The Parable of the Unjust Steward
Father Hanly’s beautiful homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, clearly explains the Parable of the Unjust Steward.
Readings for Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
- First Reading: Amos 8:4-7
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
- Second Reading: First Timothy 2:1-8
- Gospel: Luke 16:1-13 or 16:10-13
The name of this parable is “The Parable of the Unjust Steward.”
It begins with a rich man who had a steward in charge of managing his estates but who also was reported to him for squandering the rich man’s property.
The rich man is angry and tells his steward to prepare a full account of his stewardship, saying that he can no longer serve as his steward.
What is “the unjust steward” to do? “To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. What will become of me?” he asks.
Well, he was not only dishonest but also a clever little fellow in a sneaky sort of way.
While his master was going to discharge him, yet he was still in charge of the financial affairs of his master’s estate, so he quickly calls all his master’s debtors, those who had invested all their own money in their master’s estate, and the steward told them to sit down and rewrite their promissory notes, giving them all huge reductions in what they owed to the rich man.
And, of course, he does this because he knows that when he is laid off from his job as head steward, all these grateful debtors will be indebted to him, and they’re going to welcome him with open arms into their homes, where he will be well taken care of.
But what of the master of the house?
He knows what’s going on and instead of throwing the unjust steward into jail, he says to himself, “This steward is very clever. He has me in a corner. If I have him arrested and put in jail, how can I demand my money back when my steward has already forgiven the debtors much of all their debts?”
So what does his master do?
He gives in. He praises the steward publicly for acting so prudently, not asking for any money back from the debtors, even though he himself must go into debt to make ends meet.
And so the story goes, but it does not end there.
A parable, as everyone knows, is open ended, and a parable is a story with many layers of meaning.
Jesus ends his story by giving the rich man who is no longer rich a compliment by saying, “The children of this world are more adept and prudent when dealing with their own kind than are the children of light” (when they are dealing with God).
And what of Jesus? How does he deal with the children of this world?
He sits down at table to eat with them, be they beggars as well as kings.
Why not? Are we not all sinners, and all God’s children!
Jesus lives with us because he loves us and he needs our love.
As the poet says, “When Jesus comes into this world, what we see in the child is the ‘weakness of God, the vulnerability of God Himself.’”
Jesus comes needing and wanting to be listened to, to be loved by us and to share his love with all others.
This takes him out of our usual preoccupations with food and money, but it does not take him out of his life with us.
We worry and argue about many things: about who is right and who is wrong, who is rich and who is poor, who is good, who is bad.
Jesus, however, who is “the vulnerable God’s love made flesh,” embraces what all human beings must embrace from the start.
Nobody is punished by God. There’s no need to. It is we who punish ourselves by our selfishness and refusal to reach out to embrace our brothers and sisters in need.
The wonderful revelation of God to mankind is that God weeps and we do not listen, yet still the tears of God continue to flow and they wash us clean.
What frightens us?
Love, His love, true love.
And we are too often too frightened to take God’s love into our heart.
And yet God continues to call us each day to walk with Him, to serve whom He serves and love whom He loves.
And there’s only one condition: that you must go out into your little world to embrace it and save it, forgive it and in turn be forgiven by it.
Then you will come finally at last to understand what the world of Jesus is all centered about.
Three things: Jesus and his love for you and for me.