FRIDAY HOMILY (St. Leo the Great): 31ST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
By: Deacon Bill Frere
Gospel – Luke 16:1-8
Spice Market, Jerusalem
My first job after college was working retail as the manager of the boys department at a local store. It was not much fun. The salary is very minimal. I essentially worked on commission; the more items sold in the department, the more money I made. Not unlike working at a restaurant for tips! I found out very quickly that I was not cut out for the job of convincing people they needed to buy clothes, lots of clothes!
That is the situation we find the steward in today’s Gospel reading. He is not a slave; he works on commission. Whatever the master earns, the steward gets a percentage. The steward, at the time of Jesus, is essentially a business manager; he takes care of all the finances and business transactions, making sure that the master earns a profit. But the steward has to earn a living too; so with any loan, he adds in fees or extra interest to make his ‘commission’.
I have to admit this parable has always confused me. It seems as if a dishonest steward ends up being congratulated and rewarded for forgiving debts to his master. Why should the master be happy to now be owed less measures of olive oil or wheat? Doesn’t he come out of this ‘forgiveness’ with less than he started? Isn’t that what’s going on here? Hmm, well maybe not!
So now the master has learned that the steward has been ‘cooking the books”. He has been stealing from the master’s property and wealth, what he already owns. And the master plans to fire him. The steward then goes off and forgives (lessens) the debt that others owe his master. What he is actually forgiving is his own commission and fees. The master loses nothing; the steward loses all his fees for the loans. No payback! No interest!
Granted, he is not doing this for the best of reasons – his own job, his own self-interest. But he does realize what he has done and how he has hurt his relationship with his master. And he deliberately chooses to punish himself for his mis-deeds. He goes to great lengths to give up his own profit. What has the master lost? Nothing! What has he gained? A faithful servant!
We all know how to finagle a good deal, how to get the best price for something we feel we really need! We scour the web for coupons, for the vendor with the cheapest price. Anything to save a few dollars! That’s a lot of time and energy!
We are all stewards; we are stewards of the gifts and talents that the Master has bestowed on us. The steward has taken those gifts for granted and used them for his own selfish gain. We are all called to work with the Master in bringing the Kingdom to fruition. We are called to be heavily invested in the work and not be focused on our own wants and needs. How much more time and energy then should we exert in serving our Master? Should we not be giving Our Father our greatest energy, our best effort, the most of our time, in the hope that, when we finally come before Him for an accounting of our labors, we do so with humility and grace!
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