|25th Sunday in Ordinary time, 18 Sep 2016|
From the Dean’s Desk
Today’s Gospel [Luke 16:1-13] poses a very difficult scenario. It seems at first glance that Jesus is praising the dishonest steward for his astuteness. Perhaps this praise is based on self-centred motives on the part of the master in the parable, since the reduction in the amount that the debtors had to pay was indeed an unnecessary excess that the master had placed on them initially. However, when we consider this strange parable as a whole it says something quite deep about our Christian life and the values we attach to it.
There are basically four lessons that we can take from this parable. Firstly, in verse 8 where the master praises the children of this world as being wiser than the children of light. The meaning we can take from this is that if Christians were as eager and ingenious in their attempts to attain the higher values (honesty, compassion, peace, justice) of life as those values considered worldly (money, success, comfort), they would be better people. It urges us to place our priority and energy on the elements of life that lead to eternal life, rather than to material rewards.
In verse 9 we have the second lesson which states that material possessions should be utilised to make friends which can win us eternal life. It was a Jewish belief that charity shown to the poor in this life would allow a person to gain eternal reward. It was based on the principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive and that true wealth consisted not in what a person had, but the amount a person gave away to the poor. Here the parable is challenging us to continually render service to those in need.
In verses 10 and 11 we learn the lesson that the way of fulfilling a small and almost insignificant task is the best proof or test of one’s fitness and ability to be entrusted with bigger and more responsible tasks. Generally, people are promoted in life according to the way in which they perform the tasks given to them – the better they perform these tasks the greater the chance of climbing the so called ‘ladder of success’. If we are diligent in dealing with monetary things on earth, then greater things will be given to us in eternity. What we learn from this parable is that we need to continually do the ordinary things of life extraordinarily well.
Verse 13 lays down the lesson that we cannot serve two masters. This lesson needs to be considered in the language and times of Jesus. Today we have people who hold two jobs or occupations at the same time. But in Jesus’ time a servant was completely and totally at the disposal of his master: every minute of his day was accounted for by his master. The slave had no free time, let alone the opportunity to hold down a second job. Bringing this lesson to the level of our relationship with God, Jesus is suggesting that our service to God cannot be a part time affair. Our decision to follow and serve God means that we do so with every fibre of our lives – it is not a spare time occupation. We either belong to God totally or not at all. Here we learn that we need to be able to dedicate our entire being to God especially in the service of our neighbour.
These four lessons that emanate from this parable can enhance and deepen our life as disciples of Jesus. It can allow us the opportunity to see not only where our values lie, but how deeply we are committed to the ways of God. May we always choose and remain faithful to the ways and values of the Gospel.
Fr Robert Bossini,