of the Church. When missionaries have preached Christ, they have also recognized the gifts and talents of the people to whom they were preaching. The people then expressed in their own art and architecture the truths of the Church. They added their own flavor to the expression of the underlying Truth. You’ve probably seen the Japanese Madonnas. They’re done in the Japanese style—but the mystery of Divine Maternity is expressed!

SA: Against this backdrop, Eminence, what gives you hope today in the Church?

CB: Liturgical renewal among the young is everywhere, and it gives me great hope. There are many young priests and seminarians who don’t buy this revolution one iota. And it’s the liturgy that often attracts them so much, because that is the most perfect and immediate encounter we have with Christ. They’re attracted to the ancient usage, the Extraordinary Form, because it has so many more symbols and is so much more expressive of the transcendent aspect of our life of faith: Our Lord descends to the altar to make himself sacramentally present.

Many people come to me very discouraged, some people wanting to leave the Church. But it isn’t all darkness. Look at these young people. Look at these vocations, not just in the United States, but even in Germany. You know they talk about the secularization of Germany, but there are still good Catholic young people and Catholic families. . . . I believe that Christ said that he would never abandon us, that he would be with us until the consummation of the age. I believe him. I trust him.

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is an American cardinal of the Catholic Church. Sohrab Ahmari is the op-ed editor of the New York Post.

Photo by Goat Girl via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 


Are You Called To Be A Deacon?


There may be no accident or coincidence that you’re reading these words at this very moment. This message may very well have been written explicitly for you. Are you called to discern the ministry of the Permanent Diaconate in the Catholic Church?

The Permanent Diaconate is an ancient and sacred ministry of service dating back to the time of the apostles. Deacons are ministers of charity, the Word and the altar. They fulfill many functions within the Church, inside and outside of the liturgy. And the Church needs good and faithful men to step up today and ask themselves if they are being called by Almighty God to serve the Church through this commitment to holy orders.

First and foremost, a man must prayerfully listen, as St. Benedict said, “…with the ear of your heart” to figure out if the Eternal God Himself has designs on you from all eternity to respond affirmatively to this vocation in your life. The call is magnanimous and mysterious, deeply personal and curiously persistent. But there is also an abiding peace associated with it. Your pastor or diocesan vocations director will be able to steer you in the right direction regarding your qualifications, the application process and the formation process, none of which bind you to committing yourself to ordination. As a matter of fact, the entire process of up to five years of instruction, formation and spiritual direction is structured to initially answer the question, “Are you called to serve the Church?” and, as time goes on, “How are you called to serve the Church?” Deacons will tell you many of them didn’t receive a definitive answer to that question until their nose hit the marble and the bishop imposed his hands upon their heads.

Deacons bring the light and life and hope of Christ to a world full of broken people who live in the gloomy darkness of relativism, sin and secularism. They baptize, witness weddings and preside at funerals. They “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” and “…weep with those who weep” (Rm 12:15). They take Holy Communion to the sick, the elderly, the homebound, the hospitalized and those in nursing homes and assisted care facilities who would otherwise not be able to attend Mass. It’s overwhelming to be able to bring the Eucharist to those very important members of the Body of Christ and say something like, “Beatrice, the good Lord knows you aren’t able to come to receive Him at Mass, so He told me to bring Him to you here today. That’s how much He loves you.”

That’s essentially what deacons do. They bring people to Christ and Christ to people.

Men discerning this vocation to ordained ministry are also asked what their gifts, talents and charisms are, to best minister to their brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the many reasons deacons are so effective at service is that they have, as is often said about them, “one foot in the world and the other foot in the church.” They are often married men who work full-time jobs to help support themselves and their families, yet prove themselves wise stewards of their time, developing their unique skill sets for others. Always for others. And always with Christ at the heart of their ministries, their homes and families and, if married, within their vocations to marriage.

Deacons are men of prayer. They pray morning and evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours every day. They practice lectio divina (sacred reading), meditating on the Word of God with devotion and frequency. A fervent prayer life keeps deacons rooted in their ministry, like the “vine…planted…by abundant waters…” (Ez 7: 7-8).

Deacons cannot celebrate Mass, nor can they administer the Sacrament of the Sick or hear confessions in the Sacrament of Reconciliation like a priest. But they can do most everything else a priest can do. Given the fact that the vast majority of our priests are overburdened, overworked and overscheduled, often traveling between three and five parishes within their assigned cluster every week, deacons are the workhorses who support priests and bishops in their ministries and share in their mission.

The Permanent Diaconate is just that. Permanent. Meaning for life. If a Deacon’s wife precedes him in death, he understands he will not marry again. The Transitional Diaconate is conferred on men who are preparing to be ordained for the priesthood, usually about a year afterward. All bishops and priests begin as deacons in the Latin Rite.

This is a vocation, from the Latin word vocare meaning “call.” It is a selective invitation from the Lord God to serve him as his chosen representative on earth. We all have vocations, either to the single life, the married life and/or the religious life. The Author of Life doesn’t call every man to the Permanent Diaconate, but those he calls stand on the threshold of responding to a life of involvement and impact. It is a purpose-driven life of servant leadership and intentional discipleship. But it is, at the same time, an invitation, one which we can accept or reject.

Imagine being called to the bedside of someone dying in the middle of the night. Your parish pastor is out of town, the Sacrament of the Sick is not an option and time is a factor. Moments count. The child of God before you is about to meet the Lord face to face. The deacon is a comforting presence to the dying person and the family. Perhaps the deacon is the only one there. He brings viaticumor “food for the journey,” and celebrates the last Holy Communion with the life he sees ebbing away before him. The deacon prays a Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the bedside for the eternal salvation of the person’s soul. Perhaps he reads aloud from the sacred scriptures. He offers prayers of mercy for his charge because the deacon is an agent of God’s mercy. Accompanying the dying as they breathe their last, the deacon’s prayers and supplications are powerful before the throne of God. A holy death is provided for someone who may have died alone.

Heartbreak wounds a family over the death of a loved one. A parishioner returns home to find themselves abandoned by their spouse. A diagnosis of inoperable cancer hits with unimaginable force. People are afraid, hurt, sorrowful and devastated. The deacon is there to listen, to console and to reassure those disaffected by the traumas and the tragedies of life that Holy Mother Church is present to them, concerned about them and filled with love for them. God accompanies the deacon and works through him, for The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob” (Ps 46:12).

You may not think you have the background or the ability to do these things, but the formation program provides men with the human, intellectual and spiritual instruction necessary to serve others in these capacities.

Could this be you? This could, quite possibly, be you. God may be calling you to this ministry. Think about it. Pray about it. And listen “with the ear of your heart.”

By David La Mar

David La Mar is a Candidate in the Permanent Diaconate Program for the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa. David has been married to his wife Mary for ten years. He is the father of five children, a teacher, a business owner and an avid cyclist.

Mother Teresa’s 15 Tips to Help You Become More Humble

Mother Teresa’s 15 Tips to Help You Become More Humble

Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II on May 2, 1992. (L’Osservatore Romano photo)

The world does not value or understand the power of humility but we do, because it was what Jesus used to save us.

Patti Armstrong

Good self-esteem is confidence in one’s worth or abilities. Think about Mother Teresa. That little nun had good self-esteem.  She even dared to speak against abortion at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1993 before her invited hosts President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore, and their spouses.  That’s guts. That’s self-confidence. And that’s humility.

All the saints understood that humility is the way to nail down a good self-esteem by depending on God rather than oneself.  It’s the understanding that everything comes from God and that God is everything.

Mother Teresa called humility the mother of all virtues.  She said: “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”

3 Myths About Humility

Humility, however, is often misunderstood.  Some think it is synonymous with self-deprecation.  In a recent Sunday homily, Fr. Jared Johnson, associate pastor of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck identified three myths about humility.

Myth #1. The humble souls lacks confidence. “The most humble people out there are some of the most confident and sometimes some of the most prideful people are the most insecure,” he said. “ Humble souls know their life is dependent on God and know what to value—things lasting not passing. They values the Lord over anything else

Myth #2. Humility is not attractive. “True humility is attractive,” he explained. “It is the humble person who listens and cares about others as opposed to the one focused on their self and trying to look good.”

Myth #3. Humble people want to be recognized as humble. Father Johnson explained that wanting to look humble is false humility. In reality, he said they simply want to do something because it is right and they are not looking for praise.

“Our greatest block to growing closer to God is when we rely more on us than on him,” Father Johnson said. By putting on the virtue of humility, he explained that we grow more confident and allow ourselves to grow closer to God.  “When we look at a crucifix, we see a man who is humble and who is not about himself.  We see a man who is for others.  May we imitate that humility so that we can experience God in his fullness.”

Ways to Become Humble

Mother Teresa’s example proves all three of Fr. Johnson’s points.  While she was head of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa kept a list of ways to cultivate humility for the sisters in her care.

  1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
  2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
  3. Avoid curiosity (she is referring to wanting to know things that should not concern you.)
  4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
  5.  Accept small irritations with good humor.
  6.  Do not dwell on the faults of others.
  7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
  8. Give in to the will of others.
  9. Accept insults and injuries.
  10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
  11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
  12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
  13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
  14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
  15. Choose always the more difficult task.

The Power of Humility

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” —Saint Augustine

The devil preferred to leave Heaven for eternity in Hell rather than to humble himself before his creator.  And humility would have protected Adam and Eve from thinking they could disobey God and become like him.

Yet through our humility and thus obedience to God, the devil is defeated.  St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who was often harassed by the devil, related a conversation with him.  The devil said: “I can do everything you do, I can also do your penances, I can imitate you in everything. There is one thing, however, that I cannot do, I cannot imitate you in humility.”

“That is why I defeat you,” St. John Vianney responded.

Humility seems to be a contradiction, and yet, Jesus was meek and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29).  “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)

The world does not value or understand the power of humility but we do, because it was what Jesus used to save us.  “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Read the Bible Like a Catholic By TCM Guest Contributor By: Joseph Gruber

Read the Bible Like a Catholic

By TCM Guest Contributor

By: Joseph Gruber

Far from a monolithic text that talks down to us from on high, the Bible is a collection of texts that all call us to draw near, to listen, to see anew, and then to act rightly. Sometimes, though, I find that men aren’t sure how to read the Bible in a meaningful way. And this is sad, because in Scripture we can find not only stories that challenge us and teach us, but also, concealed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament, Jesus is there. Our lives are meant to be caught up in the drama of Scripture, to be changed by it, and then to be lived out impacting those around us with greater charity.

How do we study the Bible? Traditionally, the Church teaches that every story in the Bible has four senses, or ways of reading it. Remembering these four senses can give added weight to our experiences studying the Scriptures at Mass and at home.

The literal sense: Real people told real stories about real events, in ways that made sense to them. Solomon really built a temple, and one of the prophets really did write about it happening. Real people kept that story alive by reading it and copying it and reflecting on the awesome way in which Solomon gave glory to God and the condescension of God to come down to dwell in the house Solomon built.

The Holy Spirit was also the author, so we can be confident of the following three spiritual senses also being present:

The allegorical sense: On the road to Emmaus, Jesus encountered two disciples who could not comprehend Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Everything in the Bible reveals something about Jesus. Jesus really does says that the Temple would be destroyed and rebuilt, but when He was talking, “he was speaking of the temple of his body” (John 3:21). The wonder we had at Solomon’s efforts to give glory by providing a house for God now illuminates Mary, who laid her life down in the service of God to provide Him a home, and the condescension of God we saw in the Old Testament has become total kenosis: the self-emptying of the Son of God in becoming man.


The moral sense: St. Paul says to Timothy that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). In another letter, St. Paul takes the image of the Temple and says “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Holy Spirit desires to us to live differently: “Do I treat my body like a temple?” “Do I look at other people as if they are temples?”—Temples, remember, are places of sacrifice, of reconciliation, and of bringing together all of creation into a microcosm—“What  would be different if I did?” are questions to help uncover the moral sense of Solomon’s Temple. One of St. Augustine’s rules for studying Scripture was that any true interpretation had to lead to greater charity. “How is my heart being shown how to love more rightly in this story?”


The anagogical/upward sense: Moses records on Mount Sinai that the tabernacle was to be made according to what he saw in the heavenly vision: “And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them. In accordance with all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle and of all its furniture, so you shall make it” (Exodus 25:8-9). Scripture leads us to heaven, and the stories in it all point to heavenly realities. As St. John discovers in the vision of heaven he received, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22). Solomon’s Temple is a preparation for heaven. The delight the ancient Israelites had in their Temple is a foreshadow of the delight of heaven.


And this ‘works’ for every story in Scripture, from creation through Revelation. Whether we’re listening at Mass, joining a small group for study, or reading on our own, the living word of God is waiting to pierce through the page into us. Men throughout all of the ages meditated profitably on the stories that came before. You can bet that as you’re reading about Joseph in Genesis, that he was reflecting on the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. You can bet that David kept those in mind, as well as the stories of Moses, Joshua, and the judges of Israel, as he ruled Israel. And you can bet that one of the things that made the bad kings of Israel and Judah so bad is that they never took time to meditate on these stories. Great kings, great leaders, great fathers, and great men have found strength in these stories; why not us, too?

Start with the literal—figure out what the text means—and then start asking: “Where is Jesus in this story?” “How should I live differently now because of this story?” and “What is this saying about our final union with God?” We’ll encounter Jesus in new ways, we’ll find new areas to grow in, and our hearts will learn to live in hope when we do. End Quotes

Learning to Accept God’s Will in Hard Times JEANNIE EWING

Learning to Accept God’s Will in Hard Times


Ihad just received shocking news while on a rare long weekend retreat: I was pregnant. Good Catholics are not supposed to be upset about this news, but I was. I wasn’t in a place in my life where I was ready to accept or welcome another baby, and I couldn’t fathom how I would have the ability to care for another human soul.

It was a Sunday, and my mom and I were on our way to Mass at an unfamiliar parish in a sleepy Michigan town. Every bone in my body and fiber of my being resisted walking into the church. I could not control my sobbing, and for the first time in many years, I didn’t try to. I just let the tears continue to wash over my face, because, after all, nobody knew me.

Thy Will Be Done?

The homily happened to be about the Our Father, and the priest focused on the phrase “thy will be done” for the greater part of twenty minutes. I’d never been in a position where I wanted to flee from Mass, but every prayer said and every hymn sung made me seethe all the more.

Why was God allowing this? Why now? Sarah’s complex care had just gotten more complicated. This wasn’t unusual for a child with her syndrome, but as her mom and primary caregiver, I was tired of more new specialists, more tests, more paperwork and questions and follow-ups. My energy was threadbare, my mental and emotional capacity at a breaking point. How could I accept God’s will? Was I lying when I prayed “thy will be done” in the Our Father?


That day, it felt like everything I prayed was a lie. I didn’t participate, only wept. Nothing made sense and everything was about to change – again.

Greater Confidence

If you’re reading this, then you may have been in a similar situation to what I described. Maybe different circumstances, but you can relate to the spiritual grappling and restlessness, the sense that God has betrayed you. When we pray, we don’t often think about the words released from our lips, certainly not with the rote prayers, like the Our Father.

Asking for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, said the priest, means that we want Him to fulfill on earth His plans in heaven. And the reason this does not happen very often is that we have so little faith and confidence in what He will do. Instead of asking for God’s will to be done, we beg Him to change our children or give us more money or heal us of a disease.

There was no way I was in a place I could honestly say “thy will be done” and mean it that day. All I could think about was how horrible the timing of this was and how much I despised the feelings of rejection for this growing child within me.

Being a Radical Witness of Faith

Living an authentic Catholic life is hard. It’s lonely. It’s beyond countercultural; it is a radical way of witnessing who we are through the way we live. Our spiritual growth isn’t on a linear path upward; instead, it’s a spiral staircase that winds and twists. We have periods of maturity and deepening of faith, but we also have seasons of setbacks and trials that force us to confront common clichés we have always accepted, like “trust in God, because He’ll help you” or “don’t give up” or “suffering is the path to heaven.”

These are true, we know, but when our hearts have been shattered by grief, when we are chronically sleep deprived, beyond exhausted and drained, and have had one tribulation after another with little reprieve, hearing about the gift and value of suffering does not suffice. It doesn’t make sense.

And I think that, while we are certainly called to carry our crosses with dignity, resignation, and even love, it’s okay when we aren’t able to carry on. Even Jesus was crushed under the weight of His cross — more than once. During the times when we cannot accept any more hardship or pain, perhaps it is a time when we should instead pray that God will send us a Simon of Cyrene to accompany us with more than just prayer.

I’ve learned that it’s not shameful to show the world that being Catholic is cumbersome at times, that I don’t get it right always, that I’m not a pious woman who never falls, never doubts, or never tells God off. Getting to a place where I can just let myself be held may the one true surrender that is my silent but submissive admission of “thy will be done.”

Photo by Matko Gasparic on Unsplash

By Jeannie Ewing

Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who writes about the moving through grief, the value of redemptive suffering, and how to wait for God’s timing fruitfully. Her books include Navigating Deep Waters, From Grief to Grace , A Sea Without A Shore For Those Who Grieve, and Waiting with Purpose. She is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several online and print Catholic periodicals. Jeannie, her husband, and their three daughters (plus one baby boy) live in northern Indiana. For more information, please visit her website  Follow Jeannie on social media:  Facebook | LinkedIn |Instagram

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary by CYNTHIA TRAINQUE

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary


Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative as pertains to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and the brothers and sisters of Jesus, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, dear Reader, “so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings” on these two very inter-related topics (cf. Luke 1:1, 3-4). They are the perpetual virginity of Mary and the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Both are topics that seem to cause more than a few words of disagreement.

Many articles have been written about the two — most are about whether or not Jesus had brothers and sisters. So, here…let us begin.

Mary’s Encounter With the Angel

For this we go direct to Sacred Scriptures. In Luke’s Gospel we are told that the Angel Gabriel is sent to a young woman and we learn four amazing things. The first is that the young woman is a virgin – in Greek, παρθένος (parthenos). She is the παρθένος foretold in Isaiah 7:14 – “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel”. Some will point out that the term used in Is. 7:14 is עַלְמָה (“almah”, which is Hebrew) and simply means “maiden” but the Greek Septuagint which were the Scriptures in use by the time of Jesus (and still in use in the Catholic and Orthodox churches today) uses παρθένος.

The second point about this heavenly encounter is that the angel greeted her with a term which “greatly troubled” (1:29) Mary: χαῖρε κεχαριτωμένη (Chaire Kecharitomene) which means “Rejoice, Full of Grace”. This is the only time in all of Sacred Scripture that anyone is greeted in such a lofty manner. It is not used here as a description, however, but as her actual name. The angel does indeed call her by her given name of Μαρία (Maria) in v. 31 but his intent in v. 29 is to call her Full of Grace.

According to notes on the term χαῖρε κεχαριτωμένη it is a verb. It is a “perfect participle passive” and is in the “nominative feminine singular”.

The (unknown) author of the website, ( explains that “Full of Grace” translates kecharitōmĕnē as the perfect passive participle of charitŏō. It denotes one who has been and still is the object of divine benevolence, one who has been favored and continues to be favored by God, one who has been granted supernatural grace and remains in this state”.

A side note: It is because of the angel’s greeting of “Rejoice, Full of Grace” that many people now begin the Hail Mary with “Rejoice, Full of Grace” rather than “Hail Mary”.

The third point is Mary’s response to the angel: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34) This tells us most plainly that Mary was indeed a virgin at the time of the Annunciation.

The fourth point is that the angel explains the role of the Holy Spirit to her and finishes with the (likely) most-often quoted line from the Annunciation narrative: “…for nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37).

Mary as Fulfillment

Mary’s pregnancy is not the first to come about through the intervention of God. In fact, there are at least five women of the Old Testament who were childless/barren. They are:

  • Sarah – The wife of Abraham.Sarah was barren but became pregnant by the power of God “at ninety”. She had long since been considered to have a “dead womb” and Abraham’s body to be “dead”. Their offspring was Isaac.
  • Rebekah – The wife of Isaac,the daughter-in-law of Abraham & Sarah. She was “very beautiful, a virgin, untouched by man”. Isaac was “forty years old”8when he married her. “Isaac entreated the LORD on behalf of his wife, since she was sterile. The LORD heard his entreaty, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant” and she gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob.


  • Rachel – the wife of Jacob.“Like Sarah and Rebekah before her, Rachel experiences a long period of barrenness”.  The emotional strife was so painful for Rachel and her desire for sons so great that she had demanded sons from Jacob shouting, “Give me children or I shall die!”11. To which he had replied in anger,“ Can I take the place of God, who has denied you the fruit of the womb?”. Indeed, being childless was seen as a shameful thing, for without sons a woman lost her status in the community, having no-one to carry on the name or to care for her. “Then God remembered Rachel. God listened to her and made her fruitful. She conceived and bore a son, and she said, ‘God has removed my disgrace. She named him Joseph, saying, ‘May the LORD add another son for me!’”. She did indeed bear one more son whom she named Benjamin but she died in childbirth.


These three pregnancies are very important. According to Tikva Frymer-Kensky in her article on Rachel,  “The infertility of the matriarchs has two effects: it heightens the drama of the birth of the eventual son, marking Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph as special; and it emphasizes that pregnancy is an act of God”.


Two more women of the Old Testament are found to be barren. One is a nameless woman known simply as the mother of Samson. “An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her: Though you are barren and have had no children, you will conceive and bear a son “. The other woman is Hannah, wife of Elkanah; she had prayed to God “year after year” for a son because “the LORD had closed her womb”. Finally, after weeping bitter tears her prayer was answered because “the LORD remembered her”. His name is Samuel.

Elizabeth, wife of the high priest Zechariah is the only woman mentioned in the New Testament who is both “advanced in years and barren”. Their child is John the Baptist the forerunner of Jesus and of whom Jesus had said, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist”.


And now there is Mary, spouse of Joseph the carpenter. A young virgin whose maternity is announced by an arch-angel, Gabriel. She is (as stated earlier) the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”. All of the aforementioned pregnancies ultimately came about in the normal, unitive manner — the joining of “male and female” who become “one flesh”.

This time the angel assures Mary, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God”.

The Betrothal of Mary & Joseph by Rubens

Here we switch our attention to the Gospel of Matthew, Ch. 1:18-25.

“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly”.

Jewish marriages in the time of Jesus came about in two phases — the betrothal and then the actual wedding. Today’s marriages usually celebrate an engagement — but not always, and it is not mandatory. In the First Century the betrothal was a legal ritual where a man and a woman were promised to each other even though they were not yet living together. The betrothal lasted about one year during which time the groom would painstakingly build a room onto his parents’ house and making sure that it was just right for him and his new family. When all was ready, the marriage took place and then it was consummated. This Joseph would have been doing when he became aware that Mary was with child.


Unlike today’s engagements which, when they do not work out, are simply ended — whereas Joseph could actually file for a divorce from Mary for her infidelity as he had decided to do quietly until the angel intervened. Even though not “fully” married (consummated), Joseph was already called “her husband” (v. 19) and Mary was already Joseph’s “wife” (v. 20).

According to the Law the penalty for such infidelity was steep: “If there is a young woman, a virgin who is betrothed and a man comes upon her in the city and lies with her, you shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death…” (Deut. 22:23-24a)


But Joseph loved Mary as much as he loved the Law and so a quiet divorce would be his out. But again, the angel intervened. “Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her”. (Mt. 1:20)

One may object and speak of Mt. 1:25 — “He (Joseph) had no relations with her until she bore a son” (italics mine) but caution must be used about how words were used back then. Consider 2 Sam 6:3 — “Saul’s daughter Michal was childless until she died”. We know that she had no children after she died.


The Celibacy of Joseph

Here are two ways to know that Joseph never had sexual relations with Mary – even after the birth of Jesus. In his article, The Perpetual Virginity of MaryBr. Anthony Opisso, M.D. refers to the Greek of Matthew’s Gospel by stating “The angel does not use the phrase for marital union: “go in unto” (as in Gn 30:3, 4, 16) or “come together” (Mt 1:18) but merely a word meaning leading her into the house as a wife (paralambano gunaika) but not cohabiting with her”.


He further states, “For when the angel revealed to him that Mary was truly the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Joseph could take Mary, his betrothed, into his house as a wife, but he could never have intercourse with her because according to the Law she was forbidden to him for all time”.

Why was Mary forbidden to Joseph? Opisso explains: “We also have to take into consideration that when Mary was told by the archangel Gabriel “Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus” (Lk 1:31), he also added that this was to come about because “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy one to be born shall be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). By stating it in those terms the archangel declared to Mary that God would enter into a marital relationship with her, causing her to conceive His Son in her womb, for “to lay one’s power (reshuth) over a woman” (Targum to Dt 21:4) was a euphemism for “to have a marital relationship with her.” Likewise, “to overshadow” (Lk 1:35) by spreading the “wing” or “cloak” over a woman was another euphemism for marital relations”. Joseph understood then that Mary was the bride of the Holy Spirit.

Joseph’s role was as protector of Mary and as the foster father of Jesus. It is not known whether Joseph was an older gentleman or whether he had children from any previous marriage (or even if he had been previously married) but with Mary he remained continent the rest of his days. “When for the sake of the Torah (i.e., intense study in it), a rabbi would abstain from relations with his wife, it was deemed permissible, for he was then cohabiting with the Shekinah (the “Divine Presence”) in the Torah (Zohar re Gn 1:27; 13:3)”.

Even Moses had required the men to “Be ready for the third day. Do not approach a woman” when God had made known his plans to “come down on Mt. Sinai in the sight of all the people”.  Jewish tradition mentions that, “although the people had to abstain from sexual relations with their wives for only three days prior to the revelation at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:15), Moses chose to remain continent the rest of his life with the full approval of God. The rabbis explained that this was so because Moses knew that he was appointed to personally commune with God, not only at Mount Sinai but in general throughout the forty years of sojourning in the wilderness”.

Mary’s Virginal Yes

Mary’s purity of intention and purity of heart go hand-in-hand with her virginal womb. Mary had no interest in any gain for herself in giving birth to God’s own son — hence, her reply: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”. She knew very well what a pregnancy would mean to an unmarried woman but in her great act of faith and love of God she answered yes. Mary’s reaction to the Holy Spirit within her was to turn outward and “she traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth”. (Lk 1:39-40) We know the rest of that story — “how the child in Elizabeth’s womb had leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice” and how Mary had praised and magnified the Lord for all he had done for her. Virginal Yes…virginal body — the two very much go hand in hand.

In the Old Testament — in the building of the ark for the covenant which were the two stone tablets containing the word of God given to Moses and the people — God dictated that the ark be built to certain specific dimensions and then “plate it inside and outside with pure gold, and put a molding of gold around the top of it”. How much more, then, should the “vessel” — the womb that was to carry the Word Made Flesh also be “lined” with pure gold, the gold of virginity of heart and body?


By Cynthia Trainque

Cynthia Trainque is an author who is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM) for the Laity at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, MA. She has served the church for several years as a worker, writer, and volunteer and is presently an active member of St. Mary’s Parish in Ayer, MA. Cynthia is available to come to speak as a guest speaker/teacher on the beauty of the Catholic faith.  She gives talks and also creates/uses PowerPoint presentations. She may be contacted at

Viganò Speaks: the “Infiltration” Is Real JULIA MELONI

Viganò Speaks: the “Infiltration” Is Real


Jonah began his journey through the city, and when he had gone only a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (Jonah 3:4-6)

A year after his bombshell testimony on the cover-up for Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò remains a prophet in exile, exposing the filth in a Church that needs to be burned clean. As Inside the Vatican’s Robert Moynihan notes, the Italian prelate is an unlikely hero. He’s a “small man with intelligent eyes, exquisite manners, studious, hardworking.” But this 78-year-old with thin-rimmed glasses bears in his bones the burden of prophetic speech. He bears the weight of being (as Moynihan puts it) a kind of modern-day Jonah, called to preach to Nineveh before the potential destruction comes.


These days, Archbishop Viganò is warning of an invidious campaign to infiltrate the Catholic Church. In a bombshell interview with Moynihan published last week, Archbishop Viganò tells of a “project” that “goes back centuries”—“in particular, to the creation in the middle of the 1700s of Freemasonry.” This “very deceptive” plot against the Church included some of her own senior members.

“This is described in the book Infiltration by Dr. Taylor Marshall, so you may find some indication of this process there,” says the Archbishop. He is referring to the bestselling book which argues that, “for over a century, the organizers of Freemasonry, Liberalism, and Modernism infiltrated the Catholic Church in order to change her doctrine, her liturgy, and her mission from something supernatural to something secular.”

Viganò believes that this process of infiltration “became strikingly evident in modern times,” and that we are now witnessing the “triumph of a 60-year-old plan” to revolutionize the Church with “a Jesuit on the See of Peter.” As Viganò recalls, many key Vatican II revolutionaries were Jesuits who maneuvered to replace the council’s prepared schemas with ones they had drawn up. Most prominent among them was Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J., frequently touted as the council’s most important ideologue.

“This was the beginning of an opening… in the process of creating a new Church,” says Archbishop Viganò.

He isn’t the only one speaking of a “new,” Jesuit-fashioned Church. In La Nuova Chiesa di Karl Rahner (“The New Church of Karl Rahner”), Stefano Fontana soberingly traces the genealogy of Pope Francis’s “open Church” back to Rahner, the towering radical suspected of heterodoxy under Pope Pius XII. As Fontana shows, Rahner negotiated a “surrender to the world” which is being registered in this pontificate’s signature agendas—from Communion for adulterers and the ordination of married men to the enthronement of “conscience” and the rapid abandonment of evangelization.


Historian Roberto de Mattei likewise calls Rahner the Pope’s “grandfather,” arguing that the two Jesuits are linked through a third—Carlo Cardinal Martini, leader of the St. Gallen mafia and Pope Francis’s “father.” “The agenda of Cardinal Martini, which is the same as Rahner’s, offers us the key to understanding the papacy of Pope Francis,” says de Mattei, pointing to the Cardinal’s fiery last interview calling for the autonomy of conscience and Communion for adulterers.


Today, St. Gallen don Walter Cardinal Kasper and others are euphemizing Pope Francis’s ruptures with the past as a glittery “paradigm shift.” But Archbishop Viganò says the “exotic,” “sophisticated” slogans are just being used “to mislead, to deceive.”

He explains that, in the past, a “huge machine of media propaganda” applied a hermeneutic of rupture to Vatican II. Today, he says, a slick “media machinery, including photos of Pope Francis with Emeritus Pope Benedict, and so forth, has been used to argue that the ‘new paradigm’ of Pope Francis is in continuity with the teaching of his predecessors.”

“But it is not so,” he warns. “It is a ‘new church’.”

Benedict XVI “said this would be a catastrophe,” says Archbishop Viganò of the project to make a new Church. He’s referring to the Pope Emeritus’s letter this year on the sexual abuse crisis. To borrow Michael Brendan Dougherty’s summary of the “explosive, acid” text:

Benedict charges that a revolutionary spirit from the world entered the Church in the 1960s. Possessed by that spirit, arrogant theologians determined on creating “another Church” destroyed the traditional moral theology of the Faith, leading to a complete breakdown of moral discipline in the clergy and even a generalized spirit of blasphemy, which Benedict intimately and unforgettably connects with the phenomenon of child abuse.

Today, as the Amazon synod looms near, that malefic spirit seems to have brought with it seven others.  Everywhere we hear klaxon calls warning of heresy, apostasy, and schism. Two powerful traditionalist prelates, Raymond Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, have called for 40 days of prayer and fasting to drive those spirits out.


Publicly, Pope Francis is playing it cool, saying he’s just a copycat of Pope John Paul II and a faithful implementer of Vatican II. It’s the prophets who are lighting angry blazes. Ask the Holy Father and he’ll say it’s an “honor” that they’re “attacking” him.  He almost dares them to keep raising their voices and playing with fire. “I pray that schisms do not happen, but I am not afraid of them,” he defiantly declares, warning the “schools of rigidity” that their “pseudo-schismatic” ways will “end badly.”

“Pope Francis is saying that because he knows the Amazon Synod may provoke a schism,” argues Viganò in another interview with Moynihan last week.  “He is ready to say others are making the schism, but (by his actions in continuing to support the Amazon synod) he is provoking it himself.  Is this the attitude of a pastor who cares for the faithful? It is his own duty to prevent a schism.”

“But what is your message really: that God is about to chastise the Church, as Nineveh was threatened with destruction, or do you believe there is still a chance to renew the Church, through prayer and a renewal of priestly and lay spirituality?” Moynihan asks Viganò.


Fixing his eyes on the burning, purifying thing that must come, he replies: “The two possibilities you offer are not mutually exclusive. There may be both a chastisement, which will shake and diminish the Church, and also a reform and renewal of the Church, making her more resplendent in holiness. Both are possible.”

Today, here in Nineveh, the prophets are speaking—and time is running out for all of us, great and small, to heed them.

Tagged as Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganoClergy Sexual AbuseKarl RahnerSophia Institute PressTaylor Marshall


By Julia Meloni

Julia Meloni writes from the Pacific Northwest. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale and a master’s degree in English from Harvard.

Holy Shrewdness By Father Paul D. Sculia

Holy Shrewdness

By Father Paul D. Sculia

Many Catholics misunderstand our Lord’s parables. We fall into a saccharine piety, thinking of them as fables, nice down-to-earth stories that teach religious lessons. This, by the way, accounts for a great deal of bad preaching. Suffering this superficial view of the parables, many priests think they can imitate the Master. Thus the banal personal stories or movie and cultural references that supposedly illustrate divine truths but in fact only empty them of significance.

In fact, Jesus’ parables always have more depth than a first – or second or third – reading reveals. Far from being merely homespun wisdom, they often contain a twist or a shock to upend conventional thinking.

Particularly in Saint Luke’s Gospel our Lord gives us some puzzling parables. Thus far in the Sunday reading of Luke, we have heard about a hated foreigner who was better than Israel’s finest (Lk 10), cynical social advice on how to get ahead (Lk 14), and a shepherd with poor accounting skills (Lk 15). We will later hear about the unjust judge and the pious publican (Lk 18). The incongruity of these stories is meant stun us, precisely so that we will pay better attention to our Lord’s teaching.

Which brings us to today’s parable, quaintly known as that of the “Unjust Steward.” (Lk 16:1-13) Reported for cheating his master, this steward makes provision for his eventual dismissal by further defrauding him. Then the master commends him! This is absurd, of course, and we should not nod in pious agreement with the master’s praise. The story is meant to shock, not edify. And it does so that we will sit up and appreciate a truth that contradicts worldly wisdom. Namely, the practicality of faith.

Now, conventional thinking has it that faith is impractical. It focuses on heavenly things, so worldly realities (time, money, etc.) must not be of any concern. Since the faithful look to heaven, they must have their heads in the clouds. It is just this error that our Lord targets in His summary of the parable (which also serves as a rebuke): “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” Put differently, The faithful should be as practical in striving for heavenly glory as the unfaithful are for worldly comfort.

The steward is a scoundrel, plain and simple. But he at least serves as a good example of practicality. Our Lord uses the word prudent to describe him. He does not mean the virtue of that name but a worldly prudence or shrewdness. Conversely, our prudence in seeking the things that are above might be termed a holy shrewdness. The unjust but shrewd steward knows three things that can help us be more practical: he will be judged, he will need housing, and he will need the means to secure it.

First, judgment. The steward knew that judgment was coming. So also the day will come when each of us will hear the same words: “Prepare a full account of your stewardship.” The goods we have are not our own but the Lord’s. We are mere stewards. At our judgment we will have to show whether and how we cared for what He entrusted to us. Awareness of that day enables us to know how to act, as it did the steward. If such a wicked man could take worldly judgment seriously, shouldn’t the children of God have a similarly serious view of eternal judgment?


Second, the final goal. No project, mission, or venture can succeed without a clear final goal. Such clarity of purpose is the most practical thing in the world. So it is that the unjust steward knew where he wanted to be after judgment. (Well, he knew where he didn’t want to be. . .at least that’s a beginning!) He had a singularity of purpose and coordinated his efforts to achieve that end.

Even more so the children of God – for whom heaven is not a desire but a rightful inheritance – should have that same clarity of purpose. Elsewhere our Lord says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Mt 6:33) We typically seek worldly ends, however, without (we hope) losing heaven when we should seek “eternal habitations” at the cost of everything else.

Thus our Lord warns us, “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 God and mammon.” He would not say this except that we try to do just that, serve God and mammon. . .heaven and the world.

Finally, the means. Once a goal is established, then we need the means to achieve it. If I want to run a marathon, I will establish a strict regimen: exercise, diet, etc., to achieve that end. The unjust steward, louse though he was, at least understood this: having an end in mind, although necessary, is insufficient. We must also choose the means to that end.

If the steward knew how to use his worldly resources to guarantee his safe future, certainly we should do the same for ours. The proper use of wealth — be it material goods, personal talents, or time — is for spiritual good, for sanctification here and hereafter. Charitable giving benefits not only those who receive it, but also those who give. By such giving we grow in charity; we learn to detach from this world and attach to the next.

So also with the time allotted to us: it is for His glory and our salvation. There is no such thing as “Me time.” All use of our time, even our relaxation, should be with Him and for Him.

So let’s not hear this parable with a mistaken piety that misses the point. Rather, may we receive the full shock of its message and learn the practical ways of faith, even from an unjust steward. End Quoted


*Image: Parable of the Unjust Steward by Marinus Van Reymerswaele, c. 1540 [Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna