Jesus said to his disciples,
"A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
'What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.'
The steward said to himself, 'What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.'
He called in his master's debtors one by one.
To the first he said,
'How much do you owe my master?'
He replied, 'One hundred measures of olive oil.'
He said to him, 'Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.'
Then to another, the steward said, 'And you, how much do you owe?'
He replied, 'One hundred kors of wheat.'
The steward said to him, 'Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.'
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
"For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon."
Friend of dishonest wealth
No friend of dishonest wealth is on the path of righteousness. When we look at the moral depravity into which our world is falling, it can be tempting to take some of the phrases of our Lord in this Gospel out of context. He says that "the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of the light." Some people would take this as a justification of unsavory methods to protect one's own values. But rather, it is an exhortation to become more prudent. How do we make a real impact in the world? By becoming saints!
Where are we going and what are we doing with our lives? Today's Gospel can be confusing because at first glance we might think that he is condoning evil behavior. That is not the case, since Jesus could never contradict himself. Rather, he gives the example of the dishonest steward to drive home another point. Jesus wants coherence in behavior.
The person who is trustworthy in small matters is also trustworthy in big ones. We live in a world that places a lot of importance on appearance. What looks attractive gains a lot of traction, even though often it does not show the whole picture. So people may pose with cars or in front of houses that are not even theirs, just to project a fantasy world that they can show off to their friends.
Whom will you serve? Each one of us has to make a choice. It is something that we see in so much of classic literature. The hero faces some moral dilemma and has to make a choice between what seems expedient and what seems to be right. On what side of history do you want to stand?
It seems like we are living in a historical time with some very skewed views on morality and social expectations. Do we allow ourselves to be bent by societal pressures, abandoning the true and the good?
Power of witness
Saint Francis lived at a time when it seemed normal to enter into religion in order to advance one's position in life. He chose the life he did because of a radical conversion experience. This caused him difficulties with his family, with the clergy and bishops of the time, and with society at large. And nevertheless, everywhere he went people would flock to him, recognizing him as a holy man.
Saint Francis was the founder of a new religious reality. The Order of Friars Minor, known more often to us as the Franciscans, would embrace evangelical poverty. Every religious congregation has to have a Rule. The most famous Rule is perhaps the Rule of Saint Benedict. It was hard for Francis to understand this. He wanted his friars to simply live out the Gospel, without any need for further explanation. Although eventually, they did need to have more formal Constitutions, the example of radical Gospel living impressed all those of his time.
The most important message from this Sunday's Gospel is the same one from the life of Saint Francis. It is not about money or possessions in themselves, but about not allowing anything to come between us and Christ. If we are going to be followers of the Lord in the world in which we live, we will have to learn to live out the Gospel as purely as we can, always under the guidance of the Church.