This is a difficult gospel. Jesus commends the thieving manager’s shrewdness and I have no idea what dishonest wealth means. I read another translation of this as, ‘make for yourself friends by means of your material possession even if they have been unjustly acquired.’
In the parable we know the manager is in trouble. He had been caught stealing, mismanaging his master’s money. We can tell from the story he is a survivor. He knows his lifestyle is about to change. He is going to have to ‘downsize’. He makes a deal with those who owe his master. We can see it as his willingness to take a cut in his own commission. He hopes these people will return the favor and come to his help when he is turfed out.
Without laying a good old Catholic guilt trip, because we are all in this together, I’d like to suggest that we read this gospel as it could apply to us in our time.
We pray in one of the prayers of the Mass, ‘you chose to create us in Your own image setting us over the whole world in all its wonder; you gave us the care of creation to praise you day by day for the marvels of your wisdom and power.’
Without sounding like the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” we all know by now that things are changing on planet Earth. Because of a combination of human ignorance, greed and indifference we’ve ended up in the global situation we know as ‘global warming’. In recent weeks we’ve seen pictures of ice breakers easily working their way through the Northwest Passage. Both the north and south pole are experiencing great climate changes. Plants and animals are losing their natural habitats. We hear of droughts in some areas and rampaging floods in others. Scientists claim that unless we do something about the warming of the earth that deaths from its effects will double in 25 years. They claim that sea levels could rise more than 20 feet and that more than a million species could be driven to extinction by 2050. I think we can be tempted to block out all this information, it’s too much with which to cope. I read somewhere that the underlying cause of global warming is the cooling of the human heart. The cooling of the human heart, what can that mean?
We can go back to: you gave us the care of all creation. What have we done with this task of stewardship, of caring? What have we done with the Master’s goods entrusted to us? Can we admit we have misused, embezzled our Master’s goods? Not just the goods of nature but the wellbeing of our fellow human beings. The scientists who are bringing us all this bad news tell us that this is a moral issue more so than an economic issue. We have an obligation to all other life forms that share Earth with us. As I said many times, “we did not weave the web of life; we are a strand in the web and what we do to the web we do to ourselves.” As we diminish the earth we diminish ourselves.
We can take the words of Jesus, “whatever you do to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me” and apply them to all of God’s good creation.
Can we recognize the truth that not only do we exploit the resources of Earth, we exploit one another. We are blessed in our country. Even the poorest among us live like kings compared to men, women and children in other lands. Yet our lifestyle is at the expense of peoples of other lands. We can look at the labels of the clothes we wear, the tools we use, the toys we play with and know that the men and women who made these products are paid a pittance of what we pay for them. The same can be said for the food we eat.
This is heavy stuff. We live comfortable lives and we don’t take kindly to words like downsize, economize, scale back. But if we are to survive and overcome the crisis we’ve brought on ourselves and our children’s children, we are going to have to cut a deal, we need the shrewdness of the manager in the gospel – we have to use wisely our dishonest wealth.
I read this little reflection of today’s gospel: “as just stewards of this earth’s goods, those who have must address the needs of those who have not; justice demands of us a stewardship that cares and shares. Though dishonesty cost the manager his job, he is praised by Jesus for taking the initiative to save himself and secure his future. Similarly imaginative and even risky measures are required of Jesus’ disciples today. We are stewards of the earth and our brothers and sisters keepers.”
In this Eucharist Christ shares His life with us. From his generosity toward us may we find the strength we need to break out of our own little worlds to see ourselves in the bigger picture and do whatever we can to bring about the healing of the earth and the justice to which our times call us. We need to pray for ourselves and for each other because we’re all in this together.