September 17, 2016
“And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.” (Lk 16:8)
The meaning of this parable is not completely clear – parables, after all, are meant to provoke. Jesus is not ashamed to use such material to make his point, but he takes it to another level. Seeking entrance to earthly homes becomes entrance into eternal ones. Dishonest wealth, though destined to disappear, may be made use of for good. Dishonest mammon can lead to true mammon.
I once heard that Saint Teresa of Calcutta accepted donations to her mission from disreputable sources. Apparently, her eyes were fixed on the needs of the sick and aged poor, rather than on auditing her donors. Honest wealth, dishonest wealth…it all served to feed, clothe and heal the needy.
“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt 10:16)
The point about detachment from wealth is frequently made in Luke's Gospel. Here, surprisingly, Jesus chooses to use the example of a dishonest (and apparently self-interested) person to illustrate the shift from seeking immediate gain to preparing for the future. Accepting delayed gratification is a matter of human prudence, but is also essential for religious renunciation.
Perhaps this is like when Pope Benedict XVI commended the male prostitute who knows he is HIV positive and chooses to use a condom for the protection of others. Even the smallest turn toward goodness is worthy of praise.
Use everything, but recognize where the true value lies.
Use everything. Praise everything that is good, no matter where it is found.
Seek the kingdom, present even now in subtle and hidden ways, for those who have eyes to see … “sapphires in the mud.” (T.S. Eliot).
Jesus speaks of his Father as a “rich man.” No metaphor is inherently unsuitable to speak of God, so it seems. God is not ashamed to be known by analogy, or to be apprehended in persons and events of a humble or even totally unsuitable nature. God delights to be found present in all things.