TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2022)
Psalms 113:1-2,4-6, 7-8
1 Timothy 2:1-8
There are few more perplexing parables in the gospels, than the one we are treated to this Sunday. The rich man’s steward was reported (there wasn’t a voluntary change of heart) for “squandering” the rich man’s property – it did not belong to the steward. How he cheated the rich man is not important; that he cheated the rich man is of the utmost importance. The rich man knew that after his cheating, he “could no longer be his steward” (he was fired!).
So clever is the steward, all the while admitting his foibles (can’t dig/ashamed to beg), he compounds his sinfulness by further cheating his master. His squandering probably consisted in asking for more than what a product was worth, and then keeping the money for himself. He now realizes that if he diminishes the amount his customers owe his Master, they will be indebted to him. Indeed, he could threaten to tell his master what they have done just in order to extort more money for himself. Apparently the master was able to admire the steward’s ingenuity, even if his dishonesty was a glaring blemish, for the “master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.” It’s important to note that the master doesn’t hire him back, he doesn’t overlook his servant’s dishonesty. Indeed, we have the assurance of Amos in our first reading, a prophet quite used to dealing with financial deception, that God “will never forget a thing [cheaters] have done.”
The steward is not exonerated in our gospel story. While his ingenuity is praised, his actions are not. The steward was given the trust of the master, he was given a privileged position, a position which no doubt made his place in society far better-off than those with whom he had business dealings. Faced with a choice the steward chose dishonesty over honesty. The lure of mammon (excess wealth) was so great that he sacrificed his integrity for more of what he could not earn legitimately.
The steward is not unlike the youngest son in last week’s gospel of the Prodigal Son, who “squandered” his fortune on “dissolute living.” The son thought sure that there was a better world to be had outside of his father’s house; he was not content with what the father had provided for him. The Father and the rich man want the same thing for those who have been entrusted to their care – they want them welcomed into “eternal dwellings.” Wealth is not going to get you in the front door of heaven – honesty, integrity, generosity, trustworthiness, and right-living are what truly matters, and if we need to be as clever as thieves to utilize all that God has shared with us to reach that common goal, so be it. With God as our true Master, may we fully recognize all that our loving God has given us, and may we use whatever we can to benefit the lives of others so that we will be warmly welcomed into God’s eternal embrace.