Yes! There IS a link between this Sunday’s OLD TESTAMENT READING [JONAH 3: 1 - 5. 10] and the GOSPEL EXTRACT [MARK 1: 14 - 20]. As with Mark’s version...
The parable contained in
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 16: 1 – 13] is, at first reading, difficult to understand. In fact, Jesus himself, without any prompting or questioning, comments on his own parable telling his listeners to use wisely the gifts of this world – “because using gifts wisely involves using them as God desires.”(LIGOURI CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY) The Gospel of Luke – Page 106)
I like to emphasise what Jesus is not saying, doing or teaching. The master does not commend the steward for his dishonesty but simply highlights his astuteness in looking to the future and ensuring that he will be able to ‘call in some chips’ when the need arises. It is possible to stand in awe of clever sleight of hand with approving of it. However, we must not miss the connection between this astuteness and the lack of wisdom among the children of light in the way they handle and care for the gifts of the Gospel. So often the fact is that more time, effort, thought and ingenuity is invested in the mechanics of our physical and material security than in building-up our Gospel faith and Christian discipleship.
What sort of steward of the gifts of faith am I? Do I care for them, develop and share them honestly – or do I use them as a bargaining chip in order to bring myself into the limelight?
What is often overlooked is that we Christians are called not only to talk the talk but also to walk the walk. Right here we are challenged by what I see as the crux of Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel. The lesson comes at the very end of our extract.
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” So we return to our computer programming of a few weeks back. What is my default button? Do I have one? Do I change it according to circumstances – as did the dishonest steward? “How much do you owe … a hundred …. sit down quickly and write fifty.” Indeed, “the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light.”
So where does all this leave us as we strive each day to understand more about living as children of light in our own generation? We regularly come across Gospel passages in which we recognise, often with a tinge of despondency, our faltering efforts and the ways in which we attempt to ‘balance the books’ without too much damage either to ourselves or the Lord. Am I destined to be regularly juggling my loyalties to two masters and trying to keep both happy? Well, I regularly remind myself that the Gospel is meant not only to disturb me but also to comfort and encourage. The dishonest steward is a comfort in as much as he reminds me that if he is able to juggle things around, albeit in the service of mammon, why am
I unable to make plans and execute them in order to strengthen my service and discipleship of the light?! If evil can produce something tangible why is it so difficult for me to accept that good has, at the very least, the same potential for growth? The dishonest steward not only walked the talk but he also walked the walk. Too often I have discovered that I have spent too much time and effort talking the talk before setting out on a little walking. The steward in today’s Gospel wasted no time. His pro-active response should encourage me to do what he did – only in the direction of light, not darkness…. and encouragement is always a comfort.
The steward’s default button was himself.
Today’s NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 TIMOTHY 2: 1 – 8] reminds us WHO is ours. “There is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” I am of the strong opnion that Christian-Catholics need to walk this walk and not only talk it. The walk and the talk must always be the CENTRALITY OF JESUS CHRIST. It was he (no one and nothing else) who “gave himself as a ransom for all.” Devotions, no matter how helpful or for how long established, must always be periphery – otherwise they become an intrusion which blurs the main focus.
Jesus Christ is the only default button.