22 Sep 2019

St Padre Pio Church, Glenmore Park

It’s a puzzling parable that one (Lk 16:1-13): Jesus seems to be praising a manager whose under investigation for misconduct including waste or embezzlement and who has since gone a step further and ‘fiddled the books’ to buy himself some allies. I don’t think the Fraud Squad or Fairwork Australia would be coming to his aid. Yet Jesus seems to be… is he saying fraud’s OK?

No. The boss in Jesus’ story praised the manager for his astuteness in dealing with the employees, not for his character: indeed the text says the boss praised τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας ‘the dishonest manager’. There’s no whitewashing the dishonesty here. After telling the story Jesus draws out several messages for us:

  • some worldly wisdom is useful
  • but money isn’t everything
  • we need to sort out our priorities
  • character is cultivated and trust is earned.

It’s worth taking our time to reflect on Jesus’ wisdom for today. Worldly people are often cleverer at dealing with their own than are unworldly people, Jesus says. Even Christians need some worldly wisdom if they are to get by. Or as Padre Pio put it, a mix of “the simplicity of children and the prudence of adults.” We need to understand employment, markets, banking, super and the rest. Use your money wisely, Jesus suggests, particularly to provide for your future when things might get tough.

But money isn’t everything. Money might win you friends, Jesus hints, but the friends that really matter are the ones who “will welcome you into the tents of eternity”, Christ and the saints. Do good for others and those good deeds – and those who benefitted from them – will plead for you at heaven’s gates. “In other words”, the fifth-century bishop St. Gaudentius of Brescia pointed out, “these same poor people will befriend you by assuring your salvation, for Christ, the giver of the eternal rewards, will declare He Himself received the acts of kindness done to them.” (Sermon 18) Our parable pre-empts Christ’s identification with the needy when He says “whatever you did or neglected to do for the least, you did to Me” (Mt ch. 25).

When I was Bishop of Parramatta my office looked out over Prince Alfred Park on Victoria Road. To my right was a great view of St Patrick’s Cathedral, to my left the golden arches of McDonald’s. You might say my window offered a stark choice between God and McMammon. Jesus tells us this morning that some worldly wisdom is useful; but money isn’t everything; we need to sort out our priorities. Now He continues: “No servant can serve two masters… You cannot be slave both of God and of money.” And so Padre Pio counselled: “Don’t worry over things that generate preoccupation, derangement and anxiety. One thing only is necessary: to lift up your spirit and love God.” Children of this world or children of light, tainted money or genuine treasure: sometimes you’ve got to pick your side.

How do we demonstrate which side we’ve picked? Well, Jesus seems to be saying, character is cultivated and trust earned. If you are dishonest in all your dealings, you’ll become the dishonest steward and your only friends will be the ones you’ve bought. If you practice integrity, on the other hand, you will win friends in heaven. St Paul’s invitation today to pray for our political leaders (1Tim 2:1-8) spotlights the ongoing abortion debate in our state parliament, where some seem willing to trade babies’ lives and women’s health for political advantage. But as Jesus makes clear, friends bought at the cost of personal integrity will not be there for us long-term or at the gates of heaven.

“If you can’t be trusted in little things, who will trust you with greater?” the Lord asks; but if you prove trustworthy in day-to-day matters, then heavenly riches will be yours. In other words, though God made us, though our families and communities form us in all sorts of ways, yet still we make ourselves to a significant extent: we freely choose by our actions what sorts of people we will be – loving, prayerful, compassionate to the needy, defenders of the weak including the unborn, or greedy, self-focussed, a fair-weather friend only. We choose who will be our Master – God or money. The call to heaven is the call to make ourselves ready for heaven now: it’s the call to sainthood.

Which brings me to your parish patron, whose Feast we celebrate today. St Pius of Pietrelcina is well-known for his exceptional spiritual gifts: the stigmata or marks of Christ’s passion on his body; the apparitions of the devil; bi-location or appearing somewhere he was not; healings at his intercession; reading penitents’ souls in Confession; and prophesies that came true. These were extraordinary graces that speak to us of our spiritual needs and God’s closeness and help. The danger is that we focus on the razzamatazz rather than on their mission and its object.

Well one thing that is very clear from Padre Pio’s life is that the Christian life is no bed of roses. He experienced a share in Christ’s passion, not just in the physical marks, but the terrible pains associated with it, both in body and soul, in his long hours of prayer, penance and hearing confessions, in being delated to Church authorities and put under various strictures, in being falsely accused of sexual misconduct and defamed even in his own religious congregation. Pio knew he had to accept the cross in good spirit if he was to follow his Master.

St Pio fulfilled today’s Gospel mandates: to put God and His kingdom first; to serve the poor and so befriend the saints; to make of himself a trustworthy steward of the mysteries. “We should humble ourselves before God, rather than resenting the sufferings of His Son that He reserves for us… Offer Him the prayer of resignation and hope, even when you fall through frailty. And thank Him for all the benefits with which He continually enriches you.” Pio identified himself so totally with Christ that Christ identified Himself with Pio, pouring spiritual gifts upon him and his devotees. When he offered the Eucharistic Sacrifice Christ graced him with the stigmata, the marks of His crucifixion, as he had St Francis before him. And so St Pius, the most humble and unassuming of priests, draws the attention of our age to the Word-made-Flesh, the Flesh-made-Wounds, the Wounds-made-Glorious, for our salvation.

May the parishioners of Padre Pio Glenmore Park be inspired by his example and graced by his intercession. With him you can pray: “My past I commend, O Lord, to your Mercy; my present, to your Love; my future, to your Providence!” Then, having proved yourselves trustworthy in little things, He will admit you all into the ‘tents of eternity’.


Welcome to St. Padre Pio’s Church this morning for this Solemn Mass for the Feast Day of your parish patron. It’s good to be back in my old stomping ground of Parramatta Diocese. I particularly thank Fr Suresh Kumar for inviting me to join you for your parish feast day. I acknowledge also Dean Bob Bossini. To everyone present, including visitors and more regulars, a very warm welcome!