SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  PHILIPPIANS 3:17-4:1; LUKE 16:1-8 ]

St Paul wrote, “Be united in following my rule of life.  Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us.”  It is courageous for anyone to say to another, imitate me.  For us to say this, it means that we must be living an exemplary life.  Most of us are teachers in words.  We tell our children what to do and our workers what must be done. Priests tell their people to be forgiving, obedient, humble and prayerful but they do not live out what they preach.  Medical personnel tell patients to eat healthily and exercise but they themselves do not follow the advice they give to others.  Parents instruct their children not to fight or cheat or steal but they themselves are doing all these things.  To such Christians, St Paul says, “I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are destined to be lost.”  If we are lost ourselves, we cannot lead others to God or to walk the way of truth and love.

Indeed, as Pope Paul VI says, “What we need today is not teachers but witnesses!”  We need people who walk the talk.  We need mentors that can inspire us in life.  Young people today are looking for icons to imitate.  Unfortunately, the only icons available to them are from the Entertainment world.  They are movie stars, pop-singers, actors and actresses; and successful entrepreneurs and businessman in the world.  But all that they can offer is a messy lifestyle, a confused life and a life of pleasure without joy.  They cannot offer them meaning, peace and lasting love.  What the world promotes is power, status, money, pleasure and sex.  Our people are unconsciously imitating these stars in their lives.  But have they ever asked, behind all this glamour, are they really happy?  What is their love life like?  What is happening in their relationships?  Are they doing well in their marriage and family life?  Are they at peace?

This was the case of the dishonest steward and those Christians who were living counterfeit lives.  We are told that he was irresponsible with his stewardship.  He mismanaged the wealth and property of the rich man.  Similarly, St Paul also reprimanded those Christians who were living shameful lifestyles, counter witnessing to Christ.  They were worldly in their thinking and sought are the same pleasures of the world.

What does it take to be a mentor? Firstly, we must exercise self-discipline.  The dishonest steward lacked discipline and caused his master’s wealth to be diminished.  He was more concerned about himself and his own affairs.   Self-discipline must begin with oneself, especially with the use of one’s body.  Many of us lack self-control when it comes to disciplining our body.  If we have no control over our body, how can we control our mind?  Thus, St Paul reprimanded those Christians who “make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful.”  Like them, we lack discipline over our food intake.  We drink excessively and we do not respect our body.  Some of us sleep too much and idle our time away.  No one can be a great leader without mastering self-discipline with respect to his food, time and responsibilities.

Secondly, a good mentor is one who knows what truly matters in life.  He is not one who seeks worldly goods, unlike worldly people.  St Paul observed that “the things they think important are earthly things.”   Rather, we must value what is eternal and what really lasts in life; not the transient and passing things of life.  The pleasures of this world are short term and they can be destructive in the long term!  Those who commit sins of infidelity, for a small pleasure, they might either have to go for an abortion or risk destroying their marriage and family. The people of this world are short-sighted.

St Paul reminds us that “our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.”  We do not simply live for this life but for the life hereafter.  As the psalmist says, ultimately after this short sojourn on earth, we are called to dwell in the House of God.  “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.”

Thirdly, we must be shrewd in dealing with the matters of this world.   In spite of the steward’s dishonesty and botched management of the rich man’s property, Jesus praised him for his initiative and proactive approach to solving problems in life.  To be a good mentor, we must be like this dishonest steward, creative in our thinking and resourceful. Indeed, Jesus remarked, “For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.”  We must use all our energy to bring about what is truly good for everyone.  We must use what we have for the good of humanity.

Fourthly, we must learn from the dishonest steward, the truth of which he found out a bit too late, which is to use all our resources to build friendship.  He thought to himself when he was told that he was to be dismissed from his job, “Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”  Whatever we do in life must be for the building of communion among men, the promotion of life and love, the fostering of relationships and harmony.  This is what a foretaste of heaven is all about.  Whether it is our work, our wealth or our health, all must be employed for the good of humanity.  When we give ourselves in love and service to others, we find life meaningful, fulfilling and joyful.  As we give ourselves to others, we also grow in affectivity, compassion and as a person whose potentials are being fully explored.

In the final analysis, to be a good mentor is to show that we are good stewards of God’s gifts to us.  We have all been blessed with many gifts of which we have taken for granted.  We have been given relatively good health, a good IQ and EQ,  talents, money, wealth, position, friends, a community to belong, etc.  Most of all, God has given us time as well.  How we manage all these gifts from God determine whether we are good stewards.  If we are to be good mentors and inspire others, we must show how we maximize these gifts and use them for the glory of God and the service of our fellowmen.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore