Henry Ford was known for both his frugality and his philanthropy. He was visiting his family’s ancestral village in Ireland when two trustees of the local hospital found out he was there, and they managed to get in to see him.
They talked him into giving the hospital $5,000 dollars (this was the 1930’s, so $5,000 dollars was a great deal of money). The next morning, at breakfast, he opened his newspaper to read the banner headline: “American Millionaire Gives Fifty Thousand to Local Hospital.”
Ford wasted no time in summoning the two hospital trustees. He waved the newspaper in their faces. “What does this mean?” he demanded. The trustees apologized profusely. “Dreadful error,” they said. They promised to get the editor to print a retraction the very next day, stating that the great Henry Ford hadn’t given $50,000, but only $5,000. Well, hearing that, Ford offered them the other $45,000, under one condition: that the trustees erect a marble arch at the entrance of the new hospital, with a plaque that read, “I walked among you and you took me in.”
Another true story:…United Methodist Pastor, Rev. Mark Trotter, tells of a mission in Mexico, sponsored by Mercy Hospital, in San Diego, and by Rotary International. Thirteen doctors from San Diego, and twice that number of nurses and other support staff, total of about fifty-five persons, paid their own way to go down as a surgical team to minister to poor children in Tehuacan, in the southern part of Mexico. He says, “The call went out through the Rotary Club in that city for all those who do not have the means for medical attention to bring children with birth defects and crippling diseases to the clinic.
It was amazing. They came by the hundreds, mostly the very, very poor, carrying their children. Some teenagers, as well, some of whom have spent their life with their hand held over their face because they were ashamed of the way they looked. Some had been hidden by their parents because they did not want their neighbors to see what they believed was a curse upon their family. After an hour, or less, in surgery their appearance was changed, and they received new hope and a new life.
If you are hard-headed, you might conclude that the thousands of dollars that were spent last week in Tehuacan was just a drop in the bucket. It’s not going to make any difference. I mean, the enormous suffering in this world, just wave after wave. It’s not going to make any difference. I talked to one of those Rotarians in Tehuacan who spent two years setting up this project. It’s a complex business establishing this kind of a clinic in Mexico. I said, “Why did you do it?” He said, “We believe that we can change the world, and we are going to start right here.”
It sounds naive. It is naive, when you compare it with the problems that exist, even the problems in our own state. But we are confronted with a choice in this life. That’s the point of these parables. We are confronted with a choice. We can do nothing, and play it safe. Or, we can take a risk.”
As often with the parables of Jesus, this one is intended to shock in order to make us think. Jesus is not praising the injustice of the servant, but his purposefulness in preparing for the future. In our experience, what difference does it make when we are purposeful and energetic instead of lethargic?
It was his master’s call to account that galvanized the servant into action. What have been the experiences, or people, that have galvanized us into action when we had been somewhat half-hearted in our efforts?
Who have been the people whose energy, drive and astuteness have been an inspiration to us in how to handle difficult situations?
‘No servant can be the slave of two masters.’ When have we experienced the truth of this statement?
If we think that all the parables Jesus told were nice stories about people of integrity then today’s Gospel might make us think again. The manager has been put on notice by his CEO and he decides to even up the tables, while he still can, for those who are struggling to pay their debts to the company. He is happy to let debt go and redistribute the finances. The only value the money really has is in the way it is disposed of. Yes, he is a bit of a scoundrel, but Jesus liked scoundrels, once their efforts were put to good use.
During this past year we have seen young people rise up and challenge the governments of the world to take immediate action on climate change. In March 2019, the Global Protest for Climate involved over 1.2 million young people worldwide. Initiated by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, the climate protests shine as a beacon of hope in dark times. Greta stands up to world leaders and calls them to account. She is a modern prophet inspiring millions of young people into political action and challenging all of us to raise our voices for our common home.
During this Season of Creation, what can our community do to support these young people? As church, what do we have to say to this powerful movement? The manager in today’s parable invites us to ‘holy mischief.’
In his encyclical, Laudato Si, 160-161, Pope Francs writes: ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?… Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.’
Suggestion for the week: Let us explore how we might join with the eco-groups in our community to rejoice in the gift of creation, to share eco-stories and hear other good news of what is already happening.