Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 18, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Am 8:4-7 / Ps 113 / 1 Tm 2:1-8 / Lk 16:1-13
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about an angel who appeared at a faculty meeting and told the dean that he had come to reward him for his years of devoted service. The dean is asked to choose one of three blessings: infinite wealth, infinite fame, or infinite wisdom. Without hesitation, the dean asked for infinite wisdom. “You’ve got it,” the angel said and disappeared. All heads turned toward the dean, who sat glowing in the aura of infinite wisdom. Finally, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something.” The dean looked at them and said, “I should have taken the money.”
Wisdom, in the sense of being smart or shrewd, as we see in today’s gospel parable of the dishonest servant, is not an end in itself. One can be smart and use one’s smartness to do mean things. We know for a fact that many con artists and terrorists are smart people who use their smartness to create unhappiness in the world.
Today’s parable challenges us to be smart in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God, just as godless people are smart in their pursuit of selfish goals and ambitions. Jesus uses the example of a smart manager in his master’s business to teach us the need to be smart in the Lord’s service. We are challenged to imitate the manager’s shrewdness, not his dishonesty.
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. Why did the master, who had made up his mind to fire the manager, now commend him? Probably the manager had been running his master’s business in a drab, routine, and lifeless manner, devoid of creativity and imagination. As a result, the business was failing, so the master decided it was time to fire him. He said, “Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.”
The manager is facing the real danger of being dismissed from service. He knows the seriousness of the situation. He knows exactly how helpless he is. That is why he says to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. (Luke 16:3) He is in a very difficult and precarious situation. He scratches his head and comes up with this ingenious plan to safeguard his future. The master praises him, because if the manager had been using such smart thinking in the daily running of the business, he would have been a much more successful manager rather than a failure.
The parable challenges all of us to be smart managers. Yes, we are all called to be managers. God has entrusted the whole of His creation into our hands as His managers. Jesus Christ, in addition, entrusts the kingdom of God, the kingdom of love, justice, and peace into our hands as His managers. World peace and harmony and the renewal of all things in Christ, are the business of us all, collectively and individually. Jesus calls it the Kingdom of God.
Our business as followers of Christ, ordained and unordained believers, is to help bring about the Kingdom of God, starting with our own selves. We have all been given the necessary resources to do this. We have been equipped with the truth of faith, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, and we have been given time. Sooner or later, we shall be called upon to render an account of how we have invested and managed these resources.
There is a story about a very rich woman who died and went to heaven. Saint Peter escorted her down a magnificent street on which each house was beautifully made like a palace. The wealthy woman saw one house that was particularly beautiful and asked who lived there. “That,” Saint Peter answered, “is the home of your servant.” “Well,” the woman said, smiling, “If my servant gets a house like that, I certainly look forward to seeing a palatial home for myself.” Soon they came to a narrow alley where the houses were small and cramped. “You will live in that house,” said Saint Peter, pointing with his finger. “Me? Live in a shanty? That’s an insult,” retorted the wealthy woman. “This is the best we can do for you,” Peter said. “You must understand that we only build your home up here with the materials you send ahead while you are still on earth.”
The Church reminds us today that it is now the time to send materials ahead of us in the afterlife, in order to build our homes in heaven. These materials are not construction materials that we can buy in a construction supply company. These materials are not just prayers and acts of charity but doing the day-to-day ordinary work in an extraordinary way. It means consciously performing your duties well, whether you are a lawyer, a government official, a teacher, a student, a policeman, or an ordinary citizen.
We don’t have to wait, like the dishonest servant, for the last-minute display of smartness to fix our eternal concerns. The time to be smart is now. The smart manager used what he could not give to get what he needed so badly: friendship with his business associates. We should likewise invest all of our temporal and spiritual resources to gain the only thing that matters in the end: the Kingdom of God.