Homily 25th Ordinary Time Cycle C September 22, 2019
In today’s Gospel we hear what is called The parable of the “dishonest” steward.
Normally in church, dishonesty is held up as something BAD. And yet this guy is held up as an example, which is confusing at best and disconcerting at worst. But it is not his dishonesty that is at the heart of the parable. What if – instead of dishonest - we called him “enterprising” or “ambitious”, or “prudent”, or a man of “initiative”? True, his means were less than honest, but his enterprising spirit is highlighted, and is almost laudable.
I am reminded of an incident that occurred in a parish in Florida. A gentleman went to the pastor and said that he was a coin collector, and he would like to purchase all the coins that came in the church collection each week, so he could search them for collectable coins. The parish would not have to worry about rolling the coins or lugging the coins to the bank each week. They would just have to run them through the counter and then the man would give the church a check for the amount of the coin. And that is what the parish did.
This continued for a number of weeks until one week the amount in coin was over $250.00 dollars. As usual the coin collector wrote a check for that amount. Later, the IRS contacted the church for verification of this “donation”. It seems the so-called “coin collector” was actually going around to all the churches in the area, the Baptists and Methodists and everyone else, buying their coin, making a check out to the church and then claiming all these checks as charitable donations on his income tax. He was getting credit for the donation but never making it. Pretty clever, huh? [And No we don’t sell our coins. ]
When you hear of a scheme like this, ¿don’t you often think that if this person had put as much inventiveness and creativity - that much imagination and enterprise - into doing something good and honest, how much good he could have done?
Well, that is what our parable is about today. Jesus tells us: “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.” In other words, the worldly guys are more industrious at doing worldly things than the spiritual guys (presumably that is us) are at doing good things.
The steward in the Gospel took the initiative when confronted with a threat. Rather than stew and fret over the danger, he did something to protect himself, to feather his nest, to insure his future well-being. He was enterprising!
It is that initiative, that ambition, that enterprise that Jesus is commending to us for the spiritual life in today’s parable. We are to be that “prudent” in seeking the spiritual advantage.
If someone was perceptive enough to invest in Amazon when it first went public, we say that he or she is smart person. If presented with a similar opportunity today we would want to take advantage of it. So if that is true for passing wealth that we cannot take with us when we die, then should we not be all the more eager and vigilant to take opportunities to grow in spiritual wealth, in wealth that never depreciates and that lasts for all eternity? Of course!
Are you on the lookout for opportunities to increase your spiritual nest-egg, to maximize your eternal 401K? All day long these opportunities to strike it spiritually rich are there. How often do we go out of our way to compliment someone, or build up someone who is down or hurting? How about turning off the TV for half an hour and giving a call to someone who’d like to hear from you? That is seizing the initiative.
Every day we have lots of opportunities to console, to forgive, to heal, to practice generosity and honesty and patience, to work for justice. When is the last time you wrote to your elected representatives about a matter of justice in legislation? That is a great way to improve your spiritual “bottom line”. What about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, educating the ignorant, visiting the sick and imprisoned, praying for the suffering? All the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are fantastic “spiritual investment opportunities!”
Do we seek them out? Do we take initiative in pursuing them? Are we, as St. Paul urges us to be, “ambitious for the higher gifts?” (1 Cor 13)
Today’s parable is uncomfortable, disturbing, even shocking. It is meant to be, in order to shake us out of spiritual complacency and to show initiative in the spiritual life, to be ambitious for the higher gifts. "For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” And that is not right. We have to become as prudent, as ambitious, as filled with initiative in the spiritual life as all the Wall Street mavens are in seeking physical wealth, and even more.