Your Best or Your Leftovers? 2019-9-22 Fr. Roberto
Homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Church, Los Angeles, CA
September 22, 2019
Title: Your Best or Your Leftovers?
Theme: Are you giving Jesus your best time, energy, talents and money, or your leftovers?
Readings: Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16: 1-13
In 1986, when I was a Dominican student brother, I spent nine months studying theology with the Dominicans in Mexico City, and during that time I visited the Dominicans who lived and worked in the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. I stayed in Oaxaca during Holy Week at St. Dominic’s Church – one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen in my life. The outside of the church is nice, but what really impressed me was the inside. It is a baroque style church, so just about every inch of space inside is covered with some kind of religious art or decoration. What really stands out is the reredos, the wall behind the main altar. You can see a picture of it on page one of your worship aid. The reredos is about 60 feet tall – taller than our sanctuary here – and about as wide as our sanctuary. It is made out of beautiful cedar wood that is covered with hand-carved images of saints and designs, and then the entire wall is painted with 23.5-carat gold leaf – that is almost pure gold! In fact, all the church’s walls and ceilings are filled with that same gold leaf, which is very beautiful but also very expensive.
It is interesting to note that the area surrounding this lovely church has always been relatively poor. So you might wonder why people would spend so much money on this church and all these expensive decorations in the middle of such a poor neighborhood. That money could have been used to help the poor people in the area rather than using it for the church. The thing is, the people who built this church – and it took many years to build back in the 16th and 17th centuries – wanted to give God the best: the best materials they could find and their best time and labor. They sacrificed their own needs to give God the best they could because that is what God deserves – the best.
And I believe Jesus is saying something similar to us in today’s Gospel. It is a pretty strange Gospel reading because, at first glance, it seem as if Jesus is praising the dishonest steward for being dishonest. Of course, he’s not doing that; he is praising the steward for using his best energy and effort for the sake of what was most important to him – himself. So, what Jesus is challenging us to do is to use our best energy and efforts, not for ourselves – like the dishonest steward – but for Jesus.
This is now the third week of our preaching series, “It’s all about Jesus.” The first week, I challenged you to make your life all about Jesus by allowing him to sit on the throne of your heart; in other words, by making him the center of your life so that everything else in your life is determined, shaped by and flows from that primary relationship with Jesus. Last week, I preached that our spiritual journey in life is going to have ups and downs, but God’s amazing grace, love and forgiveness can always overcome our struggles and failures and help us continue to move forward in that spiritual journey to Jesus. Today, I am challenging you to understand that making your life all about Jesus means giving him your best – your best time, energy and effort – not your leftovers.
So, what does giving Jesus your best mean? It means for example, making time to come to Mass every week, not just once in a while, not just when you feel like it, not just when it’s convenient, and not just when you need something. Jesus gave his life for you; he has given you eternal life – you are going to live forever because of Jesus! And he has also given you everything you have in this world. And, he gives you 168 hours every week. So, don’t you think you can give Jesus one or two of those hours every week to thank and praise him and ask him for help by coming to Mass? And if you think you cannot come to Mass because you have to take your kids to soccer, football or baseball games, swimming matches, dance or gymnastics, etc., just think about who gave you your children, and who gave you children who are healthy enough to participate in those activities. And think about who gives you the time, energy, money, the desire and the ability to do so much for your kids. So, parents, please teach your children that Jesus, that their Catholic faith, that Mass is more important than sports, more important than going to a movie, and even more important than going shopping on Sunday! Amen? Amen!
Giving Jesus our best also means giving him quality time for prayer each day or at least most days. I cannot tell you how many people have told me: “Father, I pray every night before I go to sleep as I am lying in bed.” Well, that’s good that you think of God at that moment; however, is that your best time, time when you are alert and focused? Give Jesus at least 15 minutes of quality prayer time each day if you can.
Giving our best to the Lord also means giving some of our time, talent and energy to serve others, whether you do that by serving in a ministry here in church or serving in some civic or charitable organization. If St. Dominic’s is where you come to Mass, this is your spiritual home and where you are spiritually fed. So, this parish should be a primary place where you serve others. If you are not using your time, energy and talents to give God glory and to serve others in some way, then you are not giving Jesus your best.
Finally, giving Jesus your best means giving your financial best too. Money is an important part of our lives, and, therefore, it is also an important part of our relationship with Jesus. If you were to ask the folks who count our collection each week how many one dollar bills are in that collection, they would tell you that there are 1,200 or 1,400 dollar bills. Now, if all you can afford to give is one or two dollars, then that is fine; God knows that and he blesses you for it. But I dare say most of you can afford to give more than one or two dollars. At Mass you receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist, you receive Jesus’ word in the Bible, and you receive Jesus through the preaching, singing, praying and support of this community. How much is that worth to you? Just a dollar? Two dollars? It’s got to mean more to you than that! It’s got to mean more to you than a Starbuck’s Frappuccino or a coke and a slice of pizza! So please show how important Jesus, your faith and this parish are to you by giving generously in the collection.
The Bible has a lot to say about giving God our best, so I want to share with you a scripture about this. It’s in your worship aids at the top of page two, and it says: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). The phrase “first fruits” means the very first, before anything else, the very best, right off the top, not from the bottom. So, my question for all of us today is, do we honor God with our first fruits – with our best time, energy and money? Or do we give to God our second fruits, third fruits or maybe even our last fruits, i.e., whatever time, energy and money is left over after we have taken care of everything else?
My brothers and sisters, the people who built St. Dominic’s Church in Oaxaca did not give God the cheapest materials or their leftover time or energy when they built their church. They gave God their absolute best because they believed that is what God deserves. So, please, don’t give God your leftovers; give God, give Jesus your best.
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