Time for a Change!
A Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 16:1-8
Readings found at USCCB website - https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110422.cfm
Today we hear the Parable of the Dishonest Steward. The steward, faced with the charge of squandering his master’s property, is in deep trouble and he knows it. We hear the fear for his future in his words.
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. (Luke 16: 3 NABRE)
A steward had immense power in Jesus’ time. He had the ability to administer and commit his master’s wealth with the understanding that he would further his master’s interests while the master was away or otherwise preoccupied. Also, stewards in Jesus’ time while collecting the debts owed their master, would overcharge the debtors, and keep the difference between what was owed to the master and what was collected by the steward. A good steward would have to carefully balance his interests, the ability of the debtors to pay, and the desires of his master. In every case, the steward would have to meet the needs of his master, or he would be looking for a new job, or worse. This steward, in his greed, has focused more on growing his own wealth than looking after the interests of his master. With this parable, Jesus is giving us two especially important teachings.
(Internet Image from Broccardo)
In Matthew 28, we hear the commission given to the Church,
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19–20 NABRE)
The first teaching of the parable is to take stock in our performance for our task to grow the Kingdom of God. Are we working hard to further the interests of our Master, He whom we call Lord? Do you, with intention, proclaim the Gospel, both in words and deeds, throughout your day? How important is that task in your life?
A good steward takes care to not just maintain his master’s wealth, but instead, seeks to grow it. To do this, he or she must actively learn about the kingdom and then proclaim it. We have been given the grace of God acting within us. Are we squandering that gift due to fear or spiritual laziness? Are we preoccupied with serving our own interests, increasing our own wealth like the steward in the parable, and thereby missing opportunities to grow the kingdom through the saving of souls? If so, the Lord is telling us to wake up before it is too late. It is time to sit down, take stock of our life, and like the steward in the parable, change. The Kingdom must come first, everything else will then follow.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Matthew 6:33 NABRE)
The second teaching given through the parable, is that after assessing our performance, are we eliminating in our lives those things that keep us from our mission. The dishonest steward brings in the debtors and has them all radically reduce their debt. What he is really doing is eliminating his “cut,” the amount he was overcharging, to gain favor with both his master and those he was cheating. We need to do the same thing.
There are a lot of things that can distract us from furthering the Kingdom of God. Mostly, they involve chasing after the false altars of pride, power, pleasure, ambition, and greed at the expense of proclaiming the Gospel. In many cases, it has to do with fear. What might others think of us and how will they respond when challenged to repent and believe in the Gospel? When we do not live out the joy of the Gospel in our lives, we are cheating all those who desperately need hope, to receive the gift of grace, and enter into heaven. If this is the case, we, like the dishonest steward, need to step away from all that we are striving after for our own benefit in this world, and get back to doing the business of the Kingdom.
Jesus tells us at the end of the parable, to be prudent. The virtue of prudence is, “to discern the good and choose the correct means to accomplish it.” (CCC Glossary)
The dishonest steward recognized the imminent danger he was in, having lost the confidence of his master, and immediately set to work to get back in good graces. He accurately assessed his current position and then took immediate action. Do we as children of Light, those who should joyfully bring the light of Christ into the world, act the same?
Jesus is calling us to conversion, a “radical reorientation of the whole life away from sin and evil, and toward God.” (CCC Glossary) Conversion is not a one-time event but a conscious and constant decision to turn away from all that distracts us, sin and evil, and turn back to God. Today and every day, it is time to honestly take stock in our task to further the Kingdom of God. If you come up short, like the dishonest Steward, it is time to change, to convert.
St Charles Borromeo, Patron of all Catechists, and whose Memorial we celebrate today, put it very succinctly,
If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.” (St Charles Borromeo as quoted in Paprocki)
It is time for a change!
Broccardo, F. C. (2020, January 22). The dishonest steward. Sant'Antonio di Padova. Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://www.santodeimiracoli.org/en/art/the-dishonest-steward?readmore=1
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). 2nd Ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000. Print.
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Paprocki, Joe. “St. Charles Borromeo, Patron Saint of Catechists.” Catechist's Journey, Loyola Press, 24 Oct. 2016, https://catechistsjourney.loyolapress.com/2016/11/st-charles-borromeo-patron-saint-catechists/.
Excellent interpretation of one of the most challenging parables in the NT! I didn't know about the overcharging and the "prudent" steward forgoing his cut. That finally makes sense. I've always wondered about this story.
Amen, well said. Your reflection has struck a cord in me to think upon, pray upon!