5/12.1 The parable of the unfaithful steward.
The Prophet Amos thunders against the exploitation of the poor by ruthless profiteers in the First Reading of today’s Mass. These immoral merchants despise the needy and make money off of them. They tamper with the scales and sell defective goods. They raise prices by taking advantage of shortages ... Through their unscrupulous behaviour, they insure their own.
In the Gospel of the Mass, the Lord tells the parable of the unjust steward who is forced to give an accounting to his master. The cunning steward thinks to himself, What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship. The steward calls in his master’s debtors and awards each one of them favourable settlements. To the first debtor he says, How much do you owe my master? He replies, A hundred measures of oil. The steward responds, Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then the steward asks another debtor, And how much do you owe? He answers, A hundred measures of wheat. The steward tells him, Take your bill, and write eighty.
When the owner discovers what his steward had done, he wryly commends this shrewd behaviour. And Jesus, perhaps with a tinge of sadness, adds, The sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light. The Lord does not mean to praise the dishonesty of this administrator who prepared for his future security. Why did the Lord propose this parable? asks St Augustine, Not because that servant was a model for us to imitate. Nonetheless, the worldly-wise steward had an eye to the future. So too should the Christian have this determination to secure his eternal reward. If not, the steward puts him to shame. The Master praised the quick-wittedness, the decisiveness, the shrewdness, the firm resolve of the steward who made the most of a difficult situation. He did not give in to discouragement.
We are well accustomed to seeing people make unbelievable sacrifices in order to improve their life-style or standard of living. At times we may be taken aback by the lengths people will go to acquire more wealth, power or fame. The media frequently trains a spotlight on ambitious people and their accomplishments. Well, we Christians must put the same amount of zeal into the service of God. This undertaking has both a material and a spiritual dimension. In the material realm, our society should manifest an authentic concern for the needs of the poor that is shown in education, just remuneration, meaningful social security benefits and programmes directed for the public welfare. In the spiritual realm, we have to make a heroic effort to win Heaven. What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honours, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike.
When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our soul, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.