September 22, 2013 –– Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel features what is often called The Parable of the Unjust Steward. For anyone who promotes and fosters the concept of stewardship it is gratifying to see the use of the term “steward.” However, the parable is also called The Parable of the Shrewd Manager. This tends to be a bit misleading in relation to Jesus’ message.
There is a common theme throughout the three major readings for today. It follows the thread of being true to the faith through prayer and gratitude, key components of stewardship as a way of life.
As is often the case, we need to have some sense of historical perspective to completely appreciate a reading and its meaning. The Book of Amos, from which the first reading is drawn, is the first Biblical prophetic book written in terms of timelines. The majority of researchers agree that Amos wrote it about 750 B.C. In relation to the Gospel message in particular, it is well to keep in mind that the entire Book of Amos is intended to be a message to the Israelites, who at that time were experiencing much prosperity, and as a result of that, had become somewhat greedy, many having stopped adhering to the precepts of their faith.
The key message of Amos is that being financially prosperous does not translate into being spiritually prosperous.
Saint Paul wrote his letter to Timothy to provide the latter with careful instructions in relation to the Church and faith. This particular segment (1Timothy 2: 1-8) provides careful direction to Timothy associated with what to do to do to keep the faith. Specifically, Paul speaks of praying and of praying in gratitude. This, of course, is an important precept of lives of stewardship. Prayer is reverently and worshipfully talking to God. The question the good steward must ask is, “Are my prayers mainly entreating God for blessings or thanking God for blessings?” For sure prayers of thanksgiving are stewardship prayers. We might also ask ourselves, “Do I pray for myself or do I pray for others?”
The Parable of the Unjust Steward, as related in Luke 6, only appears in the Book of Luke, nowhere else. One of the misconceptions of this parable is that Jesus is in some way complimenting or praising the steward for what he has done. It is important to note that the Lord uses the word “dishonest” three times in reference to the steward. The stewardship question we all must address and answer is, quite simply, “What have you done with what God has entrusted you?” Jesus reminds us often that we need to store up treasures in Heaven, not on earth. As St. Augustine wrote, “Find out how much God has given you, and from it take what you need.; the remainder is needed by others.”