Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

George F. Riley, O.S.A.
St. Thomas Monastery
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
1 Tim 2:1-8
Lk 16:1-13

Today’s gospel contains, perhaps, the strangest story that Jesus ever told. It is the story of a man who is about to be dismissed from his place of employment. The reason for his dismissal is irresponsibility, and possibly outright embezzlement.

But before the man’s dismissal becomes generally known, he begins collecting his master’s receivable accounts – at a reduced rate. He does this is to secure his own future. He wants the debtors to be obligated to help him when he loses his job. The parable ends with the employer commending his servant’s resourcefulness.

This is indeed strange and somewhat difficult to understand. Surely Jesus Christ is not holding up a bad man as a good example, and saying to his disciples: “You need to be more like that”? On the contrary, Christ is not commending the man’s dishonesty. Christ is commenting on the fact that children of the world are wiser than the children of the light.

And what does all this mean? It simply means this: that Christ is asking us not to imitate the man’s dishonesty, but to imitate the man’s wisdom, so that we can become wiser in our pursuit of spiritual goals. Christ is asking us to be as shrewd and imaginative in the pursuit of our spiritual goals as businessmen are in the running of their shops and corporations.

What can this dishonest man in today’s gospel teach us? One thing is very clear: consistency. The man in the story wanted something above everything else, and that was financial security. And his actions were consistent with his purpose. I’m sure that no one of us in this church today is against financial security. But we put it in its proper place. Greater than the desire for financial security should be our desire to become better Christian men and women. We want to imitate Christ as best we can, and Christ gives us today’s gospel in order to teach us that consistency is absolutely necessary in shaping true discipleship.

We must realize that if we want to become better Christian men and women, we have to ask ourselves what are we doing to pursue that goal. How do we accomplish what we want to be?

As Christian men and women, each of us wants to be strong in character. We want a character that is uncompromising. We want hearts that are caring and compassionate, and minds that are open and alert and attuned to the things of God. We are here because we want to become Christian in the most genuine sense of the word. At least that’s what we say.

But what actions do we employ in order to gain that goal? How deeply do we get involved in what the Sacraments offer us? How deeply do we open ourselves to the grace of God, the gracious power that can help us attain our spiritual goal of likeness to Christ? Are we people who wish for one thing, and work towards another? How many of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, must admit that we spend entirely too much attention and energy in the pursuit of selfish concerns – so much that one might never suspect that our goal in life is to be like, and to live like, Jesus Christ Himself.

If we want to arrive at another city, we know that we have to walk, or drive, or fly, or use some other means of transportation. And the same is true in the Christian life. If we wish to be genuinely Christian, if we want to arrive at the living of Christ’s life, then our actions must be consistent with our purpose. We must live in the way that builds that kind of character. And so Christ tells us, “To be like me is hard work, practice, and more hard work. Do not imitate the servant’s dishonesty, but learn a lesson from his consistency.”

Christ then sums it all up by saying: “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or be attentive to the one and despise the other.” As followers of Christ we have a wonderful creed. We profess a marvelous faith. What we need to do is line up our lives with what we say we believe.