GOD IN OUR MIDST
Generosity in Forgiveness
By Gregory F. Augustine Pierce

The story of the Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-13) is often used to justify operating by the rules of the marketplace. In that parable, Jesus apparently praises the manager for being wise in the ways of the world. After he is caught and about to be fired, the manager begins feathering his own nest by calling in the rich man—s debtors and offering them a deal to settle accounts. In this way, the Dishonest Manager—probably correctly— figured the debtors would —welcome me into their homes— after he was terminated.

The lesson seems to be that if you get caught cheating, you need only figure out a way to come out on top. Jesus even says, —The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.—

But Jesus wasn—t promoting shady business practices, and his subsequent comments on the parable bear this out.

First of all, notice that the Dishonest Manager is never praised for his original —squandering— of the master—s property. We are never told what his crime entailed, but presumably the manager was stealing the owner—s money for his own use. Rather, it was for his subsequent actions that Jesus commended the manager. Let—s take a careful look at what they were.

The manager called in the owner—s debtors and got them to pay up by offering them a reduction: —To the first he said, —How much do you owe my master?— He replied, —One hundred measures of olive oil.— He said to him, —Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.— Then to another he said, —And you, how much do you owe?— He replied, —One hundred kors of wheat.— He said to him, —Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.——

Luke concludes the parable with, —And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.— So, in fact, what the manager was praised for was his industriousness in forgiving some of the debt, not for feathering his own nest.

Generosity Day by Day

This is all part of Jesus— ongoing description of what the Kingdom or reign of God is like. Generosity, forgiveness and industriousness are hallmarks of that Kingdom, which Jesus taught us to pray would come —on earth as it is in heaven.—

How does all this relate to our daily lives on our jobs, with our families and in our communities and congregations? We are called to be industrious about forgiving others their debts and giving away the rich man—s (i.e., God—s) things! We are not to emulate the Dishonest Servant in his dishonesty but, rather, to model his generosity.

Whom must we forgive, and what of God—s do we have to give away? Well, one way of looking at it is that everything we have is God—s. He is the ultimate owner. And whom we are to forgive is everyone—ourselves included.

Living the Kingdom Now

Yes, the money that the Dishonest Manager was forgiving belonged to the master (who clearly symbolizes God the Father in all of Jesus— parables). But God is a different kind of owner, one who wants to give everything away. The manager finally —got— what the rich man was all about and started doing what his master had wanted him to do all along. Instead of squandering the master—s money, the manager was expected to forgive and share with others.

This is what Jesus means when he explains the parable. —If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?— he says. —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.—

If we are going to serve God in this world, then we must operate by God—s rules, which are not the rules we humans are used to following. In the Kingdom of God we do not squander the owner—s wealth for our own purposes. We are to forgive others— debts and give away the owner—s wealth.

Gregory F. Augustine Pierce is president and co-publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago. He is the author of Spirituality @ Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life On-the-Job (Loyola Press) and the editor of Christmas Presence: Twelve Gifts That Were More Than They Seemed (ACTA).

Next: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Questions for Reflection:
• What gifts of God have you given away lately? To whom? Why?

• Why is it sometimes difficult to be generous in offering forgiveness? How can you make it easier?

Discuss this month's Questions for Reflection
from “God in Our Midst.”

FAMILY CORNER
Teaching Forgiveness
By Judith Dunlap

Some families hang on to grievances like treasured heirlooms. They look for insults and slights; belligerence almost becomes a way of life. Remember the Hatfields and McCoys? They are the antithesis of Christian behavior. Being generous with our forgiveness is the hallmark of our faith. Teaching, celebrating and living forgiveness are characteristics of the home church as well as the larger Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that when we refuse to forgive we harden and close our hearts, making it difficult for God—s love to enter. Experts tell us that anger and grief that are harbored and rehashed can do physical as well as spiritual harm.

You do a great service to your children when you teach them to forgive and let go. When they have been injured, give them time to talk about their injury. Listen to and allow their anger, grief and/or frustration. Let them know they have a right to all of their feelings, but then help them see that hanging on to anger or grief for a long time is an uncomfortable way to live. Invite them to pray and ask God to heal their hurts and help them forgive (or even just want to forgive). Try to model this behavior by talking about your own hurts. Pray with your children, asking God to open your hearts to divine forgiveness.

In the Our Father, the prayer Jesus gave his disciples and his Church, we are reminded that forgiving others is the prerequisite for receiving forgiveness ourselves: —Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.— When we open our hearts in an effort to forgive others we allow God—s loving forgiveness to enter. Inherent in that forgiveness is the mandate to pass it along.

For Family Response:

As a family, write out your own "sorry" prayer asking for God's forgiveness and for God's help to forgive others. Post it on the refrigerator.

Discuss this month's FAMILY CORNER.

Media Watch
Holes
By Frank Frost

Louis Sachar’s novel Holes has been read by millions. Now millions more get to enjoy it as a thoroughly delightful movie.

Fate selects Stanley Yelnats (Stanley spelled backwards, played by Shia LaBeouf) by dropping a pair of tennis shoes from the sky that will lead to his incarceration for theft. He is sentenced to Camp Green Lake, a vast desert potted with holes. There Stanley and the other “campers” are forced to dig ever more holes “to build character.” The overseer of the camp is a seedy old dissolute (Jon Voight), who reports to the seldom-seen, power-driven, menacing warden (Sigourney Weaver.)

Ostensibly the campers are digging for character only, but when Stanley finds an engraved tube in one of his holes, it becomes apparent to all that they are really digging to solve a mystery. Holes is a delightfully complex narrative, clearly presented. It tells a story stretching over four generations that takes the audience back and forth in time, contrasting the rich, lush photography of the past with the gritty, punishing glare of the present.

Stanley’s great-grandfather was put under a curse by a seer when he failed to keep a promise. His father (Henry Winkler) is an inventor desperately trying to overturn the curse by finding the solution to foot odor. It is Stanley’s fate to struggle against that curse by facing the trials of Camp Green Lake.

A couple of subplot stories keep the audience wondering what relevance they have to Stanley’s dilemma in the desert. The legend of Kissin’ Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette) and her love, Sam (Dul— Hill) of the old Wild West adds an unexpected love story which eventually folds into the main story.

The other subplot is the story of “Zero,” the nickname of a camper who is mocked and ignored by both the other campers and the guards because they think he is “nothing,” supposedly empty-headed. Actually, he is illiterate, not slow, and Stanley alone comes to recognize him as a person. When Zero flees into the unforgiving desert full of deadly Yellow Spotted Lizards and lacking water, Stanley sets out to save him.

By the end of the story, fate has brought together the trails of four generations of villains and innocents to punish the wicked and ennoble the oppressed—a veritable Charles Dickens story for the 21st century. As in Dickens, the deserving ones are rewarded for their virtue and fidelity—and for their gene pool.

Holes should amuse early teens while appealing also to younger children. It strikes a fine balance: portraying villainous and amusing eccentric adults without seeming to say all adults are either mean or are fools, and showing scary moments without seeming too threatening. It celebrates the hope and persistence of its hero, along with many other virtues such as loyalty, honesty and truth.

For Media Watch:

What values do you find in this film?

Discuss Frank Frost's film review
in this month's MEDIA WATCH.



SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball

Sts. Joachim and Anna

How little we know about the parents of the child who grew to be the mother of Jesus! How much we would like to know about them and how they went about their child-rearing tasks in ancient Palestine!

Even the names of Joachim and Anna (also known as Ann, Anne and Hannah) come from an unreliable second-century source, the so-called Gospel of James. While Mary’s parents get no mention in the Bible, James’s work offers some intriguing possibilities.

Joachim, we are told, was a prominent man who was highly respected in the community. For many years of their marriage, he and Anna were childless. Surely those were years of worry about whether God was punishing them (a common belief at the time) and whether they would ever have a child. But, just as surely, they were also years of faith and hope—ones that ended in reward when the God in whom they trusted blessed them with a daughter.

We can only imagine what the years were like that followed as they watched Mary grow from infant to toddler to young girl to teen. Surely they immediately dedicated her to God (the Jewish custom) and taught her the prayers of her people. As good parents they would have made certain she spent time at the temple school in Jerusalem, where she would hear stories about the Messiah her people were awaiting. As she grew into young womanhood, Joachim and Anna would have continued through their quiet example to teach Mary about the power of God’s love.

As extended members of the Holy Family, Joachim and Anna offer us lessons about close-knit family life, marriage, parenting, even grandparenting. Their feast day is celebrated on July 26.

Andrew and Terri Lyke

These days, it’s not uncommon for couples to write at least some of their wedding vows. Andrew and Terri Lyke did, but they went a step further. They wrote a mission statement, based on their vows, pledging to be a prayerful couple and proclaiming God the center and source of their love and “an active member” of their family.

Each day brings them countless ways to live out the promises they made before family and friends years ago. The Lykes welcome the accountability.

Their marriage is too important to take the promises lightly—at home with their two children, Andrea (21) and Marty (17), and in their own work as marriage ministers in their native Chicago. Andrew, 50, is coordinator of marriage ministry in the archdiocese; Terri, 48, is an ultrasound supervisor.

After more than three decades of marriage, they keep God the center of their lives. Their parish, St. Lawrence O’Toole, offers them opportunities to live their faith through service—where possible, as a family unit. “We are a family of servants,” Terri told Every Day Catholic. And that remains true even as their children have grown and stayed active in youth work, leadership programs and outreach to the poor.

Meanwhile, Andrew and Terri share their love for one another and for the sacrament of marriage by working with couples about to take the most important step of their lives. “I love working with young couples who feel they have found their soul mate,” Andrew says. But he stresses what marriage has taught him: “It's how we're different that stretches us, helps us to become, evolve and grow—to stand in the face of those deep divides and truly love.”



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