September 22, 2019
XXV Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today’s passage (Lk 16:1-13) follows directly Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke with the parables of mercy we heard last Sunday, and it continues with a parabolic style.
The parable reported today, however, is rather strange: Jesus tells of a steward who carries out his duties in a dishonest way; his employer realizes this, and a large part of the parable is occupied with the strategy that the steward devises to save himself from this regrettable situation. And in the end, the master praises him for his cunning.
Apparently, compared to the parables we heard last Sunday, today it seems that Jesus has completely changed the subject. But it might not be the case.
Let’s have a listen to the various common elements!
The first is a difficult one: last Sunday, there was a son in difficulty because he left home; today, there is a steward whose schemes are exposed.
Both find themselves in this difficulty for having in some way brought it on themselves.
In both cases the difficulty is unsolvable by their human efforts, and this is made very clear by the steward’s words: “What will I do, now that my master takes away my stewardship? To dig, I don’t have the strength; to beg, I am ashamed” (Lk 16:3).
Both turn to themselves, once they’ve hit the lowest point, to decide what to do.
After all, both want nothing more than a house, a place to be welcomed back after experiencing their breaking point, the error of their ways, their inability to be self-sufficient.
Then, in today’s parable, like last Sunday’s, we read the same message.
The first is that we are all deficient people: we have a debt, with which we are born, for the sole reason we received life as a gift, and this debt grows ever more along the road of life.
None of us can succeed in repaying, in any way: it is impossible.
Besides, it emerges from the parable that all this is not a big problem: the master does not attack the steward, nor does he pretend to settle the debt immediately. Indeed, he gives him time, so that he can somehow fix things.
What is important, in fact, is to find the way not to get stuck in his debt, in his fear: and we could say that there the way is there, but only one, and that is to grasp what is true wealth, the true good.
The steward realizes true wealth is that of friendship, brotherhood, and he does everything to gain it. He stops using others to get rich and instead starts to use wealth to find friendship. We could say that he stops finding a home in riches and begins to find a home in brothers, just like the young son of last Sunday’s parable, who stops looking for a home in himself and in his own whims and so finds his father’s home.
Jesus, after telling the parable, adds a very severe exhortation concerning wealth (Lk 16: 9-13), because he knows that the craving for goods is that thing capable of blurring the sight of man, and of making him believe that these are enough for his life, for his joy.
And it’s this way from the beginning of history: the instinct of sin, which God sees squatting in the heart of Cain (Gen 4:7), is nothing other than this insatiable greed, to which man is determined to do everything to satisfy.
In reality, Jesus affirms that riches are frivolous, even when they are many, and riches are dishonest (Lk 16:11-12). They are small because they are not sufficient to give life; and they are dishonest because they promise life even if they are unable to keep their promise. And yet, those who are faithful in this little and dishonest thing, without using it thinking that it is everything, but living as needy people who share what they have with others, will eventually find true wealth in this same sharing – a wealth capable of appeasing the craving, and of finding a home where they can finally live.