In the Parable of the Dishonest Steward, the steward who is on the block to lose his job for squandering his lord’s property comes up with a plan to settle his lord’s accounts. He lessened the amount owed with the intent to gain some support from those who had debts to pay to his master. Most likely he was giving up his own profits in settling these debts, much like a real estate agent or car salesman today would forego their commission to make a sale. He loses in the short term but hoped to gain some understanding in the long term with those debtors who were receiving a favorable payment on their debts.
The prudence or cleverness of the steward is commended by the lord because the dishonest steward had utilized foresight, which was a better quality to develop than the original squandering that landed him in this predicament in the first place.
Jesus commenting on this parable also acknowledged those who were clever in worldly ways, thinking and acting with prudence – being shrewd and having the foresight to navigate potential conflicts to acquire the desired goal is admirable. Jesus then shared the insight that we as “children of the light” ought to act with prudence as well. The difference being, the application is not for personal gain but applying cleverness in evangelization. As we spread the Gospel, we do so, not in a one size fits all approach, but being present and adjusting to each person in their uniqueness.
Many in the Church have gone before us aware of the needs of those people in their midst and coming up with creative ways to minister to them. Often they too, utilized the model of the steward’s prudence in today’s Gospel, giving up their opportunity for immediate gain to provide for the needs of others.
St. Francis of Assisi, lived his youth, not as a faithful steward, but as a pampered troubadour, part of the social elite. Then as his transformation began to take hold, he began to sell off his father’s cloth and gave it to the poor. He would ultimately renounce his family name as well as all material possessions, and give all to follow Jesus.
St. Mother Teresa, left her home at eighteen, never to see her family again to become a missionary in India with the Loretto Sisters. She became a school teacher in Calcutta, by no means squandering what the Lord gave her, but she too was called to go deeper. She left the convent to serve the poorest of the poor in the streets, those in the most deplorable of conditions.
Jesus has a unique call for each of us. We too are called to be faithful stewards, to be holy, and to be saints. What needs do we see in our midst? In what ways can we be more prudent? Each of us is invited into a deeper embrace of the Gospel. “We experience faith and encounter God in our own particular time in history, and faith lights up our journey through time. Faith must be passed on in every age” (Pope Francis, 20). Jesus, please deepen our faith and help us to put it into practice in the unique way you call us to.
Photo: Statue of St. Francis in our rosary garden at St Peter Catholic Church in Jupiter, FL.
Walking With Pope Francis: Thirty Days with the Encyclical The Light of Faith. New London, CT., Twenty Third Publications, 2013.