In both readings for today’s liturgy we are introduced to two stewards. The first is St. Paul. The second is nameless but is usually referred to as the dishonest steward. A steward is someone who is charged with managing the estate or business of a wealthy person who has handed over the day to day business concerns to a subordinate. A good steward is faithful to his employer, inventive, prudent, and decisive.
In St. Paul’s case, he has been called by Jesus to be a steward of the Gospel. Jesus is no longer physically present in the community, so someone else must be designated to manage the day to day concerns of preaching, teaching, and leading the community in prayer. Though we encounter St. Paul through his letters, we are always aware of the fact that he is also a preacher, a man who breaks open the Gospel for, in this case, the Gentile community. In today’s reading he reminds us that his success is really belongs to Jesus. Christ has accomplished much through St. Paul’s stewardship.
The Gospel tells us a straight-forward story of someone who was reported to his employer for squandering his master’s property. At the end of the story, however, we read: “The master commended that dishonest steward.” The master is not commending him for squandering his master’s estate. Instead, he is commended for being decisive and inventive enough to work his way out of a hole that he has dug for himself. He has a fallback position in place should his master dismiss him from his position.
Think of all the gadgets and conveniences that have been devised to meet our needs, no matter how trivial: machines have been invented to lock our doors and turn off the lights even if we are not actually present, to start our cars before we even get in them, to alert first responders should we fall and be unable to reach or use a telephone. There is no question that we are an ingenious people. However, our world still lacks inventiveness in delivering food to the hungry, health care to the poor, and protection to our children. As stewards of the Gospel, we need to develop sensitivity to the needs of those around us and an ability to respond practically to the problems of our own time and place. St. Paul responded to the need of his day. The steward of the Gospel responded to his own personal needs. If we are truly disciples of the Lord, we will learn to be the kind of servant that is inventive in ways of evangelizing the multitude.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator