I preached this Homily on Sunday, September 18, 2016, at Saint Edward Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
The nature of parables
This is a difficult passage since it sounds like Jesus is applauding this steward for lying and stealing from his boss. We need to remember the purpose of parables. The precise details of the parable are less important than the meaning behind them.
So what’s the message behind this story? Luckily, our job is easier because the Gospel writers often put stories together so we can see what message is being conveyed – each parable is there to build on the message or say it in a different way.
Let’s look at the rest of the chapter. There’s a second parable in this chapter: The rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) – and we will talk about that next week.
We can also look at the other readings (most importantly the 1st and responsorial psalm) to see what the Church is trying to say. Today, Amos is calling out the rich of Israel for enjoying luxury while the poor languish and starve.
So, Jesus wants to talk about our relationship with the poor, the less fortunate and gifted among us.
We are mere stewards
Let’s talk about the cast of characters in this parable.
The rich man
This is God who gives us everything we have.
This is us. As Paul asks the Corinthians:
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? (1 Corinthians 4:7 NRSVCE)
The tenants or debtors
These are the poor – everyone less fortunate than we are.
Put it together
Everything we have, we have received from God. We can either use the gifts we have for our own good or use them for the good of those less fortunate than we are, for the poor, the downtrodden.
A steward had (almost) complete authority over his master’s property and possessions. It’s a position of incredible trust, just like God has entrusted us with the whole of creation.
The steward was going to be fired because he had taken advantage of that trust, and he was using all of the master’s property to live the good life. Notice, the text doesn’t say he was stealing from the poor, from the tenants, from the less fortunate – he was just ignoring them.
Since he was not able to work and too proud to beg, he used the master’s money, instead, to make the tenants accept him and take care of him when he was kicked out of his job as steward, he helped them, he lowered their bills. Then, he was finally commended by his master (not Jesus – the master in the story – that’s clear from the text) because he was clever.
The poor are at the gates of heaven.
One day, our time on earth as stewards of the gifts God has given us will draw to a close. Then, we will be judged based on how we used those gifts. Did we use them for our own pleasure? Or did we use them to spread the kingdom and serve those around us?
Do we deserve to be fired or deserve to be commended?
Day to day meaning
We must be faithful with the things of the world God entrusts to us. We must use wisely the talents God gives us. If we are, then God will lavish more on us (and I’m not talking just money – the prosperity gospel is not the Gospel but a version made up by man). God will lavish his love on us, his spirit, and our relationship with the Lord will be ever deeper.
“What zeal people put into their earthly affairs: dreaming of honours, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, we will have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 317).
So, can we put the same passion into our relationship with God, even when that means things that aren’t easy from the earthly perspective, that we put into our earthly life?