25th SUNDAY OF YEAR C – 2019

SOME LESSONS FROM “PEOPLE OF THE WORLD”

Amos 8:4-7; 1Tim 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13

Today, we are looking at a parable that describes “a man of the world” (Pikin for this ground). It is said that the people of “the world” see some things more clearly than the people of the church.

  1. THE CORRUPT MANAGER

“There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.  So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer’ (Lk 16:1). When the dishonest manager in the parable sensed that he is about to be fired, he knew that he was in deep-hot waters. In all likelihood he would not be able to get another financial management job because he was not going to get a good reference from his former employer. He did not know how he was going to survive. He was not the kind of guy that could/would do manual labor. He did not want to go doing menial jobs. He did not want to have to beg either. As a solution, he called all those who had debts with his boss to his own advantage and reduced their bills as much as 50% discount. Those percentages that he reduced, were certainly going be his commission or his own profit. He reasoned out that after he would be fired, there would be people who would take care of him because of their gratitude. In fact, all these people would feel that they “owed” him.  When he would need a job, a hand-out, or even a place to stay, they would be inclined to help him out. The rich master was so impressed with his being wise.

  1. THE RICH MASTER’S OPINION ABOUT THE DISHONEST MANAGER

Biblical scholars have sought to explain the action of this man who has already been acknowledged as a dishonest or lousy manager. The curiosity stems from what the text says about the rich business man: “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” (Lk 19:8a) Normally, one would expect the rich man to be furious and to take negative actions against this manager who has just “ripped off” his property. Instead, “he commends him!” What explanation can one give for this seeming praise? In an endeavor to explain this seeming puzzle, we should bear in mind two things:

  1. a) Firstly, Jesus is not the one acclaiming, praising, the dishonest man for his actions. It is the rich master who does the praising. There is nothing at all in the text that indicates that Jesus approved of what the man did.

  1. b) Secondly, what the rich man said and did is the same kind of thing people do all the time. While people may disagree with a swindling that someone may have done, they may also admire the ingenuity with which the scammer did his/her job. They may admire the thought that went into a theft or the smooth ways of a crooked manager. The rich man must have said to himself, “What a clever crook!” This dishonest manager made himself AND the rich man to look good in eyes of their customers. It was a perfect scam. But it must be clear that the boss was impressed not because of his being dishonest but because of his wisdom and tact.

  1. THE MESSAGE OF THIS PARABLE

In his own words, Jesus gives us the core points of this parable: “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (Lk 16:8b). By this, Jesus is saying we can learn something from the example of this dishonest manager, not because it is good to be dishonest. Far from it! He is pointing to the fact that this man used the means that were at his disposal to reach his goal. He was resourceful. In our daily, ordinary life, we see several examples of people using their resourcefulness to achieve their goals, for instance:

  • A businessman develops a business plan to reach a targeted audience (This is essentially the task of a ‘MARKETTING AGENT’ in any business. Any business which has no plan is bound to fail.)
  • A politician works for years to make the right friends who can help them get into high office.
  • A business does product-research to discover what consumers want in a car, a phone, a computer, a designer dress or suite, or a television programme, etc. They do this so in order that they can develop or package a product in a way that will appeal to the consumer.
  • A parent employs a home-teacher for his/her child(ren) in the hope of getting his/her child(ren) to succeed better at school.

All around us people are working night and day to attain success in whatever fields they are involved. They do their homework. They work tirelessly in the background. They do all this because they know this is the way to reach the goals they have set. That is the way people of the world work! It is this enterprising spirit that is being lauded here, by Jesus.

  1. THE PERFORMANCE OF THE AVERAGE CHRISTIAN

If we compare the way people of the world work with that of the average follower of Christ, we cannot fail to notice a difference. In ordinary life, we have our financial plans; we have a plan to save for something we want; we have a practice schedule for our favourite hobby; we plan our television viewing; we map out our vacation; but we are haphazard in our spiritual growth and in our witnessing for Jesus Christ! By his statement: “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (Lk 16:8b), Jesus is saying we need to be as shrewd in the spiritual realm as the people outside the church are in other areas of life. If most businesses had a high failure rate as the Church, they would be out of business! The world, when seeking to produce material prosperity, is too often more “on”, or productive, than those who are supposedly seeking spiritual gain and prosperity. The new-found mega-churches are having a high rate of success because of their business-like strategies in recruiting their adherents, and keeping them under their wings.

Worldly wisdom, as it were, is gaining high grounds everywhere around us. The agents of darkness in the world are slowly, deliberately, and steadily dismantling the morality of Scripture.

  • They are steadily normalizing people living together outside of marriage;
  • They are making homosexuality into a “cause” worth fighting for;
  • They have made abortion a matter of personal preference;
  • They are calling greed “ambition” and make it noble.  
  • They have convinced people that saying “Jesus is the only way to Heaven” is actually a form of hate speech.
  • They have systematically and patiently sought to marginalize Christian values.

And what has the Church done in response? What are Christians in the high and low places doing to ward off this invasion? What a better and stronger Church would we have if all Christians were to be as enthusiastic and enterprising with their faith practice as they are with their ‘daily-worldly businesses’!

Today, Jesus is summoning us to a diligent, strategic, focused discipleship. He calls us to take action. He calls us to develop a plan to grow personally. Therefore, we should set aside a time to read our Bibles, journals, and to pray. We are being asked to put spiritual growth activities on our calendars. We must be intentional and deliberate about growing in our faith. We must learn the answers to common questions posed to Catholics by others; learn how to explain the message of salvation clearly. We must be informed on the issues of the day so we can voice our opinions in loving, yet strong and reasoned, ways (not near as easy as it sounds). Jesus is calling us to something even more significant: we should use what we have now to gain what is spiritual and eternal. A good financial planner must be able to convince his/her clients to give up stuff now so that they can meet their goals and needs for later. Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Lk 16:9). For instance, very often, when someone dies people want to know “what he/she has left behind” (the person’s heritage). Jesus says the question we should ask of others and of ourselves is: “What have we sent ahead?” Once we truly catch even a glimpse of Heaven, it should forever change the way we live on earth. It changes the way we view our age, our purpose and our possessions. We must learn to live NOW in light of THEN.

  1. LIVING FOR THE FUTURE

In order to live with the perspective of heaven in our daily thoughts and deeds, we must remember always that we can impact the lives of others if we will make an effort. No one should underestimate what he/she can do. Although you are just ONE PERSON, remember that the Bible is filled with stories about how God used one person to make a profound difference.

Living for the future constantly reminds us that one day all this earthly stuff will pass away. The only thing we will be able to take with us when we die are the things we gave away, and the good impact we had on other people. No matter whatever, no one will live forever. All that stuff we thought we needed will either be consumed (in medical expenses) or divided up among quarrelling relatives and acquaintances. (In fact, you are only buried putting on what the people around you decide to wear on you. If they decide to bury you naked, even without a coffin, there is nothing you can do).

In this light, therefore, Jesus wants us to understand that somehow we enrich our eternal future by living NOW in light of THEN. He is saying that we can impact our eternal enjoyment by how we live and what we do right now.  Listen to these words of St. Paul: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

To be honest with ourselves, most young people today, together with some elderly ones, would rather go to America or Europe than go to Heaven! The fever and excitement about earthly gains is alarming in our society. Many people are more excited about meeting their favourite celebrity than they are with meeting Jesus. They are more enthusiastic about a sporting event than they would be with the worship of the King of Kings! Today, Jesus is calling on us to think about Heaven; to consider what is at stake.

  1. THE LOVE OF MONEY IS AN OBSTACLE TO GAINING ETERNITY

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  (Lk 16:13-15). Jesus reminds us that we must make life-choices. He is categorical: No one can serve both God and money! To enlighten us about this radical stance of Jesus, St. Paul cautions us: “The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds” (1Tim 6:10). Here is a call for us to choose how we want to invest our lives. To invest our lives on the right choices, we must have a clear vision, the right focus and a lot of creativity, showing that we know where we are headed. This sense of direction would affect every decision we make. Inspired by worldly wisdom, we, too, must develop and follow a plan of growth to eternity, not only a plan of growth in the search and accumulation of earthly wealth.

Although the love of money may indeed be the root of all evils, a question remains unanswered: Can we really do without the money? We need money to build churches and to furnish them. We need money to spread the Good News. We need money to train various categories of workers in the vineyard of the Lord. We need this sordid thing called money to carry out many works of mercy that the church is known for. Money, therefore, cannot be bad in itself. It is THE LOVE OF IT that is bad. In other words, it is the INORDINATE LOVE of money that is bad.

The love of money can be described as inordinate when we are prepared to sacrifice higher values in the pursuit of money, values such as honesty, truth, justice, peace. The extreme of inordinate love of money is when people are prepared to sacrifice even their faith in the pursuit of money. That can happen at all levels. It can happen if someone abandons his/her faith in order to join a secret cult or society so as to make big money. It can happen if someone chooses money over his wife, her husband, or his/her children, and friends. It can happen if someone is ready to kill in the name of money. It is this kind of self-enslavement to money that Jesus warns against in today’s gospel passage. However, it is good to note that no one commits sin if he/she works hard and makes money, a lot of it, by honest means.

The next important question is: what we do with our money? We should put that money in the service of God and humanity, including our own family. If, on the contrary, we hoard our money or spend it on sheer frivolities that do not do anybody any good, we are guilty of wrongful use of our money. Remember, we must learn to live NOW in light of THEN. We must work for out eternity, using these earthly means that God has put at our disposal. We should not also forget that one day all this earthly stuff will pass away, and the only things we will be able to take with us when we die are the things we gave away, and the good impact we had on other people.

Only Remembered (By Horatius Bonar et al.)

Fading away like the stars in the morning,

Losing their light in the glorious sun.

Thus would we pass from this earth and its toiling,

Only remembered for what we have done.

Only remembered, only remembered,

Only remembered for what we have done.

Thus would we pass from this earth and its toiling,

Only remembered for what we have done.

Only the truth that in life we have spoken,

Only the seed that in life we have sown.

These shall pass onwards when we are forgotten,

Only remembered for what we have done.

Etc. etc. etc.

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