September 18, 2016
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
We would like to try to listen to the passage of today’s Gospel (Lk 16:1-13) allowing some connections with that of last Sunday to emerge. This passage, actually, is placed immediately after last Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 15).
Last Sunday we saw there was a son who, taking his part of his inheritance, goes to a faraway country and squanders it all.
Here, there is a manager accused of squandering his master’s goods.
In both texts, the two individuals, after having squandered, found themselves in a difficult situation: the younger son risks nothing short of dying of hunger, and the manager risks losing his job.
And both did the same thing: the younger son “came to his senses” and re-examined his way, and the manager inquires of himself – “said to himself” (Lk 16:3) – what is best to do to get out of this situation.
In both the image of a house is present: the son remembers his father’s house, where there is food in abundance, and the manager understands that the best thing is to find someone who may welcome him into his house.
It is clear nevertheless that the two texts are quite distinct from each other: in the first Jesus is sketching the face of the good Father, in the second he is speaking about material goods, of riches (it is the theme that runs through all of chapter sixteen), of shrewdness.
Yet there is a connection, and Jesus wants to tell us – among other things – that, as we can spend our whole life in the house of the Father without knowing his real face (as the older brother in last Sunday’s parable), without experiencing the tenderness of his love, so we can spend the whole of life near to so many people, without “feeling at home”, without knowing our brothers and sisters, continuing to take advantage of all to enrich ourselves, and nothing more.
Then the realization takes place: famine came to the younger son of last Sunday, and in today’s passage the manager in uncovered in his deceptions. The manager, then, realizing that stealing does not work, does not give security, will not let you “feel at home”, and simply changes strategy. He sits down, thinks, and finds the most logical solution that can be, that is, to use wealth to make friends.
He listens, within himself, to the thing that he needs most: he needs a house, that is, a secure space where to live, he needs to know that he will be welcomed by someone. He realizes that money is not enough to give you a home, if then you have only enemies around you. He understands that creating a network of friends is the most intelligent thing he can do, because then he will not be alone in time of need; and he does it with the means at his disposal, namely, managing his master’s goods.
He is an intelligent man, and for this he is praised.
There comes a time in life when one realizes that everything that has been built through one’s own efforts (often cheating) no longer works, and it’s like the house (Lk 6:47-49) built on sand, without foundations.
This is why Jesus is very strict with the money, because it represents all of those securities (goods, power, image, success) in which we put our trust, without ever really trusting in the Lord: but, Jesus concludes, one cannot serve God and wealth (Lk 16:13).
Do we not live in a world where the frantic search for wealth generates suspicions, mistrust, hatred, war?
This security is not only false, but it also isolates us from others and removes us from the true meaning of our life, which is to be in communion: everything in us is created for this.
In the parable, the manager alone comes to understand this simple truth, what was once a source of discord, deceit, fraud – that is, money –, he now uses as a means, a way to seek friendship, to build bonds.
Well, Jesus says, “the children of this world are wiser towards their peers, than the children of light” (Lk 16:8).
It seems important to pause a bit on this challenge of Jesus.
Because we often think of our faith in individualistic terms: my salvation, my journey of faith, my relationship with the Lord. But whoever enters new life through Baptism – who becomes, that is, “a child of light” – can no longer think in individualistic terms, no longer think only of oneself, only of the “management” of one’s own goods. Nor can one think of themselves in terms of friendship, of a common house living in mutual welcome.
And the way that he will have to build this will be to put in common the goods at his disposal, knowing that for the children of light, all is redeemed and all (even the weakness, even the sin) could become the common inheritance of grace and mercy.
Everything can help to construct a house built on rock, in which, in time of need, each person will be welcomed. The first Christian communities were identified by this aspect (Acts 2:44-45: All the believers were together and had all things in common; they sold their property and possessions and shared with all, as each one had need).
A final, very valuable highlight: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? And if you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?” (Lk 16:10-12).
Everything, Jesus seems to say, begins from little, from material goods: that is the point of departure from which to begin living a different logic, of sharing and friendship. And one cannot think of bypassing this way, thinking of sharing only what seems nobler and more “spiritual” to us.
It is the concrete sharing of goods (of one’s time, one’s experience, one’s things…) that is the necessary step to test the availability of a “child of light” to live freely every other dimension of life.