“The poor are privileged masters of our knowledge of God; their fragility and their simplicity expose our selfishness, our false certainties, our claims of self-sufficiency and guide us to the experience of the closeness and tenderness of God, to receive his love in our life, his mercy of Father who takes care of us, all of us, with discretion and patient trust.” (Pope Francis)
It is an intriguing parable that our Lord gives us this Sunday (Lk. 16:1-13). This dishonest steward is clearly not a child of the Kingdom in his actions but rather a “child of this world” as our Lord indicates. Our Lord is not holding him up as a role model but rather highlighting his shrewdness as a way of prodding us to reflect on our own salvation. Are we just as shrewd, are we just as determined about living our discipleship, living in hopes of the Kingdom of God as this steward is about securing a place to land after his fast approaching termination of employment? The steward knew what was coming so he devoted all of capabilities and all of his faculties to make sure he did not end up either digging ditches or begging!
Let’s be honest. How often do we just coast along when it comes to the matters of faith? It’s enough to go to Church once a week. It’s enough to say a prayer every now and then. It’s enough to give a little something to charity. It’s enough to be a nice person. “It’s enough…” – the professed creed of a minimal approach to faith! “I believe” gives way to “It’s enough…” – a common profession in our day. Christ will not settle for “It’s enough…” Christ wants belief because only in belief is life and the Kingdom found! Christ wants us to have “true wealth”! Not necessarily silver and gold and the good things that this world affords but the true wealth that endures – relationship with God himself and the joy and salvation which can only come from that!
How might we gain this “true wealth”? Where might we find it? The parable points the way. The steward went to the debtors and dealt generously with them. He had them cut the amount that they owed the master. Debtors are those “in debt”. They owe. They stand in need. Generosity toward “debtors” is generosity toward the poor and the needy. They are the ones who cannot pay and the ones who stand in need. Generosity toward debtors saves our lives and our future – individually and collectively.
But someone might say, “It was the master’s wealth to begin with! The steward never had a claim on it. How can we give generously of that which we do not ourselves own?” What one thing do we have that has not been given us by God? Did we give ourselves life? Did we give ourselves creation, air to breathe, water to drink? Did we give ourselves the intelligence to acquire knowledge and gain skill? Did we give ourselves the lives of our loved ones and our friends that we hold dear? Can we determine even the length of our own days? All is gift! We never had nor ever will have an honest claim on it! We are all debtors and God’s gratuitousness exceeds all of our limits! We can give of the master’s wealth because God is generous.
“The poor are privileged masters of our knowledge of God; their fragility and their simplicity expose our selfishness, our false certainties, our claims of self-sufficiency and guide us to the experience of the closeness and tenderness of God, to receive his love in our life, his mercy of Father who takes care of us, all of us, with discretion and patient trust.”
Being a Christian is not about being a hero. Christ was not a superhero nor were the original apostles and disciples nor any of the saints. God has no need for superheroes. Being a Christian means learning the honest truth that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive. What does this mean? It means that when we honestly encounter the poor we are “blessed” by coming face-to-face with the truth of who we are and who God is. We are blessed when the illusion of our selfishness, false certainties and self-sufficiency is held up to the light of reality.
“The poor are the privileged masters of our knowledge of God…”