That Dishonest Steward

(Homily for Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C: The Dishonest Steward)

Bottom line: In the parable of the dishonest steward, Jesus tells us not to hide or run away, but to take bold action to help others.

A man I know suffered a public disgrace. It cost him his job and even merited an article in the local newspaper. I prayed for my friend; I also asked myself what I would do in his shoes. I concluded that I would crawl into a hole and try not to show my face in public. Well, I called my friend and - to my surprise - found out he was doing the exact opposite. The job he lost involved public service and he was determined to continue to do whatever he could - even with no pay. I asked him how did it. "Look," he said, "everybody has problems. Some bigger than mine, some smaller. But, at the end of the day, people don't care about my problems. They care about their problems. And I am going to do what I can to help them."

Over a year has passed and I realize the truth in what he said. I've heard people speak about things my friend has done for them, but it has been a long time since I have heard anyone mention details of his disgrace. Personally, I can only admire my friend's spirit. You know, he is a lot like the man Jesus praises in today's parable. Jesus calls him "that dishonest steward." He gets caught red-handed and knows he will lose his job. But he does not run away; he does not hide in a hole. He takes bold action, does what he can to help others. Jesus praises him for that: not for his dishonesty, but because he acted boldly and did what he could to help others.

The dishonest steward acted boldly - and so should we. People sometimes tell me they feel stymied - a victim of circumstances. Life has dealt a losing hand. When I encounter someone feeling frustrated and powerless, I say to them what Mother Teresa said to her sisters, "Get out with the people." No matter how bad you have things, someone close-by has it worse. The dishonest steward didn't curl up into a ball. He acted decisively.

The dishonest steward reminds us of something deep in our Catholic tradition. Back in the fourth century St. John Chrysostom said: "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs." The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. John Chrysotom: What we have does not ultimately belong to us. We are administrators - stewards of God's gifts. Like the dishonest steward, when we give to the poor, we are assuring that someone will welcome us into eternal life.

Now, I don't recommend that you give all your money to the first guy standing at stoplight. Jesus praised "that dishonest steward for acting prudently." Prudence means to calculate - put first things first. I know this is going to sound self-serving, but it really isn't: the most prudent thing a person can do is give the first five percent to our parish. The parish, after all, provides for the most basic needs: the sacraments, religious education and opportunities to serve. After you have set aside a part of your earnings to support the parish, the next five percent can then go to other charitable needs, like the Missions, Catholic radio, Priest for Life - or the Mary Bloom Center. In that way you will fulfill the Biblical norm of tithing, giving the first ten percent to the Lord. Of course, we should never think, "Well, I gave my tithe. The rest I can use as I please." No, it all belongs to God. We are stewards of his gifts.

When it comes to stewardship of God's gifts, a lot of people feel inadequate. I know how you feel because I am also inadequate. But do not let that feeling prevent you from giving what you have. Be like the steward in today's Gospel - or like my friend who bounced back from disgrace. "Get out with the people." Make the best of a difficult situation. Jesus assures us that if we are trustworthy with small things, he will give us greater responsibilities. He will give us what we need to be good and prudent stewards.

With the parable of the dishonest steward, Jesus tells us not to hide or run away, but to take bold action and do what we can to help others.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (25th Sunday, Year C):

2013: Geography of Faith: The Promised Land
2010: That Dishonest Steward
2007: The Best of a Bad Situation
2004: Is the Pope Na´ve?
2001: A Response to Terrorism
1998: Purpose of Money

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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