Friday, November 06, 2009

Gospel for Saturday, 31st Week in Ordinary Time

From: Luke 16:9-15

The Unjust Steward (Continuation)
(Jesus said to His disciples,) [9] "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations.

[10] "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. [11] If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? [12] And if you had not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? [13] No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

[14] The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at Him. [15] But He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God."

9-11. "Unrighteous mammon" means temporal good which have been obtained in some unjust, unrighteous way. However, God is very merciful: even this unjust wealth can enable a person to practice virtue by making restitution, by paying for the damage done and then by striving to help his neighbor by giving alms, by creating work opportunities, etc. This was the case with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, who undertook to restore fourfold anything he had unjustly taken, and also to give half his wealth to the poor. On hearing that, our Lord specifically declared that salvation had that day come to that house (cf. Luke 19:1-10).

Our Lord speaks out about faithfulness in very little things, referring to riches--which really are insignificant compared with spiritual wealth. If a person is faithful and generous and is detached in the use he makes of these temporal riches, he will, at the end of his life, receive the rewards of eternal life, which is the greatest treasure of all, and a permanent one. Besides, by its very nature human life is a fabric of little things: anyone who fails to give them their importance will never be able to achieve great things. "Everything in which we poor men have a part--even holiness--is a fabric of small trifles which, depending upon one's intention, can form a magnificent tapestry of heroism or of degradation, of virtues or of sins.

"The epic legends always relate extraordinary adventures, but never fail to mix them with homely details about the hero. May you always attach great importance to the little things. This is the way!" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 826).

The parable of the unjust steward is a symbol of man's life. Everything we have is a gift from God, and we are His stewards or managers, who sooner or later will have to render an account to Him.

12. "That which is another's" refers to temporal things, which are essentially impermanent. "That which is your own" refers to goods of the spirit, values which endure, which are things we really do possess because they will go with us into eternal life. In other words: how can we be given Heaven if we have proved unfaithful, irresponsible, during our life on earth?

13-14. In the culture of that time "service" involved such commitment to one's master that a servant could not take on any other work or serve any other master.

Our service to God, our sanctification, requires us to direct all our actions towards Him. A Christian does not divide up his time, allocating some of it to God and some of it to worldly affairs: everything he does should become a type of service to God and neighbor--by doing things with upright motivation, and being just and charitable.

The Pharisees jeered at what Jesus was saying, in order to justify their own attachment to material things; sometimes people make fun of total commitment to God and detachment from material things because they themselves are not ready to practice virtue; they cannot even imagine other people really having this generosity: they think they must have ulterior motives. See also the note on Matthew 6:24.

[The note on Matthew 6:24 states:
24. Man's ultimate goal is God; to attain this goal he should commit himself entirely. But in fact some people do not have God as their ultimate goal, and instead choose wealth of some kind--in which case wealth becomes their god. Man cannot have two absolute and contrary goals.]

15. "Abomination": the original Greek work means worship of idols, and, by derivation, the horror this provoked in a true worshipper of God. So the __expression conveys God's disgust with the attitude of the Pharisees who, by wanting to be exalted, are putting themselves, like idols, in the place of God.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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