There was a very rich and stingy man. He had one wife, a son and a daughter. He was the sole beneficiary of his wealth. The only thing his wife and children benefited from his wealth was the name (that is the wife/child of the richest man in town). He eventually became sick and bedridden. It got to a point where he could no longer sign checks, so he authorized his wife to sign checks on his behalf only when the money was to be used for him. When his death became imminent, he made his wife to write an undertaking that at his funeral, he would be buried along with all his savings to make provisions for the next life.
At his funeral, shortly before his internment, his wife went into her car to bring a big box to be interred with him. Her husband’s friend, an attorney who witnessed the undertaking signed by the woman, “knew” the content of the box. He tried to dissuade the woman from burying such a huge sum of money, but the woman reminded him that she was a devout Christian and so must honor her husband’s wish.
The day after the funeral, the attorney returned to the woman to express his disappointment in her. She smiled and said to the attorney, “I did not put any cash in the box; I only signed enough checks and put in the box so that the stingy fool can make all the needed withdrawals in the next world.”
Today’s gospel passage is the continuation of what we read last Sunday about the rich farmer. The rich man in that parable was considered foolish because he did not invest wisely. He did not enrich himself in the sight of God, and he allowed death to surprise him. He labored in vain. He did not live to enjoy the fruit of his labor, and he had nothing saved to withdraw in the next world. At the end of the homily last Sunday, we noted that the rich farmer’s story was already concluded in the Bible, but not yours and not mine. We added that now is the time for us to decide our destiny. How can we avoid going the way of the rich fool who had such a disastrous end?
To answer this, Jesus begins by telling us in today’s Gospel passage not to be afraid because God plans to give us a place in His Kingdom. The next step on our part is to invest wisely and become rich in the sight of God. “Sell your possessions and give to those in need…” (Luke 12: 32- 33). When you give to the poor, you are lending to God so you can lay claim to it in the next world. The rich man in last Sunday’s parable kept everything for himself, and he was, unfortunately, unable to take anything with him to the next world.
On the question of how to avoid being caught by surprise like the rich fool, Jesus gives the parables in today’s gospel passage challenging us to be like servants who are prepared to welcome their master back from a wedding feast, not taking anything for granted. After the first two parables, Peter wants to know those who need to be vigilant. Is Jesus referring to the apostles alone or to everybody, including those yet to be born? Jesus, in his response, makes it clear that the call to vigilance is on everybody. He then gives the third parable where he compares us to stewards. He identifies two kinds of stewards: (1) The faithful and honest ones who give food and allowances to members of the household at the proper time; (2) The lazy and arrogant ones who deny the members of the household their food and allowances and even beat up other members of the household.
Identifying us as stewards here reminds us that our Time, Treasure and Talents have been given to us on trust and that we are to be at the service of our brothers and sisters, to uplift those who are not as privileged as we are. That is the best investment to make while we are still in this world. We have been blessed to bless; we have been given to give; we have been helped to help. It is not enough to count our blessings; it is also essential to share our blessings.
Let us make a brief examination of conscience. As a husband, why do you struggle to earn more money than your wife? Is it to support your family or to dominate, control, and manipulate your wife? As a wife, why do you work hard to earn more money than your husband? Is it to uplift or to disrespect him? Is it merely to be able to call the shots? Why do some people want to further their education? Is it to offer better services to humanity or to talk down on those who are not as educated? What about those of us who answer the call to the priesthood and religious life, do we intend to be faithful servants of the children of God or do we see it as an opportunity to become “sacred cows” and demi-gods? One of the titles of the Pope is Servus servorum Dei (Servant of the Servants of God). Those who seek prestigious political positions; how pure is their intent? I think there will be fewer people vying for political offices if they genuinely intend to serve and not to embezzle money and bully those they are called to serve. My dearly beloved in Christ, a good way to invest for eternity is to help others. The best way to avoid being surprised by death is to see every moment as a possible moment of death, and so be at our best always. We must not use our privileges to bully others. The real Master will come at an hour we do not expect, and he will ask for an account of our stewardship. Remember, to whom much is given, much will be expected.