IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
Theme: How to Be an Astute Steward of the Goods
of This world
First Reading: Amos 8:4-7;
Responsorial: Psalm 113;
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-8;
Gospel: Luke 16:1-13;
*The Sunday Missal, Paulines Publications Africa
How can one steal? Amos explains it to us. In the days of the prophet Amos, Israel was at peace and many of its citizens were rich. King Jeroboam II had improved agriculture, had fostered trade, and farmers were getting good prices for their products. Religion was flourishing. The temples were full of pilgrims. Everything seemed fine and many blessed the Lord and thanked the king for the prosperity.
But Amos did not praise the sovereign. It seems, he said, that the prosperity and the wealth are only for some. The poor are exploited and the weak subjected to all kinds of injustice (cf. Am 5:7.21-27; 6:1-7).
Today we read his denunciation of the situation and his threats directed at those responsible.
Who does he accuse? “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” (4). He is talking about those who buy agricultural products from the poor farmers at very low prices and sell them on at very high prices to others who were even poorer than the farmers.
They tamper with their scales to cheat both those from whom they buy and those to whom they sell.
The Lord sees what they do and pronounces an oath, “Never will I forget a thing they have done!”
The same thing goes on today of course, even among Christians.
In the part of the letter to Timothy that we read today, Paul is giving some instructions on the prayer of the Christian communities. He recommends that “petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and others in authority”. These are the people responsible for the well-being of society. If they do not perform their duties well, we are not able “to lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity” (2).
The prayer of the Christian community is universal, it is addressed to God both for the good and for the wicked, for friends and enemies alike. The Christian does not make distinctions based on race, tribe, nationality, social class, intelligence or wealth. This reflects the attitude of the Father in heaven “who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (4). Note how often we find the words “everyone” or “all” in this short text.
The reading concludes, “It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument” (8). We cannot pray if our hands are impure, if, that is, we have hurt others in any way (cf. Mt 5:23-25).
And what about us, for whom do we pray? Do we pray only about our own problems, or for our families and friends? If our prayer is selfish, are we really training ourselves to be all embracing?
Vv 1-8a. The story appears to describe something that had really happened. A steward is accused by his employer of embezzling his property. The steward is sent for and fired.
The steward knows that a lot of people owe his former employer huge amounts. He calls in the debtors and asks the first, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of olive oil,” he answers. The steward tells him, “Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.” The debt has been reduced from 3650 litres of oil to about 1825 litres, the equivalent of a year’s salary.
He calls in a second man who owes his former employer a hundred measures of wheat (about 27 tons, the harvest from more than 42 hectares of good land). His debt is reduced to 80 measured (a good five tons less!).
The steward displays a certain shrewdness. Those debtors will never forget his generosity and will certainly welcome him into their homes. Jesus concludes the story by praising the steward for his cleverness.
Before going on let me say that to praise someone’s shrewdness is not to approve what that person does.
It seems rather unlikely that a man cheated out of so much oil and wheat would not try to recover it. If he praises his former steward, it probably means that he lost nothing. So it must have been the steward who had to give up part of what was owed to him and not his employer. He gave up some of his own property in order to find friends. This is the point.
V 8b. The parable is followed by some sayings of Jesus, all about the use of riches and they complete the teaching of the parable. The first saying is, “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
After expressing his admiration for the steward, Jesus makes the comment that his disciples are not as astute as others in matters of money and business, who often resort to dishonesty. Unfortunately, we have quite a few Christians who could compete with anybody in this regard.
V 9. This is the most important verse in today’s text. It summarises the whole teaching of the parable. “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Jesus calls wealth “dishonest,” that is, acquired through deceitful means. Jesus is showing us how to turn dishonest wealth into good wealth.
The steward’s cunning lay in his ability to use his “wealth” to make friends.
Jesus is trying to tell us that we are not the masters but the stewards of earthly goods, which belong to God.
What Jesus is saying is that the only “astute” way of using the goods of this world is to use them to help and befriend people.
How do we look after the goods of the Lord? For instance, how do Christian doctors, nurses, politicians, teachers, use their positions? To make money or to make friends among the poorest and the most needy.
Vv 10-12. These verses refer to the one we have just seen. The “very small matters” (10), the “dishonest wealth” (11), “what belongs to another” (12) are all things of this world that we will not be able to take with us. A famous bishop and Father of the Church, Ambrose, used to say, “We should not consider riches what we cannot take with us. What we must leave behind in this world is not ours, it belongs to others”.
The goods of the future world, the kingdom of God are called the “great ones” (10), “true wealth” (11), “what is yours” (12). All these can be obtained by giving up all the goods that do not count, just as the steward in the parable did (cf. Lk 14:33).
TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
*Adapted from: Celebrating the Word, Year C by Fernando Armellini— Paulines Publications Africa, Revised Edition 2007
The Lord God spoke against those who buy the poor for silver.
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great, and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and sell the refuse of the wheat?” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.”The word of the Lord.
Praise the Lord, who raises the poor from the dust.
Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! May the name of the Lord be blest both now and forevermore! R.Praise the Lord, who raises the poor from the dust.
High above all nations is the Lord, above the heavens his glory. Who is like the Lord, our God, who dwells on high, who lowers himself to look down upon heaven and earth?R.Praise the Lord, who raises the poor from the dust.
From the dust he lifts up the lowly, from the ash heap he raises the poor, to set them in the company of princes, yes, with the princes of his people. R.Praise the Lord, who raises the poor from the dust.
Prayers should be made for all men to God, who desires all men to be saved.
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
Beloved: First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling.The word of the Lord.
Alleluia.Though Jesus Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. Alleluia.
GOSPEL READINGLuke 16:1-13
“You cannot serve God and mammon.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ “And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ “He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ “The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence; for the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 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.”The Gospel of the Lord.