25 Sunday of the Year C
Am 8:4-7; 1Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Reading the newspaper or watching the television news, we could see different reactions of those who were fired from their jobs. Some were unhappy, unable to sleep, eat and drink. Some were angry, seeking to revenge by verbal abuses or violent actions, even murder.
Today’s gospel tells us when the steward knew he would be fired for his dissipation of his master’s property, he found a way to bride the debtors. He called in each debtor to reduce his debts. According to the Catholic social teaching, Christianity values justice highly. Justice is to pay to others what is their due: to pay salary corresponding to works done; to sell and purchase with fair price corresponding to materials exchanged; and to follow the principle of cash on delivery. Justice springs from a sense of responsibility towards God, who is the giver of different gifts to his people.
Christianity also safeguards the right of ownership, the right to own property and the right to demand payment for loss of property. Those rights are rooted in two of God’s commandments: the seventh commandment teaching us not to steal and the tenth commandment telling us not to covet our neighbor’s goods.
The steward in today’s gospel violated the seventh commandment. He dissipated his master’s property. When he knew he would be fired, he used his master’s property to bride the debtors, i.e., to use his master’s property for his own benefits. He violated the principle of social justice by doing unjust deed. At first, we are shocked to hear Jesus praise the steward who acted dishonestly. Actually, Jesus should have condemned the unjust deed of the steward or at least criticized his looting action as the prophet Amos condemned injustices in his society. Amos depicted the rich waiting anxiously for the holiday to pass, so that they could cheat and exploit the poor (Am 8:5-6).
However, to go deeply in the process of the Gospel story, we can see Jesus did not praise the steward for dissipating his master’s property. In reality, Jesus only praised his cunning action. He praised the steward for his ability to act timely and decisively when he was driven into a corner. From here, Jesus concluded: For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light (Lk 16:8).
Therefore, Jesus challenged us: Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (Lk 16:9). Jesus’ challenge means we have to transform material wealth into a means to seek and enter God’s kingdom. The lesson Jesus wanted to teach us today is we have to be venturous, to use our initiative and enterprise to prepare for ourselves a future in God’s kingdom as the dishonest steward prepared for his future in the secular world. Why we are ready to venture in temporal matters of our lives and admire others to do so, but in our spiritual endeavors, we are so hesitant and cautious?
In today’s gospel, Jesus wanted to compare the way we use in dealing with material matters to the way we should use in dealing with spiritual matters. If the unjust steward used his initiative to deal with obstacles as to reach a compromise solution, then God also wants us to use our initiative as to face spiritual obstacles.
Religion in our everyday life should challenge us as temporal matters. How can we apply the initiative and quick decision of the manager in his solution to the temporal matters to our solution to the spiritual matters? In our everyday life situation, we can hear us say to ourselves: that day we will reconcile ourselves with God, we will make up our lives, and we shall be so and so. However, we cannot be sure that day would come because we might change our mind, or we are kind of persons who are often chopping and changing their mind, or we are forgetful or procrastinating. That day might come too late because we might have been gone for good before our words would be carried out. We must remember even it is written in our will that we should reconcile ourselves with God; nobody could execute that part of will for us. God’s word in today’s gospel warns us: You cannot serve both God and mammon (Lk 16:13).
Prayer asking how to make spiritual investment:
Oh Lord God! You know everything.
You know my minds and my hearts.
You are just and right.
Forgive me for being negligent in my paid job,
for cheating and bribery.
Teach me how to settle my spiritual matters
in time as the shrewd manager in the Gospel.
And teach me to take my responsibility for my life. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong