25th Sunday O T Year C – 16
Am 8:4-7; I Tm 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
One stormy night many years ago an elderly couple entered the lobby of a small hotel and asked for a room. The clerk explained that because there were three conventions in town, the hotel was filled. He added, “But I can’t send a nice couple like you out in the rain at 1 o’clock in the morning. Would you be willing to sleep in my room?”
The couple hesitated, but the clerk insisted. The next morning when the man paid his bill, he told the clerk, “You’re the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.”
The clerk smiled, amused by the older man’s little joke.” A few years passed. Then one day the clerk received a letter from the elderly man recalling that stormy night and asking him to come to New York for a visit. A round-trip ticket was enclosed.
When the clerk arrived, his host took him to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, where a grand new building stood. “That,” explained the elderly man, “is the hotel I have just built for you to manage.”
“You must be joking,” the clerk said. “I most assuredly am not,” came the reply. “Who- who are you?” stammered the clerk. The man answered, “My name is William Waldorf Astor.” That hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria, one of the most magnificent hotels in New York.
The young clerk who became its first manager was George C. Bold. The story reinforces today’s Gospel message about the prudent use of the earthly treasures and resources we have been given by God. If we use God’s loving gifts to us to love others and help them in their need, He will be our reward in Heaven.
Today’s readings remind us that we are God’s stewards and that God expects faithful and prudent stewardship from us. They challenge us to use our God-given talents and blessings wisely to attain Heavenly bliss.
Condemning the crooked business practices of the 8th century BC Jewish merchants of Judea, today’s lesson from the prophet Amos reminds the Israelites and us to be faithful to our Covenant with Yahweh by practicing justice and mercy as God’s faithful stewards.
He warns us also against making the goal of our life the gaining of money, whatever the means. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs the first century Judeo-Christians to become true stewards of the Gospel of Jesus, the only mediator, by preaching the “Good News” to the pagans and by including them in intercessory prayers, too.
Today’s Gospel story tells us about the crooked but resourceful manager and challenges us to use our blessings — time, talents, health and wealth – wisely and justly so that they will serve for our good in eternity.
We use our earthly wealth wisely when we spend it for our own needs in moderation and when we love and help the needy around us, for those are the purposes for which He has entrusted all these things to us.
The Gospel passage we’ve just heard is a part of a series of parables dealing with spiritual crises that are generated when we misuse our possessions, when we end up being possessed by our possessions.
Last Sunday’s Gospel was about the Prodigal Son who demanded his share of his father’s estate and then went out and squandered it all. Next Sunday’s Gospel will be all about the rich man eating a sumptuous meal at his table while poor Lazarus sat starving at the rich man’s gate.
The lesson today involves, as you all know, the devious and clever wicked steward who doctors the accounts of his master’s books in order to win friends, friends who will care for him after he faces his impending firing.
Today’s parable needs to be understood with the realization that it was against Jewish law to charge interest on loans of money. Instead of bankers, the Jews earned interest by lending out produce instead of money.
Here in this particular case the rich man was probably an absentee landlord who loaned olive oil and wheat to his debtors expecting to receive more of each commodity in return than what he had loaned them, the difference being the equivalent of interest charges on his loans.
It was understood that the master’s steward would also earn his commission out of the differential amount, the amount between what was borrowed and the amount of the payback. The religious understanding of the Pharisees was a very meticulous spiritual bookkeeping exercise.
Everyone had to pray, pay, and obey. Anyone who didn’t was considered to be a law-breaker and was cast out. Everything had its price and everyone had their value in that spiritual economy. Jesus had a different understanding of our value in God’s eyes.
What must have scandalized the Pharisees was the realization that the foresightful steward in today’s parable was being praised by Jesus precisely for his prudent vision of what lay ahead of him, not because he was a cheat but because he was a sinner who dared to hope for redemption.
Jesus is not commending the steward’s dishonesty. The steward’s dishonesty had been discovered and was obvious to everyone. Jesus didn’t concern himself with the obvious. The prodigal son squandered his money and the steward squandered his master’s property.
Both, however, took the necessary steps to secure their futures, just as did the characters presented in similar parables that Jesus used. What Jesus is concerned with is the lack of spiritual foresight on the part of His followers.
The point Jesus making is that we all ought to be as foresightful and prudent in planning ahead for our spiritual futures as the worldly-wise are in planning ahead for their financial and material futures.
Jesus was presenting His followers with the example of the zealous foresightfulness of the wicked steward and wishing that His own followers would be at least as enterprising in caring for the future of their souls.
And so the immediate question confronting you and me is: How zealous are we in providing for our spiritual futures? Do we assume that God is a sort of Sugar Daddy in the Sky who is going to take care of us no matter what we do?
Is it my unspoken assumption that what I do or what I don’t do in this life really doesn’t matter in the long run because a loving and infinitely merciful God will provide for me anyway? That insults God.
The world we live in is filled with distractions, distractions that come to us in all of our electronic devices both visual and audial. At times we get so busy that we wonder what we are accomplishing and where we are going.
There are consequences that flow from our decisions and there are consequences that flow from our non-decisions and neglect. When you stop and think about it, not to decide is in itself a decision, a neglectful decision that can have bad consequences for us. This is particularly so when it comes to our spiritual lives.
We all have a destiny; a destiny God has given us. God didn’t give you and me a life to be lived only until we die. God gave us a life that He wants to share with us for all eternity, an eternal life to be lived in love, in a love relationship between you and Him.
That, it seems to me, is the point for today’s parable and why Jesus was commending this foresightful steward to our attention.
Let us remember Saint John Chrysostom’s warning, “Faithfulness in little things is a big thing,” and reminder of St. Theresa of Calcutta “Do little things with great love.” Amen.