I wish to begin with the story of St. Anthony of the desert. (He is not very well known. This is not the St. Anthony who helps you find things that get lost.) St. Anthony of the desert was born in 251 and he died in 356. In other words, he lived on this earth for 105 years. He lived in the desert in the land of Egypt, and he is called the founder of monasticism.
One fine summer day he decided that he and Brother Seraphim should travel across the desert to see their bishop. They knew that their trip would take five days. They decided that they would fast during the day and beg for food at the end of each day. On the third day they received some bread crusts and sat down by the river to eat. Brother Seraphim began to complain: “This is really some kind of dinner.” He said sarcastically. “We have no table, no chairs, nor roof over our heads. We are servants of the Lord. We deserve better than this.”
Then Brother Anthony said, “I beg to differ with you. I would say that this is a banquet. We have everything that we need. We have fresh air to breathe. It’s not raining, so we don’t need a roof. The ground is soft, so we don’t need chairs. And this food will give us strength for the journey. God has supplied us with everything that we need. We are not poor. We have what we need; so, we are rich. So, let’s be satisfied and let’s be thankful!”
I share that story with you because it is about being poor and being rich and today’s Bible readings covered the topic of poverty and wealth. The prophet Amos criticized the rich for taking advantage of the poor. Saint Paul reminded us that Jesus has paid off the debt which was incurred by our sin. And Jesus said, “If you can not be trusted with worldly wealth, you can not be trusted with heavenly wealth.”
The topic of wealth and poverty is the subject of our scripture passages today. Wealth and poverty are a matter of perception. Wealth and poverty are terms which are really quite relative. Some things carry a big price tag; but that does not mean that they are valuable.
Many things in life are more valuable than money. Your health is more valuable than any amount of money. And so is your family. And your faith is your most valuable possession because it keeps you connected to God. And your church is very valuable because it supports your faith and helps you to grow in faith.
Now I would like to go back to Saint Anthony of the desert and the topic of fresh air and clean water and good soil. We tend to take them for granted. But they are precious beyond any price because they are so necessary for life………
Pope Francis wrote a book on the topic of “Caring for God’s creation.” He is challenging us to protect the soil and the air and the water and all of our natural resources. What are the religious reasons for doing that? Why did the Pope write a book about preserving our natural resources? Because the Book of Genesis says that after creating the soil and the water and the air God looked at them and said, “They are good.” That’s what we read in the Book of Genesis. God looked at all of the parts of creation and said, “They are good.”
And, in addition, all of creation belongs to God. Psalm 24 says that all of creation is God’s handiwork, and it all belongs to God. All of creation belongs to God and we are the stewards of creation. That is where we come into the picture. We are the stewards of creation.
We heard about stewardship in today’s Gospel. The master went away, and the steward was placed in charge of the master’s property. The steward handed onto the workers what was handed onto him. That’s what stewards do. They hand onto others what was handed onto them. And so it is that God is the master and God hands onto us the beauty of creation. We are the stewards of creation, and we are expected to hand it onto the next generation. Creation is not for us to exploit and abuse. Creation is placed in our care for a short time, and we are expected to hand it on in good shape as stewards are expected to do.
There is another item that has such great value that its price can not be measured…..and that is the spiritual treasure that we call salvation. We heard St. Paul talk about salvation in our second reading today. Paul says that salvation sets us free from our selfishness. We have a desperate need for salvation because our selfishness is choking us. Our selfishness is causing us to suffocate. Our sin is choking our spiritual life.
The Good News is that Jesus has paid the price for our salvation. Saint Paul says that Jesus spoke the truth about God’s love and mercy. His enemies rejected that teaching, and, in the end, they crucified Him. Jesus paid the price for our salvation by accepting death….Yes, death on a cross.
Salvation is now available to all people. The price has been paid. That spiritual treasure called salvation had a big price tag. And Jesus paid the price and salvation is now available to all of us.
During our liturgy today, let’s thank the Lord Jesus for paying the price for our salvation. Now that we have salvation, we have all the wealth that we will ever need. We could also tell the Lord that we need just a little more help. Let’s ask the Lord to give us a little poke in the ribs whenever we take salvation for granted.
We take a moment now to give thanks to God for bestowing upon us the most valuable treasure: the gift of salvation.