“Join with others in being imitators of me.”
Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop
Art: Parable of the Dishonest Steward—Eugene Burnand
Reading 1 PHIL 3:17—4:1
and observe those who thus conduct themselves
according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified Body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.
Responsorial Psalm PS 122:1-2, 3-4AB, 4CD-5
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Alleluia 1 JN 2:5
Whoever keeps the word of Christ,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 16:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
‘What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.’
The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
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.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one.
To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of wheat.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.’
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than the children of light.”
Commentary on Luke 16:1-8 from Living Space
After the three wonderful parables about God’s mercy and longing for the reconciliation of the sinner, Luke swings back again in chapter 16 with two parables and related teaching about our use of material possessions and puts some of the responsibility for our salvation back on ourselves.
The first is a story about a rather dishonest steward or manager. His responsibilities were to handle all the business affairs of his employer. However, he had been mishandling his employer’s funds and was about to be fired. One thinks of the prodigal son who utterly wasted the inheritance his loving father had given him.
Immediately the steward begins to think of his future. He does not have the strength to do manual labour and to go begging would be a terrible loss of face. So he thinks of a stratagem by which he calls in all his employer’s debtors and reduces the amounts they owe.
The debts incurred were considerable. One hundred measures of olive oil was equivalent to about 800 gallons or the yield of 450 olive trees, while 100 measures of wheat was equal to about 1,000 bushels or the yield of 100 acres. Very few farmers would have had anything like that kind of land in Jesus’ time.
By doing this favour, the steward hopes to be able to find alternative employment with one of them. Surprisingly, his employer, far from being angry, praises the farsightedness of his corrupt steward .
Some commentators question whether the steward was actually acting dishonestly. Was he actually denying his employer money which he was really owed or was he rather writing off the ‘commission’ which was being usuriously charged, thus inflating the proper amount owed? The Mosaic law forbade taking interest on loans from fellow Jews so one way of getting round this was to overcharge debtors. By reducing the debts to the proper level the steward was correcting an injustice and, at the same time, making these debtors favourably disposed towards him. Whatever the interpretation, the point Jesus is making is the same: the steward acted with shrewdness and intelligence to guarantee his future.
Jesus concludes by pointing out that the worldly are far more astute in providing for their future than are those who are regarded as spiritual, the ‘children of light’. Jesus is in no way condoning the steward’s dishonest and corrupt behaviour. What he does praise is his clear-sighted preparation of his future.
The lesson for us is clear. If a man can do that for his earthly career, what about our future in the life to come? If we want to guarantee our future life with God then we, too, need to take the necessary steps. Those steps are clearly laid out in the Gospel and, in general, they involve a life which is built on truth and integrity, and on love, compassion and justice with regard to the people around us. Our task is to work with God in making his will our own and in building up the Kingdom.
If we do this on a daily basis, then we have nothing to worry about and our future is assured.
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
Tags: 1 JN 2:5, A rich man had a steward, Can Each Of Us Explain Our Actions To God?, Lk 16:1-8, November 4 2015, Parable of the Unjust Steward, phil 3:17-4:1, Prayer and Meditation, Prepare a full account of your stewardship, Psalm 122, we also await a savior the Lord Jesus Christ