Readings: Amos 8: 4-7, Psalm 113, Response: Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.; 1 Timothy 2: 1-8; Gospel: Luke 16: 1-13
“The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come.” Let me propose this Rabbinic saying as the backdrop of our reflection.
The Gospel for this Sunday is a puzzling one. It’s a parable about rascals, from the master to the steward and the tenants who owed rent, each selfishly pursuing his own interests.
The parable seemingly praises the wicked and shrewd steward for his cunning: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light… The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.”
Add to this the advice: “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
But Christ ends with the main lesson of the passage: “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”
The praise of the wicked servant is not so much about what he did, but how he did it—with great creativity, diligence and promptness. Christ poses a challenge to us as to why we cannot have the same passion and dedication in serving him as those who work for fortune and fame as.
We see this in the stories of self-made billionaires and in advocates of social movements. We saw this in the early church, when the apostles and the communities they formed gave much zeal and fervor to the missionary church.
St. Ignatius of Loyola embodied this spirit. If he were alive today and applied himself to a secular enterprise, he would have a global empire , much greater than that of a Warren Buffet or a Bill Gates.
With his gifts, St. Ignatius applied himself to “extraordinarily difficult tasks” with “great energy” and courage.
At the heart of all this is the freedom to first discover and then to commit to God’s will and mission.
It was this deep devotion to the mission that sprung from spiritual freedom, giving him the human freedom to be detached from worldly things. While he advocated living in poverty, he always placed it within the context of mission.
If we look at material things to be used (and acquired) with selfish motivations, then we relate badly with others. We use others or objectify them for self-gain and thus deprive them of their humanity.
But if we look at material things as a means to serve others, to do good and to make our world better, then the common good takes precedence over personal gain. This is the building block for a compassionate, just and egalitarian world.
Material wealth is not a sin, per se; it is how we take on the responsibility that comes with this blessing. This is the main point that the Gospel ends with. We cannot serve both God and material wealth. —CONTRIBUTED