25th Ordinary Sunday (Year C)
First Reading: Amos 8:4-7 Second Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 Gospel Reading: Luke 16:1-13
THE ONLY MONEY WE HAVE IS THE MASTER'S MONEY.
Some of us are good stewards – or may be just tight.
Stumpy and his wife Martha went to a state fair every year and every year when Stumpy saw the antique bi-plane he would say, “Martha, I'd like to ride in that airplane.” And Martha always replied, “I know Stumpy, but that airplane ride costs 10 dollars, and 10 dollars is 10 dollars.”
One year Stumpy and Martha went to the fair and Stumpy said, “Martha, I'm 81 years old. If I don't ride that airplane I might never get another chance.” And again Martha replied, “Stumpy, that airplane ride costs 10 dollars, and 10 dollars is 10 dollars.”
The pilot overheard them and said, “Folks, I'll make you a deal. I'll take you both up for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word, I won't charge you; but if you say one word it's 10 dollars.”
Stumpy and Martha agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of twists and turns, rolls and dives, but not one word was heard. He did all his tricks over again, but still not a word.
When they landed, the pilot turned to Stumpy and said, “By golly, I did everything I could think of to get you to yell out, but you didn't.”
Stumpy replied, “Well, I was gonna say something when Martha fell out, but 10 dollars is 10 dollars.”
And our dollars are God's dollars!
Today is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Each of the Scripture Readings of today makes a separate, but related, point: In the First Reading from the prophet Amos, we are reminded that God is a God of justice who remembers the poor who have been taken advantage of and mistreated. In the Second Reading St. Paul writing to Timothy speaks of the prayers and petitions we must make to God so that his justice and truth prevail in the world. God is not indifferent to this world, but judges us on the basis of our behavior here and now. The Gospel Reading emphasizes that we must be efficient in our use of this world´s goods and dedicated to the life of the spirit if we are going to prevail and persevere.
A STERN WARNING TO THE RICH ON SWINDLING AND CHEATING IN BUSINESS:
Prophet Amos is known as 'the prophet of social justice.' During the 8th century BC, he arrived in the prosperous northern kingdom of Israel. Behind the glitter of political and religious life, he saw a world of injustice and exploitation of the poor and wrote his denunciations. When he observed that the wealthier citizens of Israel treated the poor and the needy abusively, disrespectfully and arrogantly, then he aimed at them the harshest of criticism. In the First Reading of today, the prophet Amos thunders at the greedy rich who take advantage of the poor by lessening the content of a sack, tampering weighing scales, raising prices and even selling the sweepings with the wheat and sends a stern warning to them on swindling and cheating in business. They are so focused on money that they cannot wait for the Sabbath or holy days to be over. They are not fair with the poor, even when it comes to selling them wheat for bread. But their greed is no secret from God. He calls on dishonest people who cheat others to take a good look at themselves. Speaking for God’s sense of justice, he promised that deeds of uncharitableness and injustice would not be forgotten, "Never will I forget a thing they have done!"
Does this not remind us of some unscrupulous businessmen today? There appears to be no difference between the greedy rich in the prophet's time and their counterparts in today's world. To what extent people would go for money! Social justice is a ubiquitous obligation to cultivate a social reality and personal consciences of justice, peace and security. We all have, therefore, an obligation to care for all in society, from the greatest to the least. Of course, the poor, the needy, the sick, the homeless, the orphaned and the widowed, the stranger and the alien, and all those disenfranchised from privilege were then and are still today the greater consumers of the charitable effort. Justice is not a Gospel option; it is a Gospel obligation!
AN EXHORTATION TO PRAY FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY:
In today's Second Reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy, we are reminded of our spiritual obligations in accordance with the universal salvation that the Heavenly Father planned for mankind. In today's passage, St. Paul exhorts us to pray for those in high positions.
Now, people generally perceive government authorities as dishonest, as corrupt. The basis for this is their experience in transacting business with some government offices where hardly any thing moves unless money changes hands. This is true from top to bottom, the only difference being the amount. When a corrupt official is caught, he is blamed by his fellows not for the evil he did but for being caught. After all, he was supposed to live up to the eleventh commandment, namely, 'Thou shalt not be caught.'
However, those in authority do need our prayers that the power entrusted to them is used for the well-being of every person in the community. When consideration is given to praying for someone in authority, rather that refusing to do so because of one's dislike for an authority figure or a politician, a different attitude should be embraced. It is by the power of prayer that the heart of a disliked person is changed. If everyone was to pray for those in authority, consequently there would be better persons in power and a better service to the public.
It is the Divine Will of God that all Christians pray for all men so that all men may be saved. God takes no pleasure in the eternal loss of a soul. Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all. God wishes that all men/women be saved. God's Divine Plan is universal. In the hope that all men may share in our eternal glory, we are called to pray for all men, our enemies, those in authority, the politicians, etc... Such is in accordance with the Divine Will of God.
MAKING PROPER USE OF OUR MATERIAL GOODS:
Today’s Gospel Reading from St. Luke is composed of 'the parable of the dishonest steward' and several of Jesus’ sayings about the right use of money. The parable speaks about stewardship, while each of the sayings is about money or faithfulness, but don’t really come near to interpreting the parable itself. But each does stand alone in making a comment or truth. The lesson intended by Jesus is simply that we should be as enterprising about our future in the Kingdom as was the shrewd steward about his future.
The parable of the dishonest steward:
Today’s section of St. Luke – the story of the dishonest steward – is one of the most difficult of Jesus’ parables to interpret. It certainly brings up the question: How can a servant this dishonest be praised? It appears as if Jesus is suggesting that he approves of those who gain dishonest wealth.
Today’s Gospel parable about stewardship reveals the wide breadth of trust which God has bestowed upon each of us by trusting us with life and free will. In the parable “the master commended the dishonest servant for acting prudently.” The rich man did not praise the steward for being dishonest. He praised him for having taken the proper steps at a time of crisis. He praised the slave for 'fixing things' so that he would find favor in the eyes of his master and those who had borrowed from him. Prudent behavior was more important than even the selfish servant’s dishonesty. The servant had been entrusted by the master with great power and evidently had been caught abusing that power. But, in one final attempt to secure some future security, he technically abused power still further. Jesus obviously told this story not to encourage dishonesty but to draw attention to the foresight of the steward.
Up to this point it makes a lot of sense if Jesus is just trying to show that Christians need to think about the future and build up a case for themselves for the afterlife, but then we have the four sayings that seem to have been added to the parable to try to create meaning. Jesus’ sayings have vital implications for us in this world and in God’s kingdom.
1) “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
Jesus concludes the parable with the saying, “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” Obviously, the dishonest steward is not presented to us as a model for integrity. But his shrewdness and tenacity are worthy of imitation in our service of God's Kingdom. For as Jesus had observed, while the manager was shrewd and tenacious in assuring his future, 'the children of light' were not so in the pursuit of their heavenly security. Jesus is thus challenging his followers to be as shrewd in carrying out God's work. We need to have our wits about us, and think clearly.
2) “Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth.”
Now here comes the difficult passage, "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes." Through these words, Jesus is saying that we are to convert material wealth into heavenly capital by sharing them with the poor and needy. Indeed, there is only one honest and prudent way of using material goods: helping the poor. To make friends by means of worldly wealth requires one to perform acts of charity by helping the needy with physical items such as food, clothing and furniture. Those who have been helped will remember their donors and welcome them into their eternal homes.
3) "If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?”
Next, Jesus wants us to be trustworthy, beginning with small things, “He who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones....” Trustworthiness in small things leads to a greater trust in the realm of physical stewardship as well as spiritual realities. Jesus further says, "If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?" An enterprising kingdom stewardship entails prudent use of wealth, day-to-day fidelity and trustworthiness in the management of earthly goods, and putting absolute priority on the spiritual reality over material goods. Thus the absolute need to develop the habit of honesty.
4) “No servant can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
A fourth saying of the Lord is a challenge, “No man can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” This is one of the better known quotes from the Bible. God and money do not go together. We have to have our priorities right. Making money takes second place to pleasing God. We have to acquire wealth through moral and legal means, not through cheating or oppressing others. If the means by which we acquire wealth is displeasing to God, then we are making money more important than God. We know of some people who have made money their god. No question about it, money is important. Moreover, money in itself is not evil. It is our attitude towards it and how we use it that can lead to evil. Thus Jesus is asking us to set our priorities right, namely, that God and not money should occupy first place in our lives. In short, one must choose: God or the god Money. It is impossible to serve both at once. No compromise may be made between them. One is faced with unavoidable choice.
Today's Scripture Readings speak of our being good stewards and we are challenged to give an account of our stewardship. How can we be accountable for the wealth that the Lord has entrusted us with? Life on this earth is temporary, but as long as we are here, let our actions serve the Kingdom. We must use money in an intelligent and responsible way. Jesus advises us to prove ourselves trustworthy in dealing with material wealth. Then we will be more trustworthy in spiritual matters as well. God will judge us on our stewardship of the world around us: have we administered justice to all fairly and equitably? Have we loved others with true charity? Have we used the occasions and opportunities life presents us to do good, to alleviate suffering, to help others in need?
God is supremely merciful, but at the same time He is giving us graces now in order to live the way He has commanded us. We should not presume on His mercy on the Judgment Day if we are not taking advantage of the graces He is showering on us now in order to live upright lives and love as He wants us to love others. We should take stock of those graces every day. We must keep in mind we are mere stewards here and not the masters of this world. The only money we have is the Master's money. It is entrusted to us for management and we are responsible to Him on the Judgment Day. And this is the Good News of today.