25 Sunday C: Stewardship

Fr, Jude Botelho:

The prophets were aware of the role money plays in our life and in the practice of the faith. In fact, the prophet Amos quite bluntly states that one who exploits the poor cannot serve God. Worship of God cannot be genuine unless we are concerned about the poor and their needs. Amos faced a people outwardly religious, but inwardly corrupt. They went through the outward trappings of religiosity, but failed to love their neighbour, especially the poor, as they should. Amos felt called by God to denounce the injustices towards the poor and the oppressed.The Joy of Giving
When her husband Ray Kroc died in 1984, Joan Kroc was left with an estimated $700 million. Her wealth included an 8.7 percent share of the common stock of the McDonald’s food empire and full ownership of the San Diego Padres baseball franchise.  Since that time this fast food empress became a woman of many causes. Besides giving sizeable donations to nuclear-disarmament groups, the San Diego Zoo, St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis and the American Red Cross for African famine relief, Joan Kroc has also been a steady supporter of the arts, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, medical research, wildlife preservation and programs to combat child abuse. Some sceptics dismiss her as a jet-set do-gooder, but close friends say that she becomes personally involved in many of the causes she supports. -Today’s Scripture seems to be a blueprint for Joan Kroc’s use of money. She is the anti-thesis of the rich decried by the prophet Amos for trampling on the needy and taking unfair advantage of the poor.
Albert Cylwicki in “His Word Resounds”

In today’s Gospel the parable of the unjust steward is difficult to understand. If Jesus appears to praise the steward it is certainly not for his unjust actions but for his foresight. ‘The children of this world are more ‘clever’ than the ‘children of the light’ The proper way of using riches is by using it for reaching out to those in need, by giving it away to help others rather than use it selfishly for one’s own needs. The steward was commended for, as it were, killing two birds with one stroke. In letting the debtors lower the interest to be paid, he could not be punished by the master because the rates charged were much higher than legally permissible. He was in fact observing the law. On the other hand, those who had to pay the debt were grateful because their debt was lessened, thanks to the shrewd steward. Money while often being tainted and seductive can be an instrument of doing good. Luke is not advising the Christian to be a beggar but is reminding us that when we stand before God we will be asked to give an account of all that we have received. We cannot serve two masters, God and money; we have to make our choice.

It all comes back
There was a company which built houses, and their business was on a very large scale. There is a story told about one of their building contractors, who was approaching the age of retirement. He had become very careless and carefree, and his working standards were constantly slipping. He began cutting corners, using inferior material, and taking short cuts. He was quite pleased with himself, and he felt he was onto a good thing here. As time progressed, so did the standard of his work fall. The houses were new, so the faults would not show up straightaway, and he would be well out of business by then. The time of his retiring arrived, and it coincided with what was possibly the most shoddily built house he had ever built. Imagine his surprise at his retirement party, when his golden handshake was to be presented with the keys of that last house he had built!
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth’

Keep Your Head Up!
There was once a young fellow who found a silver dollar. From that time on he never raised his eyes from the ground when he walked. In the next ten years he accumulated $350 in silver, 37 pennies, 18,478 buttons, 14,369 pins, a hunch back, a miserly character and a very rotten disposition. He lost the beauty and glory of sunshine, the smiles of friends, the gorgeous colours and beauty of flowers and trees, blue skies, and all there is which makes life worthwhile… Keep your head up, your eyes towards the stars. You may miss finding a few pennies but you will find all the beautiful things that make the living of life a glorious adventure.
P. Fontaine in ‘Quotes and Anecdotes’

Jesus went on to point out that the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind of people than are the children of light. That is the point –the only point that Jesus praises. An up-dated but innocent example of the children of this world being enterprising is the department store clerk who had broken all sales records. Modestly disclaiming credit, he explained to his boss, “A customer came in, and I sold him some fishhooks. “You will need a line for those hooks,” I said, and sold him some line. Then I told him, “You have to have a rod to go with the line,” and I sold him a rod. “You aught to have a boat so you can use your new rod in deep water,” I suggested, and sold him a boat. Next I told him, “You’ll need a boat trailer” and he fell for that too. Finally, I said, “How will you pull the trailer without a car? and guess what? He bought my car.” And the boss said, “But I assigned you to the greetings card department.” “That is right,” the salesman nodded. “This customer came to me for a get-well card for his girl, who had a broken hip. When I heard that I said to him, ‘You haven’t got anything to do for six weeks, so you might as well go fishing.’ ”
Harold Buetow in ‘God still speaks: Listen!’

An Astute Manager
A few years ago a priest was giving a retreat to inmates in a federal prison in the South. One of the talks dealt with Jesus’ teaching about revenge. Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” To illustrate Jesus’ point, the priest told the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete to play in the major leagues. When Branch Rickey signed Jackie to a Dodger contract in 1945, he told him, “You will have to take everything they dish out to you and never strike back.” Rickey was right. On the field, pitchers brushed Jackie back with blazing fastballs, and opposing fans and teams taunted him. Off the field, he was thrown out of hotels and restaurants where the rest of the team stayed and ate. Through it all, Jackie kept his cool. He turned the other cheek. And so did branch manager Rickey, who was abused by people for signing Jackie. The priest ended the story by asking the prisoners this question: “Where do you think black athletes would be today had Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey not turned the other check?” After the talk, a prisoner said to the priest: That’s a nice story, father. But why didn’t you tell the whole story? Why didn’t you tell why Rickey and Robinson turned the other cheek? It wasn’t for love of God. It was for love of money. “Rickey turned the other cheek because if he succeeded, he would make a fortune too.” The priest thought to himself for a minute: “If the prisoner’s right, then he’s just shot my nice little story right out of the water.” But then the priest thought: “Hey! Wait a minute! If the prisoner’s right, then my story makes an even more important point!” It’s the same point Jesus makes in today’s gospel. Jesus says: “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Andrew Greeley: Background: 

We must remember that when Jesus is telling a parable  it has only one point.  The point in this parable is that corrupt officials are very shrewd in the way steal money.  Whereas we who are his followers are not all shrewd bout how agile we should be to respond to the overwhelming and forgiving love of God that Jesus has revealed to us.


 Once upon a time there was an eighth grader who was a great, great quarterback. Everyone said he’d be varsity in his sophomore year, he was go good. They even said that when he graduated from high school he might go to Notre Dame where they specialize in ruining potentially great quarterbacks. Well, the kid was really good, but he was also really lazy. Or maybe we should say he thought there were more important things to do with the summer than weight training and practice the first week in August. And maybe he was right. He wanted to play football, you see, but he figured he was good enough that he could take the summer off and still play.  

 So he didn’t show up the first week in August or any week in August. When school started, he finally wandered down to the football field and threw a few perfect passes. The team was enthused. Maybe he would be varsity as a freshman. But the coach saw him and chased him off the field. You didn’t come to Summer practice, the coach said, we don’t want you now.

Maybe the coach was wrong, maybe there shouldn’t be August practice. BUT if you don’t want to work at something, no matter how good you are, you may be out of luck.
Before John Wesley became the founder of the Methodist Church he was a teacher at Oxford University back in the 1700’s. When he began his career he was paid 30 pounds per year - in those days a lot of money. His living expenses were 28 pounds - so he gave 2 pounds away. The next year his income doubled - but he still managed to live on 28 pounds - so he gave away 32 pounds. The third year he earned 90 pounds - lived on 28 - and gave away 62. The fourth year he earned 120 pounds - lived on 28 - and gave away 92. One year his income was a little over 1,400 pounds - he lived on 30 and gave away nearly all of the 1,400 pounds. 

Wesley felt that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving. Increasing our standard of giving. What a great Christian man and what a great lesson he taught us. It is the same lesson found in the parable for today. Let’s take a look. The Pharisees are standing off to the side watching Jesus as was their custom. Jesus’ disciples are listening intently as he tells his story. Probably on this occasion there were more than just the 12. A large number of followers are gathered around. He tells them about a steward who handled all the business affairs of a wealthy man. But the steward has squandered his master’s money; he was reckless and wasteful… 

Have you heard of the carnival barker who kept yelling “Alive! Alive! Here! Here! Did you ever see a two-headed baby? Come in! Come in!” The gaff is that they don’t have a two-headed baby inside the tent. They only asked if you ever saw one. 

This is the kind of shrewdness being celebrated in today’s Scripture reading.

Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012), the Mexican novelist and playwright whom some called “the soul of Mexico,” gave a long interview about his writing shortly after he turned 50 and began to contemplate his mortality. “I used to write to live,” he said. “Now I write not to die. I’ll live as long as I have another story to tell.”  

Jesus was the greatest storyteller who ever lived. But I’ll wager a guess that there’s one Jesus story on which you’ve seldom if ever heard a sermon. It’s our lectionary text for today. And it’s one of the strangest and, for some, the most repugnant story Jesus ever told. There are so many features of this story that deserve our attention, and today’s exegesis probes some of them. In this morning’s sermon we only have time to highlight one of them.  

This story provides primary evidence that Jesus wasn't just about telling stories of people who were "better" than we are, good and moral people we should try to imitate in some tradition of Aesop’s fables. The servant in this parable is bad to the bone. Yet he still has a message to bring that we can learn from. Jesus shows how even the worst have something of the best to teach us if we will be willing to receive wisdom from a tainted source, just as the servant received tainted wealth from a tainted world… 
2.     God’s Grace 

The grace of God is like the man who went into the clothing store to buy a suit and was shown a blue one. "No," the customer said, "That won't do. I want a green suit." So the clerk called out to his partner, "Turn on the green light, Joe, the man wants a green suit!" It is not that things are changed. But we see them differently. In Christ we are given spectacles which give us a kingdom perspective. We see ourselves in a heavenly light; through God's eyes. We see how things really are. We need no longer suffer from the stigma that "sinner" - forgiven or otherwise - denotes. We can see ourselves as "heirs" with Christ of the Divine inheritance. The world is not changed, but we see it and ourselves in a new light; a kingdom light.

Robert McClelland, Fire in the Hole, CSS Publishing Company 
3.     A Shrewd Example 

First-century culture was organized and orchestrated by strict social rules. The rules of reciprocal hospitality were in no way optional. Rather they were the supporting ligaments that bound together status and honor, safeguarding roles and responsibilities through right relationships. The dishonest manager has no doubts that he will be able to collect on the favors owed him when the time comes. He will get by, despite his looming unemployment, because he knows how to work the system, or in the more contemporary terms of network, because he knows how to make the net work.

Jesus doesn't admire the thorns that bar the manager's dubious situation. Neither does Jesus concern himself with the man's self-serving character. What Jesus focuses on is the fruit that results from the manager's shrewdness (machinations?). Jesus sees a man unafraid to push the accepted limits in order to bring about a needed change. And he sees in this shrewdness something that his disciples might well learn from.

Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons,
4.     Play It Safe or Take a Risk 

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 his own state. But you are confronted with a choice in this life. That's the point of these parables. You are confronted with a choice. You can do nothing, and play it safe. Or, you can take a risk.”

Adapted from Mark Trotter, The Model of Success
5.     When Shrewdness Wins the Day  

Dan Miller in his book No More Dreaded Mondays tells a delightful story about a farmer many years ago in a village in India who had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the village moneylender. The old and ugly moneylender fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter, so he proposed a bargain. He would forgive the farmer’s debt if he could marry the farmer’s daughter.

Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal, but the cunning moneylender suggested that they let providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. The girl would have to reach in and pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble, she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail until the debt was paid.  

They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the farmer’s field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. The sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble. Now, imagine that you were the girl standing in the field. What would you have done? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her?  

Careful analysis would produce three possibilities: (1) the girl could refuse to take a pebble--but her father would then be thrown in jail. (2) The girl could pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from debt and imprisonment. Or (3) the girl could pull out both black pebbles in the bag, expose the moneylender as a cheat, and likely incite his immediate revenge.

Here is what the girl did.  

She put her hand into the money bag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path, where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles. “Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.” Since the remaining pebble was black, it would have to be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl would have changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.  

Don’t we all love stories where the good guy uses his or her wit and cunning to defeat a villain? It may disturb us when a villain uses that same wit and cunning. And yet Jesus once told his disciples a parable about a dishonest man who did just that.  

Dan Miller, No More Dreaded Mondays, Broadway Books, 2008.  Adapted by King Duncan
6.     I Have Never Told the Half of It! 

Sometimes people tease me about speaking about God’s love and grace so much and when they do, I think of Marco Polo. In the 14th century, when he came back to Venice from his travels in Cathay, Marco Polo described the incredible wonders he had seen there. People didn’t believe him and for the rest of his life (and even on his death bed) they tried to get him to confess that he had lied and exaggerated about the wonders he had described. His last answer was: “I never told the half of it!”

That’s the way I feel about God’s love and grace – “I have never told the half of it!”

James W. Moore,
7.     Humor: You Took Me In 

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."

Billy D. Strayhorn, Let's Make a Deal
8.     Looking Past Oneself 

An enormously rich man complained to a psychiatrist that despite his great wealth which enabled him to have whatever he wanted, he still felt miserable. The psychiatrist took the man to the window overlooking the street and asked, "What do you see?" The man replied, "I see men, women, and children."

The psychiatrist then took the man to stand in front of mirror and asked, "Now what do you see?"
The man said, "I see only myself."

The psychiatrist then said, "In the window there is a glass and in the mirror there is glass, and when you look through the glass of the window, you see others, but when you look into the glass of the mirror you see only yourself. The reason for this, "said the psychiatrist, "is that behind the glass in the mirror is a layer of silver. When silver is added, you cease to see others. You only see yourself."

Whenever your devotion to money and material things causes you to be self-centered, you in essence deny God's intention for your life. It is also a denial of the Christ, for Jesus came into the world so that we might be in union with God.

Maxie Dunnam, Turn in an Account of Your Stewardship
9.     When the Tigers Circle 

A Zen story characterizes life as a Buddhist monk fleeing from a hungry tiger. The monk comes to the edge of a cliff cutting off any hope of escape from the pursuing tiger. Fortunately for the monk, a vine happens to be growing over the edge. He grabs hold of it and begins to climb down the cliff, out of the tiger's reach, who is by now glaring at him from above. But alas, as the monk is climbing down, he spies another tiger waiting for him below; circling impatiently at the bottom of the cliff. To make matters worse, out of the corner of his eye he notices a mouse on a ledge above him already beginning to gnaw through the vine. Then out of the corner of his other eye the monk sees a strawberry growing from the rock. So he picks the strawberry and eats it.

Faith in God is not believing that the Holy One will intervene to "save" us. It is knowing what time it is…


Lloyd C. Douglas tells the story of Thomas Hearne, who, "in his journey to the mouth of the Coppermine River, wrote that a few days after they had started on their expedition, a party of Indians stole most of their supplies. His comment on the apparent misfortune was: 'The weight of our baggage being so much lightened, our next day's journey was more swift and pleasant.'

Hearne was in route to something very interesting and important; and the loss of a few sides of bacon and a couple of bags of flour meant nothing more than an easing of the load. Had Hearne been holed in somewhere, in a cabin, resolved to spend his last days eking out an existence, and living on capital previously collected, the loss of some of his stores by plunder would probably have worried him almost to death."

How we respond to "losing" some of our resources for God's work depends upon whether we are on the move or waiting for our last stand.

Lloyd C. Douglas, The Living Faith.

When you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, "Does this hurt? How about this?" If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. Either the doctor has pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there's something wrong, and the doctor will say, "We'd better do some more tests. It's not supposed to hurt there!" So it is when pastors preach on financial responsibility, and certain members cry out in discomfort, criticizing the message and the messenger. Either the pastor has pushed too hard. Or perhaps there's something wrong. In that case, I say, "My friend, we're in need of the Great Physician because it's not supposed to hurt there."

Ben Rogers.

Once, a man said, "If I had some extra money, I'd give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family." And the same man said, "If I had some extra time, I'd give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you--every single minute." And the same man said, "If I had a talent I'd give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I've never been able to lead a group; I can't think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to."

And God was touched, and although it was unlike him, God gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. And then He waited, and waited, and waited.....And then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, "If I only had some of that money back, I'd give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I'd give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I'd give it to God."

And God said, "Oh, shut up."

And the man told some of his friends, "You know, I'm not so sure that I believe in God anymore."

God is No Fool, 1969, Abindgon Press.

11.  Lengthy Illustrations

So when man finds Jesus, it costs him everything. Jesus has happiness, joy, peace, healing, security, eternity. Man marvels at such a pearl and says, 'I want this pearl. How much does it cost?"

"The seller says, 'it's too dear, too costly.'
"But how much?'
"Well, it's very expensive.'
"Do you think I could buy it?'
"It costs everything you have -- no more, no less -- so anybody can buy it.'
"I'll buy it.'

"What do you have? Let's write it down.'
"I have $10,000 in the bank.'
"Good, $10,000. What else?'
"I have nothing more. That's all I have.'

"Have you nothing more?'
"Well, I have some dollars here in my pocket.'
"How many?'
"I'll see: Thirty, forty, fifty, eighty, one hundred, one hundred twenty -- one hundred twenty dollars.'
"That's fine. What else do you have?'

"I have nothing else. That's all.'
"Where do you live?"
"I live in my house.'
"The house, too.'
"Then you mean I must live in the garage?'
"Have you a garage, too? That, too. What else?'
"Do you mean that I must live in my car, then?'
"Have you a car?'
"I have two.'
"Both become mine. Both cars. What else?'

"Well, you have my house, the garage, the cars, the money, everything.'
"What else?'
"Are you alone in the world?'
"No, I have a wife, two children...'
"Your wife and children, too.'
"Yes, everything you have. What else?'
"I have nothing else, I am left alone now."

"Oh, you too! Everything becomes mine -- wife, children, house, money, cars -- everything. And you too. Now you can use all those things here but don't forget they are mine, as you are. When I need any of the things you are using, you must give them to me because now I am the owner."

Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975), pp. 42,43.

12.  Commentary and Devotional

I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.

David Livingstone
From Fr. Anthony Kadavil's Collection:

1: Waddling ducks:

Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, once told about a make-believe country where only ducks lived. On Sunday morning all the ducks came into church, waddled down the aisle, waddled into their pews and squatted. Then the duck minister came in, took his place behind the pulpit, opened the Duck Bible and read, "Ducks! You have wings, and with wings you can fly like eagles. You can soar into the skies! Ducks! You have wings!" All the ducks yelled, "Amen!" and then they all waddled home. [Jim Burns, Radically Committed (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991).] No one flew or even tried. Friends, there’s just too much truth to that little fable. Using the parable of a rascally manager in today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to see that it is time for the children of light to quit waddling. It's time for us to soar by ingeniously using our God-given talents and blessings for the welfare of others, thus glorifying God and becoming eligible for our eternal reward. May we be the people that Jesus praises because we saw something that needed to be done and we did it. 

2: Returned overpayments:  
CNN reported that In March, 1994, the huge defense contractor Martin Marietta returned to the Pentagon some 540 overpayments, totaling $135 million. Of course, that was nothing compared to the $1.4 billion in overpayments various defense contractors returned to the Pentagon in 1993. With a fresh reading of the parable of the unjust steward in today’s gospel in mind, it is hard to read a report like that without wondering, where the truth is. Defense contractors do not belong to altruistic organizations. So why did Martin Marietta really return $135 million to the Pentagon? And if $1.4 billion in overpayments was returned in 1993, how much was not returned? The unjust steward in today’s gospel parable was also not concerned with truth and justice, but with his survival by any means. 

3: “That is the hotel I have just built for you to manage."  
One stormy night many years ago an elderly couple entered the lobby of a small hotel and asked for a room. The clerk explained that because there were three conventions in town, the hotel was filled. He added, "But I can't send a nice couple like you out in the rain at 1 o'clock in the morning.  Would you be willing to sleep in my room?"  The couple hesitated, but the clerk insisted.  The next morning when the man paid his bill, he told the clerk, "You're the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States.  Maybe someday I'll build one for you."  The clerk smiled, amused by the older man's "little joke." A few years passed.  Then one day the clerk received a letter from the elderly man recalling that stormy night and asking him to come to New York for a visit.  A round-trip ticket was enclosed. When the clerk arrived, his host took him to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, where a grand new building stood.  "That," explained the elderly man, "is the hotel I have just built for you to manage."  "You must be joking," the clerk said.  "I most assuredly am not," came the reply. "Who--who are you?" stammered the clerk.  The man answered, "My name is William Waldorf Astor."  That hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria, one of the most magnificent hotels in New York. The young clerk who became its first manager was George C. Boldt.  The story reinforces today’s gospel message: blessings come from prudent action resulting from shrewd thinking.