September 19: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Reading: Am 8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
Last Sunday the readings placed before us the choice between God and a molten calf; choosing to go home or remaining in the squalor of sin. This Sunday, in a surprising way, in the parable of the dishonest steward Jesus challenges us to make good use of our ingenuity to invest in what matters most: eternal salvation; to secure our spiritual future. We must also be aware of the dangers of separating God from our faith practice and of serving two masters. The readings underline the wise use of material goods that God has entrusted to us. We are told that material goods are meant to be shared, rather than used to exploit the poor by tempering with measuring devices, price fixing or by causing speculative shortages in order to gain from buyers. The first reading from Amos gives a good example of the separation between religious faith and practice. Imagine in the temple worship some plotting in their hearts how they are going to cheat the poor clients! The reading therefore reminds us of what the Church teaches regarding our obligation towards the poor. Here we encounter a God who “raises up the lowly from the dust; to seat them with princes.” We therefore sing in “praise of the Lord who lifts up the poor” in the responsorial psalm 113. In this Old Testament era we find spectacular human wisdom which has the ability to speculate and manipulate economic situations in order to make profit. That is a good example of how the children of this world mentioned in the Gospel are well able to manipulate economic and political situations in order to secure a better future for themselves and their families. We must admire such intelligence, which enables modem business persons to speculate the financial stock market through sophisticated technology, in buying and selling their stocks on time to make money. Financial institutions are able to invest what we place in their trust and be able to make an interest both for themselves and for their clients. It takes the children of this world to speculate and invest wisely.
The business manager in the parable acts nearly in the same way. He dishonestly falsifies the debtors' records in order to win friendship with those who would provide for him when he is fired from his job. Jesus does not admire the steward's lack of conscience in his act, but admires his wisdom and ability to foresee his future. The point Jesus makes is that his followers need to apply the same astuteness to the one area that really matters: eternal salvation. If we were to count the minutes and resources we commit to our spiritual well-being every month, that would be nothing compared to the amount of time and efforts we give every month to planning and making our financial deals. If we were to observe the kind of ingenuity, planning and resourcefulness that goes into political campaigns, we would understand why the business manager in the parable is admired. The quality of political advertising is brilliant. Politicians use a lot of resources with strategists and planning daily. How ironic that, what we do in the secular sphere, is not carried over to the religious sphere by making use of the same resourcefulness for the glory of God? In the face of such a dichotomy, Jesus challenges us to make use of our talents, wisdom and astuteness to secure our spiritual future; to be as resourceful and dedicated in the ways of God as we are in the ways of this world. That is why the parable argues against the separation between God and everyday life. In a daring way, Jesus suggests that perhaps there is some lesson his followers can learn from the resourcefulness, talents and wisdom put in financial deals and political campaigns. Being a good steward may mean looking for ways to earn more money through employment, business opportunities and investments, so as to give more for the cause of God’s work. Let me try to sum up in three points. 1) The point of the parable is that the business manager uses his position to care and plan for his future. 2) The parable argues against the separation between God and everyday life; between faith and its application in life. 3) Jesus challenges to be as resourceful and dedicated in the ways of God as we are in the ways of this world, and secure our spiritual future while there is time by wisely investing in Him.
©John S. Mbinda
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