Saturday of week 31 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Luke 16:9-15

Yesterday we saw Jesus give the example of a corrupt but astute manager who took effective steps to guarantee his future employment. Today he goes on to warn us about our own use of material things.

We are to use “dishonest wealth” in such a way that we “make friends for ourselves” (our most important friend being God!) and when it fails us (as it ultimately will) that “a lasting reception” will be ours. We are reminded of how the crafty steward in the parable ensured his future.

In the mind of Luke, the friends we should be making are the poor and needy who will be on our side before God’s judgement seat because we had “invested” our wealth in them. As we read in Matthew: “As often as you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).

Earlier we saw a good example of a man who had made so much money out of his harvest that he sat back to enjoy the rest of his life – which ended that very night. That is not the way to “make friends” with one’s material goods. In one sense there is nothing wrong with having a lot of money. It is how we use it that is the question.

“If you can trust a man in little things, you can also trust him in greater.” In other words, if we can be trusted with the material goods that come into our lives and use them to build the Kingdom of God, to create a more just and equitable society, then we can be trusted with something much greater, to live forever face to face with our God.

“If you cannot be trusted with elusive wealth, who will trust you with that which lasts?” And again, “If you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s money, who will give you what is your own?” And that reminds us that the material goods that come into our lives (no matter how they may have been acquired) do not belong absolutely to us. Everything on this earth belongs to all. We are only the stewards of what has come into our possession and we will be judged on how we make use of it. On our use will depend to a large extent our receiving the one thing that will really become our own, the unending happiness that God wishes us to have in company with him.

That leads obviously to the next warning that we cannot be at the same time give ourselves totally to God and become slaves of money and the material. We saw that in the case of the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus. He was the slave of his possessions and so could not surrender his life to Jesus. Many of us think we can and we try to compromise but, to give ourselves to God completely, we must become free of the lure of money and the acquisition of material things. It does not mean we do not have money or material things but what we do have is ultimately used only for God’s love and service and the love and service of our brothers and sisters.

On hearing all this, the Pharisees, whom Luke calls “avaricious”, mocked Jesus for what they felt was unrealistic idealism. There are many today who would echo their views but those who have taken Jesus’ words to heart know that what he says is true. We have seen that in the lives of people like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day among others. I believe that Princess Diana, with all her money and fame and luxurious living knew she did not have something precious that Mother Teresa had found – the freedom to give and share her whole self with the destitute.

“What man thinks important, God holds in contempt.” The opposite is also true. On which side do I find myself?

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