7 November 2008 Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
Phil 3, 3:17 - 4,1; Psalm 122; Luke 16, 1-8
The Gospel today is about one of the most intriguing parables of Jesus. It is about the dishonest steward whom the master praised for his corruption. Does Jesus encourage dishonesty? In the parable, the master discovered that his servant was squandering his property. He then expelled the servant. Faced without work, the servant knew that he wouldn’t get a similar job. He couldn’t do manual labor nor beg since these were too humiliating for him. So while he was still steward, he used the remaining time to position himself by making friends with those who owe the master. His strategy was to reduce the debt of each debtor: to one who owed 100 measures of olive oil, he made it 50, while to another who owed 100 measures of wheat, he made it 80. He hoped that these debtors would remember.
Scholars have a theory. They said that stewards were paid from the interests in loans. The steward must have charged exorbitantly, and what he actually reduced from the debtors were his extra charge. Thus the steward was seen as reforming his life and doing an act of justice.
However, Jesus ended with an appeal to the “children of the light”. This I think is the point: If the dishonest steward was creative in his dishonesty, why can’t the “children of the light” be as creative in doing good? If the wily servant was enterprising in his corruption, why can’t good people be as enterprising in their goodness?
Concretely, how many ways do we know to hurt the people we love? There are many ways to skin a cat. The thesaurus has different ways: we can ignore them, damage their reputation, bruise their egos, use words that sting, upset them, jeopardize their future, sabotage their plans, abuse and incapacitate them, etc. We have concocted many strategies to seek revenge.
But see what means do we know about being good? Often we do the tried and tested: donations, dole-outs, contributions. We are stuck to the old ways because we know that they are safe. There is no threat of failure. The good ways are not as broad as the strategies of the corrupt.
I believe we Christians in a world that is already wily and corrupt should be as wily and creative in our goodness. We might begin to be imaginative and enterprising this Christmas with our gifts and our activities. After all, the Christmas story was pure artistic genius!