Friday, November 6, 2020

 Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

 (Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 16:1-8)

 Once an ecumenical group of pastors was discussing a gospel passage much like the one we read today.  The ministers were baffled at the obvious implication that people should help others out of self-interest.  Is love really the motivator, the ministers seemed to ask themselves, if one benefits from the action?

 The ministers were responding from the perspective of the influential Lutheran theologian, Anders Nygren.  Intolerant of self-love, Nygren drove a wedge between real love, which he termed agape or divine love, and acquisitive love, which Greek philosophers called eros.  According to Nygren, the latter has nothing to do with the former.  He would label any action falling short of selflessness as unworthy of Christian love.

But Nygren’s thesis does not adequately account for human motivation.  We are people with real needs.  Beyond physical necessities we need support and assurance which come to us when we go out to others.  It is not necessarily selfish to satisfy these needs.  What differentiates love from exploitation is concern for the good of everyone.  Jesus keeps this distinction in mind in today’s gospel parable. The crafty steward does not only act on his own behalf; he also reduces the burden of the indebted. Similarly, God takes notice and helps us when we help the poor.