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A good decision: Investing in the future of children's souls

Archbishop Wenski's homily at 30th anniversary Mass for St. Louis Covenant School

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at a Mass marking the 30th anniversary of St. Louis Covenant School in Pinecrest. The Mass was celebrated Sept. 17, 2022, at St. Louis Church in Pinecrest.

There's a story about little Johnny who was quite a handful and often would exasperate his mother. One time, she lost patience with him and shouted at him "Johnny, you're good for nothing.” Of course, Johnny's mother didn't mean what she said. And thankfully, Johnny was not a fragile child. He gave as good as he took: With an impish grin, Johnny looked at his mother and said, “I am too good for something. I am good for being a bad example.”

Well, in today's Gospel, Jesus presents the dishonest steward not because he wanted to praise or commend his dishonesty. Jesus obviously thought that this rascal would be a perfect illustration for a spiritual lesson about the Kingdom of God. So, Jesus is using the bad example of this “good for nothing steward” for a good purpose.

What's the point that Jesus is trying to make? He is commending the steward for his shrewdness — or as we heard in the Gospel — "for acting prudently.” Obviously, the steward was in a real jam, but he was shrewd enough, prudent enough, to assess his situation and act decisively with some foresight.

Now, of course, Jesus is concerned here with something more important than a financial crisis. He is concerned that we avert spiritual crisis through the exercise of faith and foresight. In other words, he is saying, "Shouldn't we believers expend as much energy and forward thinking about spiritual matters that do have eternal consequences, as much as we do in earthly matters which have consequences that are only temporal?” If we did so, Jesus is telling us, we would be better off, both in this life and in the life to come.

Again, what Jesus is concerned with is the lack of spiritual foresight on the part of His followers. “For the children of this world,” Jesus says, "are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light."

The point is that we all ought to be as foresightful and prudent in planning ahead for our spiritual futures as the worldly-wise are in planning ahead for their financial and material futures. So, he is telling us to be just as enterprising — not in wrongdoing — but in caring for the future of our souls.

Of course, I am here tonight to celebrate the 30th anniversary of St. Louis Covenant School – and after 30 years we can offer prayers of thanksgiving for those who had the foresight and made the necessary prudential judgments to establish this school. We are certainly better off for the energy expended and the forward thinking of the parish community thirty years ago. That St. Louis would open a school was not a foregone conclusion. The public schools in Pinecrest were and are pretty good schools – and so not a few questioned the need for a Catholic school. Thank God the naysayers did not prevail, and the parish had the courage to invest in the future of the souls of its children by providing for this covenant school.

Catholic schools serve the mission of the Church — and the Church’s mission is to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Catholic schools serve the mission of the Church because they seek to educate the whole person — and that is why evangelization and integral human development are intertwined in the task of education. Catholic education is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person — mind, body, and spirit.

Some of you may remember those old Perry Mason shows, or Matlock. In these courtroom TV dramas, a witness is called to testify, and he or she swears to tell the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth – “so help me God.”

How can anybody say that he or she is educating someone about the truth — and yet NOT to be able to speak about God? The history of these United States would be incomprehensible without acknowledging the role of faith, the role of religion, in its foundation as well as in its foundational documents. How can anyone say that he or she is educating someone about the truth, if they cannot teach that we exist not only for this life — but also for the next? Not to know that we were created for eternity is to be as ignorant as not knowing how to multiply fractions. At St. Louis Covenant School, both are taught very well.

And today — more than ever — our world needs to encounter truth. The world needs to know that truth is knowable. The world needs to know its demands and to know that its demands are reasonable. Without truth there is no freedom; and without truth, there is no hope.

And this is what a Catholic education can offer our youth — an education founded on truth — which, if we’re honest, is available in few other places. For today, in a society which is characterized by a crisis of anthropology — the understanding of man — because of the sway of ideologies which offer a reductive and therefore a diminished understanding of the human person, where else but in a Catholic school can you speak the whole truth about God, and the whole truth about man.

In a Catholic school, children are taught that they are loved. No one is an accident; everyone is the result of a thought from God, everyone is necessary. In other words, if you are here taking up space on this planet, it is because God wants you to be here. He created you for a reason, he created you for a purpose.

In a Catholic school, children are also taught how to love. God calls each one of us to a future of love. To give your very self as a gift to God and to your brothers and sisters, as Jesus did when he died for us on the cross, is the way to true joy and happiness. This is not an easy way; but it is the way, God’s way.

So, the question to ask ourselves — in light of the Scriptures we have heard — is simply: How zealous am I in providing for my spiritual future? To assume that God is some sort of Sugar Daddy in the sky who is going to take care of me no matter what I do is not a prudent course of action. Of course, our God is a God of mercy — a God who believes in second chances, and often third or fourth chances. But to assume that what I do or what I don't do in this life doesn't matter really insults God who is merciful, but also just.

Today's Gospel reading ends with Jesus saying, "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 both God and mammon.”

These words also invite some reflection about what we consider to be our possessions. If we think prudently — not in worldly terms as the dishonest steward — but as "children of the light,” then we must acknowledge that what we have we do not own outright. In fact, the only things that we can claim to own are our sins; the rest belongs to God, and we hold that in trust — and it's all going back to God eventually.

St. Ambrose, a 4th century bishop, said in speaking about the Gospel parable in which a rich man decided to build bigger barns to store his wealth and then died before he could enjoy it: "The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever." True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away.

Love of money and wealth can easily crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. And so, Jesus makes clear that our hearts must either be possessed by God's love, or our hearts will be possessed by the love of something else.

If that's true — and we know it is — can we learn something from the "bad example" of the dishonest steward and commit ourselves to a prudent course of action in caring for the future of our souls?