Gospel Reading: Luke 16:1-13
vs.1 Jesus said to his disciples: “There was a rich man and he had a steward who was denounced to him for being wasteful with his property.
vs.2 He called for the man and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.’
vs.3 Then the steward said to himself, ‘Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed.
vs.4 Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.’
vs.5 Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
vs.6 ‘One hundred measures of oil’ was the reply. The steward said, ‘Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.’
vs.7 To another he said, ‘And you, sir, how much do you owe?’ ‘One hundred measures of wheat’ was the reply. The steward said, ‘Here, take your bond and write eighty.’
vs.8 The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their won kind than are the children of light.
Vs.9 “And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.
Vs.10 The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great.
Vs.11 If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?
Vs.12 And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?
Vs.13 No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose.
Michel DeVerteuil : Michel, a Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, was director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: Thomas is on the theology faculty of Nottingham University
Sean Goan:Sean studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works with Le Chéile.
Donal Neary SJ: Donal is editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger ******************************************************
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina The Year of Luke
General Textual Comments
The passage is in two movements:
– verses 1 to 7, the parable;
– verses 8 to 13, a collection of six sayings of Jesus, all connected with the parable.
Most people find this parable one of the most difficult to interpret, seeming to condone the dishonesty of the steward. The main problem here is our tendency to read the gospels and the parables particularly, in a rational, moralizing way. We then find ourselves passing judgement on the parables: “a touching story but ….” With this approach to our parable we have to do mental gymnastics to explain how the master could “praise the dishonest steward”.
We are not meant to read parables in such a heady, moralizing (basically self-righteous) way. We must enter freely into them (“with a willing suspension of disbelief”), get a feel for the characters, and gradually let them reveal some deep lesson about human living.
With this parable, for example, we must identify with the steward, allow him to become a person whom we feel to praise, just like the master in the parable did. If we look at him in that perspective, we find that he is very likable, not efficient – “wasteful” as the parable says – but very likeable. We imagine a person who knows how to enjoy life. He doesn’t like hard work – “Dig? I am not strong enough” – but he likes people and enjoys the company of his friends.
Note that he didn’t take the masters money for himself, he was “wasteful” in that he did not force his master’s debtors to pay. Even his dishonesty was not for himself but for the debtors. The steward in other words is exactly the kind of free person that Jesus liked, the tax collectors and sinners he kept company with. He much preferred them to the upright but very boring and self-righteous Pharisees. Once we have identified the steward we interpret the seven sayings in the light of his character.
In verse 8, it is said that he is “astute” meaning that he has his values right. In terms of the parable, the false value is “property,” the true value is making friends.
Verse 9 says that money has its value but then explains that its value emerges only when we put it at the disposal of our friends. The “tents of eternity” means friendship which lasts.
Verses 9 to 12 then tease out the difference between false and true values, “little things” and “great things” (verse 10), tainted and genuine riches (verse 11), what is “not yours” and what is “your very own” (verse 12).
In verse 13 the terms “mammon”, or “money”, stand for material things, “God” is the truth.
Scriptual Reflections and prayers
Lord, we thank you for free spirited people you send us
in our families, workplaces, parish communities, neighbourhoods.
Like the steward in Jesus’ parable, they are often labeled wasteful or
dishonest but, like the master, we feel admiration for them, recognizing
that they know how to deal with people better than we church people who
are supposed to be children of the light.
So often we make a fuss about having accounts right,
and everything in our house in the right place,
whereas for them it is people who count.
We end up respected but lonely;
they however, even though earthly success fails them,
win themselves many friends who welcome to them into their hearts
and are forever faithful to them.
They value secondary virtues as secondary not primary,
– punctuality, good order, neatness, obedience to authorities –
but they can be trusted to value what is truly important
– courtesy to the poor, trust, the willingness to admit mistakes.
They know that power, popularity and influence are always tainted,
and not to be made much of – just like money;
they can be trusted with genuine riches like good friends, children, health, nature.
They set no great store by things like clothes, fancy houses and cars
Which are not part of the people who own them;
they have a good share of what is their very own
– honesty, sincerity, integrity, openness.
They know that in life we have to choose our values.
We cannot have two sets of priorities;
if we try, we end up not making one of them a priority.
They are not subject to any material thing, truth is their only master and
they find freedom in being its servants.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
1. We have all met the unjust steward or, at least, heard of him in the media. There is something attractive about the way he clearly sees the predicament he is in, his realistic grasp of his own personal make-up (‘to dig I am unable and to beg I am ashamed’), and the speed and efficiency with which he puts his survival plan into action. It is a beautiful little story of a master storyteller, and we can see in an instant that ‘the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light’.
2. The challenge is, however, that we who are listening to the story have declared ourselves – by the very fact that we have gathered for the Eucharist – to be the daughters and the sons of light. So how are we to act swiftly, with clarity of foresight, and with wisdom?
3. When we wish to preach about God’s gifts – the whole of reality is his gift – we need to have some convenient image and rhetoric so that what we say does not sound so all-embracing as to be sound vapid. Here is a possible way to approach it.
4. We are called to act wisely with the gifts the father has given us: he has stretched out his hand toward us and we can name five specific gifts he had given us. These are like the fingers of his hand.
First, God has given us the gift of freedom and understanding. We are people who can appreciate the universe, can see beauty, can feel joy and sorrow and sympathy and elation. We can know the good and grow in our appreciation of the whole mystery of life and being. We are people who can make a difference – this is freedom – and build together a wonderful edifice or we can cause mayhem, destruction and chaos. Think of the genius of modern medicine and the genius of modern weapons. Both are a tribute to our inventiveness, understanding, skill, and creativity – all God-given virtues. But we have the choice of using skills for building or tearing down – the God-given ability to choose our path.
Second, God has given us the cosmos, the good earth that is our home, the context of our lives, and that sustains us. This is the same material creation that can reveal the presence and action of God to us. This is the creation for which we thank the Father at every Eucharist when we use its fruits to be the bearers of the gift of heavenly life. ‘Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have’ this bread, this wine, fruits of the earth which become for us the bread of life and cup of eternal salvation. But do we use our understanding to appreciate it in its richness and use it wisely so that it can sustain generations to come as it sustains us? Or, do we use our brainpower to find out how to ransack it and ‘use it up’? Wisdom is seeing it as our God-given home, a place of wonder, and treating it with respect.
Third, we have the gift of our human family. We can work together as brothers and sisters or we can try to live at the expense of those around us. The work of development which is the work of peace, and which tries to bring transformation to all who suffer or are in need, takes the same amount of resources, organisation, and skill, as does the work of war, aggression, and exploitation. Both are exercises of understanding and freedom. The wisdom of the children of light is to appreciate the choice and choose the way of peace.
Fourth, we have the gift of human love. We come to life in the context of human love, we are sustained by it, we discover who we are in it, and in human love we discover the God who is love. But here again we are creatures with freedom: we can act wisely and human love can become the gate of heaven or it can become another scene of exploitation and destruction.
5. God has stretched forth his hand toward us and entrusted us with much. We are called to act with wisdom, to use our freedom well, and then in being just and wise stewards to discover the Giver of all.
Let the Reader understand
For those who think that the message of Jesus is altogether too other worldly today’s parable will come as something of a surprise, and to others who like the idea of a pious Jesus not concerned with the things of this world it will come as a shock.
On the face of it Jesus appears to be encouraging some sharp practice when he tells of the man who, on being fired by his employer, tries to make sure that he will be able to call in a few favours when he leaves. We may take it for granted that the point of the story is not that Jesus wants to encourage dishonesty but rather he wants his followers to be aware that they live in the real world and that they should always seek to make the best of the situation in which they find themselves. The context for this parable is the right use of money and Jesus is unambiguous when it comes to this. Money, tainted as it is, still has a place in the life of believers: it should be used to help the poor.
Today’s readings show two sides of witnessing to the faith. On the one hand Amos is trenchant in his public criticism of the scandalous behaviour of his fellow citizens. His stand will get him into serious difficulties with the authorities and, according to some traditions, his death. Paul, on the other hand, wants believers to witness to their faith by the good, quiet lives they lead. As a new movement he understands that more people will be attracted to it by the good example of its members. The same tension can and does exist for believers today. There is a great need for the fearless prophetic witness which calls attention to the oppressive injustices of our time. Equally, Christians must also show by their lives that they are not simply political agitators but people committed to the values of the kingdom of God. When money becomes our master then God takes a poor second place and the consequences of that choice are everywhere to be seen.
4. Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections for Year C: Luke
On the side of the poor (first reading)
Isn’t it still the same as the first reading has it? The poor get the worst of things, and are diddled; it’s quite contemporary. It is about greed and fooling the poor; raising the shekel – like raising the exchange rate so that the poorer countries get less dollars for their kwacha and rupees; golden handshakes for people whose greed is palpable and whose attitudes have left so many people hard up; money well protected and taxes avoided if not evaded. Our waste of food could feed so many. People are poor not through their own fault but because they are neglected.
How many of the poorer schools are becoming less well off, with resources such as special needs assistants taken away. Hospital care is getting worse, as people wait for prolonged periods for treatment. Mostly the poor will first suffer from economic mishap. God hates this – he hates mistreatment of his people. Jesus raged against the exploitation of the poor.
We pay tribute to the people who work for the poor and needy – in the parish; in diocesan and other social agencies, and our volunteers at home and abroad. Can we vote for public representatives who care for the poor?
The call to the Church is to care as Jesus cared; we need the harsh words of the first reading sometimes to waken us up, and the story of Jesus to make sure we don’t sleep again.
Pope Francis said:
‘if investments in banks drop a little, it’s a tragedy!
But if people are starving, if they have nothing to eat, if they are not healthy, it does not matter!
This is our crisis today,
Lord, may your kingdom come.