Memorial of St. Leo the Great, pope
(Romans 15:14-21; Luke 16:1-8)
A leading social activist was fond of saying: “Money is like fertilizer; it needs to be spread around before it does much good.” In the gospel today Jesus expresses assent to this way of thinking. He uses a parable to demonstrate to his disciples that they should disperse their resources. If they wish to gain a place in eternal life, they must help the poor.
Nonetheless, this parable has furrowed Christian eyebrows through the ages. Many wonder whether Jesus is approving of fraud when he praises the steward who uses his master’s money to assure his own welfare. However, Jesus’ approval is similar to that of a theft victim standing in awe of the thief who picked his pocket without him feeling a thing. One should be impressed by the capacity of the steward to provide for his future with the few resources remaining to him. Jesus does not call his action righteous only phronimOteroi, a Greek word that is better translated as disposed (to the times) than as prudent.
The key to the passage is to understand what it means to be “children of the light.” Christ has opened our eyes so that we see the poor as our brothers and sisters providing us opportunity to demonstrate our love for him. Surely our discipleship of Christ involves more than prayer and fellowship. It requires service which we render by working for a just society.