When we are in a survival mode, we can do some incredible planning in a short amount of time. A day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I was in Walmart trying to pick up some last minute necessities. You know what it was like in Walmart at that time. Bread shelves were empty, battery shelves were empty, and the canned food section was empty. Outside the Walmart by the gas station, there were no cars because they ran out of gas. Everyone in the neighborhood was hunkering down with all their supplies tucked in their home. Then the hurricane hit. I was already in Baton Rouge, but about 12 seminarians were trapped at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans for a week after the hurricane hit. They lost power and water, and there was chaos all around them. It's times like that we begin to appreciate a 20 minute hot shower, cool 65 degree A/C, and full shelves at Walmart that we take for granted. It's times like that we realize how wasteful we are with our resources.
We find in our Gospel today a person who is thrown into a survival mode. After mishandling and squandering his master's property, a steward is told that he's going to lose his job. In today's world, he would begin to email and fax out his resumes to all of his buddies. His goal was to maintain his lifestyle without doing much work. So he tries to make friends with those that owe his master money so that these people will help him out when he is expelled from his master's house. In seeing this, his master praises him for his fast emergency preparation. The master is impressed with the steward's quick-wittedness, decisiveness, and firm resolve to make the most of a difficult situation. And Jesus is impressed too, for he says, "For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light." He is urging the "children of light" to imitate the ways of "children of this world," especially in the way the steward prepared for his future. He is not telling them imitate dishonest and manipulative ways of the steward, for the steward's goal was to maintain his lifestyle and comfort through mammon--money. But Jesus is urging "children of light" to be equally zealous in preparing for our entry into heaven.
We see people make unbelievable sacrifices in order to improve their life-style or standard of living. We see them invest a great deal of time, money and energy in acquiring skills, career, and education. We Christians also must put the same amount of zeal into the service of God. We serve only one master, Our Lord. Materially, we need to carry out Our Lord's mandate to improve the lives of the poor, to use our resources prudently and not to elevate them as idols. Spiritually, we have to make a heroic effort to be welcomed into heaven. Are we well prepared for spiritual Hurricane Katrina that will hit us--our death? For that did we stockpile acts of kindness, virtues, and fervent love for Our Lord? How will we answer Our Lord when he asks us just as he asked the steward today, "What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward."
Sondra Abrahams knows well what Our Lord asked her when she experienced her life-after-death in the 1970s. She was an ordinary house wife who considered herself a good Catholic. She died all of a sudden at an young age due to medical complications. She met Our Lord after passing through a tunnel of light. As a welcome Our Lord hugged her, and she experienced the most profound happiness and joy she has ever experienced. Then Our Lord showed her life from the very beginning to her death. It was the most vivid movie of her life. At some points of her life, Sondra could see that she was loving to others and her heart was set on Our Lord. But at other moments of her life, Sondra saw how she fell short of responding to Our Lord's love shown to her. Our Lord was saddened at those moments. In comparison to the profound love that she experienced from Our Lord when he hugged her, Sondra wondered out aloud that she wished she could have been more patient, kind, and generous in response. After seeing all of her life, Our Lord asked her two questions. First he asked her, "Sondra, are you sorry for your sins?" Then he asked her, "Sondra do you love me?" It was the same question that Our Lord asked Peter after his triple denial. Then Our Lord asked her to go back to let people know about her experience.
We know we can be swept up preparing for the future. Our Lord reminds us always to put him in the future ahead of everything else. Are we prepared to meet Our Lord at this very moment especially when we receive the Eucharist and answer his questions, "Do you love me? And if you love me, how did you show that you loved me?"