Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Learn from the Shrewdness of the World - Serve the One True God

First Reading (Amos 8: 4-7): The Prophet Amos condemned those
who oppressed the poor
Second Reading (1 Tim 2: 1-7): God wants all people to be saved
Gospel (Lk 16: 1-13): The unjust steward
Chinese Classics:
-“If there is still a remnant from Ming in this world, Honor will not die with the fall of the country.” (1)

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light...’Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much... No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Lk 16: 8-13 summarized)

The parable that Jesus tells us today is well worth deep and sincere reflection on the part of all of us who have faith and believe in God and are seeking a spiritual life. Otherwise we will really find it difficult to understand the parable's deeper meaning.

We think of ourselves as people who believe in God and a Supreme Being and who try to pursue a spiritual and supernatural life. But in actuality, to what extent does our faith influence our lives?

The 'children of this age' - 'worldly' people- will at times demonstrate incredible determination and invest an enormous amount of time and effort, even sacrifice, for the sake of future prospects, marriage, career, family. But there do not seem to be many 'children of light' who can put forth the same measure of energy, sacrifice or commitment for faith or for God.

If we compare priests with Christian ministers, we may find that there are a greater number of ministers with secular college degrees. One reason may be that it is very important for their future prospects, even for their own livelihood and that of their wives and children. The ministers need such training and academic qualifications to win the trust of their congregations, even to seeking a position in a parish. The duration of time in one place and the size of their salaries also depends in part on that.

Actually, the 'children of this age' face a kind of pressure, or what is sometimes termed a 'felt need.' What about the 'children of light'? Our needs are only spiritual, psychological, rational. They are not so tangible. We don't have the same 'felt need' for faith, not like when we are thirsty and feel we absolutely must have water. We seldom will feel an actual physical pain for a spiritual deficiency. There are not many people who feel a real sense of loss for one less Mass or prayer or one less act of charity.

What the unjust steward in the parable had to face immediately was his dismissal, a matter of his livelihood. So he needed to exhaust every possibility, even to using base means, to solve the imminent calamity

How would we 'children of light,' 'people of faith,' react? Some of us are rather indifferent about matters relating to God, eternity, spiritual life, ideals, etc. These things seem very remote from us. We perhaps have not given them much attention or have not studied extensively about our beliefs. Or we have not given much time or effort to Scripture reading, prayer, the sacraments. So we really are not able to experience our God or verify our faith.

Some newly baptized people are very fervent at first but after a short time become lax. This occurs also among newly ordained priests and newly professed Sisters. It indicates clearly that we have not really grasped what we mean by faith or we have not actually had any very close contact with God. We feel no pressing need for spiritual things nor are we interested enough to pursue this any further.

Jesus does not want us to imitate the 'shrewd manager' in his unfairness and cunning, but rather learn from the way he solved his problem, from his cleverness and creativity, and from the all-consuming energy with which he planned for his future.

In fact Jesus thinks that we should serve the Master with our whole heart and will. We should not be half-hearted in our service, but perform our duties with loyalty and attentiveness, put God at the center of our lives and try our utmost to think and act fully in accordance with God's will.

On a practical level Jesus proposes a way that is workable, that is, to begin with small things. He says, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.

Many people in the world spend a whole lifetime of energy, time and skill to 'serve' money. Would it not be wonderful if we would serve God with even half the amount of zeal as the 'children of the world'! What Jesus really asks is that we serve the Lord “with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.” How can we go only halfway?

By the end of the Ming Dynasty Gu Yan Wu had been a lifelong patriot. He remained loyal to the empire even after the Dynasty's fall. He continued to encourage himself with these words, “If there is still a remnant from Ming in this world, Honour will not die with the fall of one dynasty.”(1) Even though the Ming Dynasty was destroyed, he remained 'the remnant of Ming,' even to being the last of the patriots. He would not compromise his honor. Even though his country was destroyed, he would not let his loyalty die.

Can we worship and serve God with such steadfast loyalty? Can our trust and loyalty to God be as strong as that of Gu Yan Wu? Though he endured the suffering and pain of loss of country and family, he never allowed his loyalty to decline, diminish or wither away.