25th Sun [C] 2004

Fr. Charles Irvin

Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13


Years ago there was a lot of talk about Murphy’s Law – you know, “If something can go wrong it will.” Nowadays the buzz is about the Law of Unintended Consequences. A couple of current examples are found in Martha Stewart’s financial escapades and in our government’s prosecution of the war in Iraq.


Martha Stewart, you will remember, chose to bail out of her ownership in the common stock of ImClone Systems, doing so in a manner that allegedly broke the law and then perjuring herself when she had to respond to questions about her sale under oath. She lost a lot money and a lot of her reputation in doing that. The unintended consequence and the ironic result is that today the worth of ImClone Systems on the New York Stock Exchange is a whole lot more than it was at the time Martha entered into her scheme to sell it.


As for our prosecution of the war in Iraq, the sudden military victory brought about consequences that were unintended and unseen by those in Washington who conducted the war. Saddam’s troops were allowed to lay down their weapons and simply go home without being taken as prisoners of war and then examined and processed before going home. Unintended consequences resulted, too numerous to go into here.


Another unintended consequence that you and I face right now is to hear the parable Jesus taught about the unjust steward without first understanding some basic things about parables. We rush to interpret them without first remembering that parables are constructed to highlight just one point. You must focus on that point and not get distracted by other details. If you don’t retain that focus, unintended consequences will follow.


You’ve all heard the expression about missing the forest because of the trees. One can be so caught up in examining the individual trees that the unintended consequence is failure to see the forest as a whole. This applies in particular to today’s parable. If you don’t keep your eye on the main point of the parable you can end up with many confusing thoughts about what Jesus is really teaching us.


And the point? It’s summed up in one word: foresight. Martha Stewart didn’t have it. Our officials in Washington didn’t have it, and oft times we don’t have it.


An alcoholic who thinks he or she can take just one drink and not get into trouble lacks foresight. A spouse who has an affair thinking it will remain a secret, doesn’t have any foresight. And people who think they can live life without any thought of God, or what God expects of us, don’t have it. A student who thinks he can receive a passing grade without studying, lacks foresight. Examples of lack of foresight are all around us.


So, too, are examples of those who, due to their own lack for foresight, seek to avoid the consequences of their foolishness. Our court dockets are jammed with frivolous lawsuits entertained by people who either want to escape the consequences of their foolish decisions or else make others pay for those consequences, either insurance companies or the government. We should also ask the question: How much of the ever increasing cost of medical insurance premiums are due to the treatments required by foolish people who need medical care because of their lack of foresight and their consequent dumping of their problem on the health care industry? Jesus, if He were among us today, wouldn’t need to use parables to make his point. He would have hundreds of news reports to draw upon.


So what about foresight when it comes to our spiritual lives, our souls? No matter how much priests and deacons preach about the fact that there is a life after death, a heaven and a hell, and that we are all headed toward God’s judgment at the end of our lives, people go on living as if it really doesn’t matter. It seems as if there is a widespread and unacknowledged presumption that God will overlook our decisions and take care of us anyway, regardless of how sinfully or carelessly we live out of our lives.


Then there are all of those sudden and unprepared for deaths. Priests and deacons face them regularly and sometimes frequently throughout the year. Death, when it comes, always seems sudden, no matter how much we think we’re ready for it. Surviving relatives and friends are so very many times surprised at death’s swift appearance. Accidents, it seems, are thought to be things that happen to other people, never to us or to our children, relatives and friends.


My point is, of course, obvious. Perhaps that’s the difficulty – it’s too obvious, so obvious that we don’t really take it seriously.


To be spiritually foresightful one must pray frequently, hopefully every day. To be spiritually foresightful one must pray not in order to talk to God, but to hear what God is trying to tell us.

To be spiritually foresightful one must take the voice of one’s conscience seriously and listen carefully to that still, inner voice,


And it’s not just a matter of good intentions. Talk is cheap and the road to hell is paved with good intentions. To be truly foresightful one must act with an eye to what will result. How one acts reveals what’s in one’s heart and soul.


To have foresight with respect to one’s soul and it’s life after death, we must realize that good habits can shove aside bad habits, good behavior can crowd out bad behavior.


Remember that today is the first day of the rest of your life. And so is tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and so on. What, then, do I need to change in the way I live out my life? What do I need to change so that when it comes time to settle my accounts with God He will commend me for being foresightful and prudent and give me the reward He wants so very much to give me?


Always remember, there will be a day of reckoning. Martha Stewart found that out, and we should learn a lesson from what happened to her…and others like her. It is foolish for you to think you’re that much different from her. It’s wise for you to act with foresight, knowing there will be a day of ultimate accounting. The Law of Unintended Consequences is still on the books.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”