Friday, November 10, 2006

31st Friday in Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Astute or Foolhardy

Readings: Philippians 3:17—4:1; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5; Luke 16:1-8

When we consider the lives of the saints from a certain perspective the choices they made and the things they did can seem rather foolish. Think, for example, of St. Ignatius of Loyola, giving up his status among the nobility to go on an arduous pilgrimage to the Holy Land, dressed in sackcloth. Consider, also, Mother Teresa, leaving her rather comfortable religious life in a teaching congregation to live and work among the destitute. Think also of the apparently imprudent choices that some people make everyday: not participating in office gossip even at the risk of being ostracized, speaking up for the truth even when people will be likely to misunderstand and disapprove, really listening and trying to understand someone whose views are opposed to their own even at the risk of receiving a good scolding. These choices and actions can seem at least puzzling, if not downright foolhardy.

And here is Jesus telling us in today’s gospel to be astute. What does he mean? In what way are Christians called to be astute.

Consider the steward. How was he astute? Was it not in being willing to sacrifice a short-term gain (his commission) for a long-term advantage (a welcome after his dismissal)? Similarly, the saints were willing, even eager, to sacrifice short-term pleasures and comforts for the ultimate long-term gain. In the words of the first reading, they came to see, in powerful ways, that our homeland is in heaven. And having set their sights on this final destination they were happy to let go of earthly things. Indeed, like the psalmist, they rejoiced at the prospect of journeying to God’s house, no matter the cost.

What vision of our heavenly homeland do we cherish? What short-term sacrifices are we willing to make? How astute are we?

4 comments:

  1. Hi Fr,when reading the gospel this Am bout the dishonest steward.I didn't get the entire learning point. Why did the master "commend him for his prudence"? Also if ya read the explanation of the parable in Lk 16:9, why did Jesus ask us to "make friends with worldly wealth" or in the NAB version "dishonest wealth"?

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  2. Can anyone help to shed light on Grace's question? Any takers...?

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  3. Everything that the steward did was dishonest. Do you really think any employer would commend a dishonest employee ? Jesus is not commending wickedness but asking "Shall I tell you to act that way, to buy friendship through cheating ?"

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  4. From Brendan Byrne, SJ, The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke's Gospel

    "Almost from the time it left the lips of Jesus the parable of the rogue manager (16:1-8a) seems to have been a puzzle for interpreters. The sayings appended to it (vv. 8b-13) reflect attempts at various stages of the tradition to make sense of the parable. It is nothing unusual for Jesus to have disreputable characters at the center of his parables. but this one stands in a class of his own. Moreover, his roguish activity is praised by the master (v. 8a) in such a way as to suggest that what he is doing is something to emulate.
    The key to understanding the parable lies in being clear about where the manager's 'dishonesty' lay. The most obvious solution is to see it consisting in what he does with his master's creditors -- getting them to write down reduced amounts of what they owe; in this way he is defrauding his master. But, according to the story (vv. 1-2), the master finds fault with the manager before he has recourse to this stratagem. His dishonesty, or perhaps better his incompetence, has to do with the way he has conducted his master's affairs before his dismissal and is in fact the reason for it. What he does after receiving the notice -- reducing the debts -- is opportunistic but need not necessarily be wrong.
    What, in fact, is the steward doing? It is quite likely that the parable envisages a situation where a manager enjoying considerable autonomy lets out items of his master's property for a commission or interest that includes some proportion for himself. There is nothing dishonest in this as far as the master is concerned; he gets his interest and the manager gets a cut as well. What the manager does after receiving notice of dismissal (vv. 5-7), is to strip away the portion of interest accruing to himself. He cancels his own cut because he reckons that it will be more advantageous, when he is out of work -- and too weak to dig and too ashamed to beg (v. 3) -- to have the goodwill of people who may be able to help him , welcoming him into their homes (v. 4). His master praises him for what he has done (v. 8a) because, in his own interest, he has acted 'sensibly': he has not clung to his wealth but used it to win goodwill that will serve him in his coming hour of need.
    The parable, then, refers to the great reversal that will take place with the coming of the kingdom. Faced with a crisis, the worldly-wise manager took rigorous action. He acted 'violently' against his own immediate interest (stripping away his wealth) to preserve his long-term future. In this sense, as a 'child of this world' he showed himself more shrewd than the 'children of light' (v. 8b). If the worldly manager is prepared to take violent action against himself, how much more -- in view of the higher stakes operative -- should the hearers of Jesus ('children of light') be prepared to do so. They should be ready to give away their wealth now in the form of alms so that when the great reversal comes and the poor have their privileged places in the kingdom (6:20), these same poor will welcome them into 'eternal dwellings' (v. 9), offer them the hospitality of God. As generally for Luke, the only really useful thing to do with money is to give it away now so that it will store up 'treasure in heaven' (12:33).

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