POSSESSIONS ARE A GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
Do you and I make good use of our money and possessions? What role does money play in our life? Is it a source of security, worry, comfort, pride, anxiety, power, or perhaps all of the above?
The Prophet Amos, in today's first reading, admonishes those who mistreat the needy and harm the poor. He warns them that they might be able to cheat the poor easily, but God cannot be deceived. Do you and I make good use of our money and possessions? What role does money play in our life? Is it a source of security, worry, comfort, pride, anxiety, power, or perhaps all of the above? Someone once said, "To be blunt, wealth always comes with strings attached, and if we follow those strings to their ends, you'll find the suffering that delivered it."
Jesus seems to praise someone that is dishonest and who has lost his job because he misused his master's money. What's the point of Jesus' parable? The steward was responsible for managing his wealthy landowner's property. He very likely overcharged his master's tenants for their use of the land and kept more than his fair share of the commission. When the landowner discovers the steward's dishonest practice he immediately removes him from his job, leaving him penniless and ashamed to beg or do manual work.
Before news of his dismissal becomes public knowledge, the shrewd steward strikes a deal with his master's debtors. In discounting their debts he probably was giving up his generous commission. Such a deal won him great favor with the debtors. Since he acted as the landowner's chief financial officer, such a deal made his master look very generous and forgiving towards those who owned him money. Surely everyone would praise such a generous landowner as the town hero! Since the master could not undo the steward's cancellation of the debts without losing face and making his debtors resent him, he praises the steward for outwitting him as a generous and merciful landowner.
Jesus obviously thought that the example of this dishonest person would be a perfect illustration for a spiritual lesson about the Kingdom of God! What's the point of Jesus' parable? The dishonest steward is commended for his shrewdness. The original meaning of "shrewdness" is "foresight". A shrewd person grasps a critical situation with resolution and foresight. Jesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial crisis. His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis through the exercise of faith and foresight. If we, as Christians, would only expend as much foresight and energy into spiritual matters which have eternal consequences as much as we do to earthly matters which have temporal consequences, then we would be truly better off, both in this life and in the age to come.
In the Responsorial Psalm we acclaim, "High above all nations is the Lord; above the heavens is His glory. Who is like the Lord, our God, Who is enthroned on high and looks upon the heavens and the earth below" (Ps 113:4-5)? It's God's glory shining through our weakness that the fullness of His powerful love works in us, His people. St. Ambrose, a fourth century bishop, said, "The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns, which last forever." True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away. Possessions are a great responsibility.
Jesus expects us to use them honestly and responsibly and to put them at His service and the service of others. We are God's servants and all that we have belongs to Him. He expects us to make a good return on what He has given to us. God loves generosity and He gives liberally to those who share His gifts with others. The Pharisees, however, had no room for God or others in their hearts. The Gospel says they were lovers of money. Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our hearts and our souls must either be possessed by God's love or our hearts will be possessed by the love of something else.
What does your heart most treasure?