Sunday Scriptures

Looking Ahead Is Good Practice

by Msgr. Joseph P. Calise

ONE OF THE most enjoyable ministries in the diocese is Pre-Cana. For those who are not familiar with the program, a good explanation of what it hopes to accomplish is found in Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s letter introducing the program on the diocesan Pre-Cana website:

Addressing the couples seeking to attend, he writes, “Soon you will pledge to be true to one another ‘in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.’ Please make the best use of your time before marriage to ensure that you understand the nature of the commitment you are about to make to one another. Then, on your wedding day, you will be able to promise to love and honor each other as husband and wife all the days of your lives.”

I have worked with dedicated couples, and I stress from the beginning that we are not there to discuss wedding plans, although some liturgical suggestions will be made. Our focus is not on the wedding, but on the marriage, on the life that begins when the reception ends. Anyone who has ever planned a wedding, or any other major reception, knows how many hours of planning are required. How much more important it is to be prepared for the lifetime that follows it.

There are many life-skill preparation courses I wish were offered in the seminary that are not. I have no regrets about the theological education I was blessed to receive. I think it has served me well in ministry – at least in the teaching and preaching aspects of ministry. The pastoral formation I received was also more than sufficient to make my classmates and me aware of and sensitive to the needs of many in today’s society.

However, there are certain subjects that I wish we had studied which would have made parish life much easier. I never took a course in plumbing or construction. There was no accounting class. Very often I often I hear contemporaries lament, “THIS was never taught in seminary,” as they tackle some household dilemma. Perhaps, we would have been well served if there were a course that invited us into the same planning ahead that Pre-Cana offers engaged couples.

Dishonest, But Prudent

The dishonest steward at the center of today’s Gospel is strangely complimented. The master commends him for acting prudently. He was guilty. He had been caught squandering his master’s property and was told to prepare an account before being fired. So, he squanders even more of the master’s property by reducing the debts of his master’s creditors. He knows he needs to make friends so that some opportunities might open for him in his upcoming unemployment.

All the discounts he offered were on debts owed to the master. He was giving away even more of someone else’s property, the behavior that got him into trouble in the first place! Yet, the master himself compliments his prudence because he thought ahead. The method he used might not have been honest, but at least he was smart enough to know that he had to look toward the future.

Living Virtues, Sins

As Christians, we have to acknowledge this prudence, but also question whether or not he looked far enough into the future. Any gain he was going to get would be short lived. Ultimately, he would have to stand before another Master and present an accounting that would ask how he lived the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) and the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity), and avoided the cardinal sins (pride, anger, greed, gluttony, lust, envy and sloth).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prudence as “the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.” Although the steward was prudent enough to use practical reason to discern what he needed, he did not choose the right means of achieving it.

Every time we pray the Our Father, we say, “Thy kingdom come.” Basically, we pray for a place in heaven. Those words, however, are followed by, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That place in heaven is earned by the doing of God’s will on earth in imitation of the perfect obedience, the perfect adherence to God’s will already present in heaven.

Looking ahead is good practice not only for engaged couples and seminarians, but for all the faithful. The challenge is to look far enough ahead that we work toward rewards that will.

Readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time  

Amos 8: 4-7

Psalm 113: 1-2, 4-6, 7-8

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Luke 16: 1-13 or

Luke 16: 10-13

Msgr. Joseph P. Calise is the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Williamsburg.