Invest for Eternity!
I learned an interesting story about George C. Parker. He was a clever con man who used to convince people that he could sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. They say he sold the Brooklyn Bridge as often as twice a week for thirty years. Now, why would anyone want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? It’s not like they could put it in their back yards. Well, Parker told his victims that once they owned the bridge, they could set their own tolls. This is a true story. It took place during the 1920's in New York City. Several times the police had to stop the “new owners” of the Brooklyn Bridge from setting up toll booths in the middle of the span.
Now, aside from being naive, and perhaps a bit dim-witted, why would people believe Parker and give him up to $50,000 for the Bridge? This happened because Parker worked hard studying his potential victims. He knew what made them tick and exploited their weakness. For some it was greed; for others it was vanity. “You could rename the bridge after yourself. After all, it would be your bridge.” One man had his doubts and asked Parker, “Are you sure the bridge is for sale?” Parker told him, “Of course it is for sale, didn’t you see the for sale sticker on one of the beams?” And the man believed him!
For those who were a bit more intelligent, hopefully the rest of the world, Parker had set up an office complete with pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and bogus legal papers. He did quite a bit of work and earned quite a bit of cash. Oh, he also was convicted of fraud and spent the last nine years of his life in New York’s Sing Sing Prison.
In the Gospel passage the rich man wants his money. St. Augustine said, “I can’t believe that this story came from the lips of our Lord.” Jesus tells a paradoxical story about the steward (manager) of the estate of a rich absentee landlord. The rich man heard that his employee was taking advantage of him. The main point is not about the employee was stealing nor reducing the debt that various businesspeople owed his master. The main point of the reading is that the employee was cleaver and wasted no time in planning for a secure future for himself. Jesus wanted to tell us that we need to be as cleaver in planning for a secure future for ourselves: not just few years here on earth, but also for our time eternity.
The first reading from the book of Amos tells us that when Israelites enjoyed prosperity, they forgot about God who blessed them so richly. When they lost touch with God, this led them to its collapse. In the second reading, I Timothy instructs the first century Judeo-Christians to become true stewards of the gospel of Jesus, the only mediator, by preaching the “good news” to the pagans and including them in intercessory prayers.
Jesus said at the end of today’s Gospel, "You cannot serve two masters, you will hate one and be devoted to the other or vice-versa. A person cannot serve both God and Mammon." We need money to operate our family or institutions. We may need to invest money in the market. Our resources are a blessing from God. The question is who has first place in our life/heart? Jesus is telling us today to use the blessings God has given us to help us get closer to God and not let our possessions become a god in themselves. All three readings challenges us to use our blessings - time, talents, health and wealth - wisely and smartly so that they will count for our good in eternity. Our life in this earth is temporary. Eternity is forever.