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25th Sunday in O.T.

09-23-07

Scripture Readings
First Amos 8:4-7
Second 1 Tm 2:1-8
Gospel Lk: 16:1-13

Prepared by: Fr. Lawrence J. Donohoo, O.P.

1. Subject Matter
• Amos’ castigation of his unjust contemporaries, who commit gross injustices by subordinating
persons to their quest for opulence, reminds us of the integral role that justice (already social
in the strict sense) plays in the Christian response to the Gospel.
• The First Letter to Timothy, proposing a Christian response to the political realities of the first
century, invites our continuing reflection on the relationship of Christianity to civilization and
the Church to the state.
• The parable of the unjust steward and the associated teachings that follow it revisit Lucan
themes on an adequate Christian disposition toward wealth and Christian prudence with
respect to the things of the world.

2. Exegetical Notes
• “If God is one, he must be concerned with all peoples, not just with this or that group or
nation.” Oneness is reflected in the nature of God, the relationship of God to Christ, the
relationship of humankind to God through the one mediator, the single intention of Christ’s
redemptive work for all, and the one human race whom God wishes to save. (NJBC)
• Given the complexity of the Gospel, we shall offer a summary exegesis of this passage by
mostly following Fitzmyer. In making the transition from chap. 15 (lost and found) to chap. 16
(proper use of material possessions), Luke provides a bridge from one to the other with the
parable of the prodigal son whose loss of his own possessions through irresponsible
squandering becomes the occasion for his finding his way back home and discovering his
father’s love. The first task in approaching the puzzling parable of the dishonest steward is to
separate it (16:1-8a) from three applications—or better, associated teachings—that provide
a related set of instructions on responsible Christian stewardship (16:8b-13).
• A highly decentralized economy is presupposed here that permits a steward to set interest,
which may accrue to him, over and above the principal, which accrues to the owner. In this
parable, the steward, who apparently concedes the justice of the accusation for an unnamed
prior offense, is willing to deprive himself of present gain (fifty jugs of oil and 20 bushels of
wheat) for the sake of future gain (being welcomed by those whose debt he considerably
lessened).
• “The parable is not a warning against the destructive nature of riches, or an approval of the
dishonesty of the manager (vv. 1-2), or an approval of any falsification of accounts. The
master’s approval bears on the prudence of the manager who realized how best to use what
material possessions were his to ensure his future security. The ‘dishonest manager’ thus
becomes a model for Christian disciples, not because of his dishonesty (his initial
mismanagement and squandering) [and his subsequent actions were entirely legal and
moral], but because of his prudence. Faced with a crisis, he judged prudently how to cope
with it. Christian disciples are also faced with a crisis by the kingdom/judgment preaching of
Jesus, and the prudent use of material possessions might be recommended in the light of
that crisis” (Fitzmyer).
• Only the first of the three teachings following the parable clearly apply to it. The second
teaching of Jesus may have been placed here because of the steward’s dishonesty, even
though that is not the point of the parable. The third teaching only remotely touches on the
parable.
• Another interpretative possibility: This parable may be read as a conceptual companion to
that of the tower builders and military king by comparing--and thus paradoxically contrasting--
the quantitative calculations required of worldly prudence with the radically free abandon of
Christian “prudence” that sells or divests everything for the kingdom of God.

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church


• CCC 2269 The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to
remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and
avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family
indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.
• CCC 2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic
activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce
perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.
Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man,
leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism.
• CCC 2636 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: “for all men, for kings
and all who are in high positions,” for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the
Gospel.”
• CCC 1900 The duty of obedience requires all to give due honor to authority and to treat
those who are charged to exercise it with respect, and, insofar as it is deserved, with
gratitude and good-will.
• CCC 2239 It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of
society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s
country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to
legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in
the life of the political community.
• CCC 2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it
morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.
• CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth.” He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish [Eph 1:9-11].”
• CCC 74 God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”: that
is, of Christ Jesus. Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this
revelation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
• CCC 851 God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is
found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way
of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their
desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God’s universal plan of
salvation, the Church must be missionary.
• CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the
one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.
• CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and
men.” But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every
man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”
is offered to all men.”
• CCC 486 “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in
common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of
the needy. . .and of their neighbors in want.” A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities


• Pseudo-Chrysostom: “We are placed in this life not as lords in our own house, but as guests
and strangers, led to where we would not go and at a time we would not think of. He who is
now rich suddenly becomes a better. Whoever you are, then, know yourself to be a
dispenser of the things of others, and that privileges granted you are for a brief and passing
use.”
• St. Ambrose: “From this we learn that we are not ourselves the masters, but rather the
stewards of the property of others.”
• Venerable Bede: “Whosoever relieves the wants of a poor man, either by supplying half or a
fifth part, will be blessed with the reward of his mercy.”
• St. Augustine: “The steward whom his Lord cast out of his stewardship is nevertheless
commended because he provided himself against the future.”
• Theophilus of Alexandria: “[W]e [should] prudently order our own things, and busily set
ourselves to work, in order that when we depart we may have a refuge for our life. But when
we ought to direct the things of God, we take no forethought for what shall be our lot
hereafter.”
• St. Augustine: “For who are they that shall have everlasting habitations but the saints of
God? And who are they that are to be received by them into everlasting habitations but they
who administer to their want, and whatever they have need of, they gladly supply? They are
those little ones of Christ who have forsaken all that belonged to them and followed. And
whatever they had, they have given to the poor in order that they might serve God without
earthly shackles.”
• St. Cyril of Alexandria: “A man is faithful in a little when he imparts aid to those who are
bowed down with sorrow. If then we have been unfaithful in a little thing, how shall we then
obtain the true riches, that is, the fruitful gift of divine grace that impresses the image of God
on the human soul?”

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars


• Ambrose relates that when St. Lawrence was asked for the treasures of the Church, in place
of alms he brought forward the poor, among whom he had divided the treasures.
• Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen (1878-1946), German count, Bishop of Münster,
and later cardinal, was an outspoken opponent of the Nazis. He issued strong, public
denunciations of the Third Reich’s euthanasia programs and persecution of the Church, and
he published sermons that condemned the deportations of the Jews.
• Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64), astronomer, philosopher, mathematician, jurist, and cardinal of
the Church, willed his considerable inheritance to a home for the aged that he founded in his
home town of Kues and that continues to labor in this ministry to the present day.
• Building on his experience of ministry to the prisoners working on the French galleys, St.
Vincent de Paul (1580-1660) expressly founded the Daughters of Charity to assist the poor.
He further organized the Ladies of Charity, who nursed the sick, visited the prisons, and
cared for foundlings. Through an anonymous benefactor St. Vincent founded the Hospice of
the Name of Jesus that eventually became a hospital for the terminally ill. Most impressively,
he sheltered 40,000 indigent people in a large home where they were given work.

6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

• “We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not,
therefore , just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can
help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following one’s
inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder
path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who ‘risks the fire,’
who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on
real responsibility, will find fulfillment.”
• It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim
of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity,
his share of the community's goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching
on the State and by the Church's social doctrine.

• Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere
mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice,
which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of
how justice can be achieved here and now. But this presupposes an even more radical
question: what is justice? The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be
exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely
free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and
special interests.
• Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is
an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot
be the Church's immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human
responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and
through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the
requirements of justice and achieving them politically.
• The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most
just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she
cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part
through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which
justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be
the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to
bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something
which concerns the Church deeply.

7. Other Considerations

• What does it concretely mean to be prudent in pursuit of the kingdom of God just as worldly
people are in pursuit of the earthly? Perhaps to be willing to suffer short-term loss for long-
term gain, both with respect to material and spiritual issues, and to be a realist who at once
recognizes the presence of sin, the power of the Gospel, the limitations of nature, and the
boundlessness of grace.
• The Christian, like the worldly prudent individual, needs a plan and a strategy ultimately
shaped by the Gospel that encompasses all other plans and strategies. The relation between
the perspective of the kingdom of God and that of worldly concerns is that of whole to part.
Just as the moneymaker orients all of his actions to the end of money, so must we prudently
gather all of our other desires, interests, and activities into a coherent life that is permeated
by the Gospel vision individually applied to our situation.
• Life is mostly comprised of the little things. If we are to become trustworthy in great things,
our ordinary and everyday life must reflect a trustworthy and consistent application of the
basic virtues of life, especially justice.

Recommended Resources

Benedict XVI. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Edited by Peter John Cameron.
Yonkers: Magnificat, 2006.
Benedict XVI. Deus Caritas Est , God is Love.

Raymond A. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical
Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1990.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV. The Anchor Bible, vol. 28. Garden
City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels. Works of the Fathers.
Vol. 3, Pt. 2. London, 1843.