Act Prudently with an Eye to the Future
In the Gospel reading of this Sunday’s Mass, Luke 17: 1-13, Jesus teaches his disciples to be prudent and to act shrewdly in striving for eternal reward. Jesus tells a parable of the unfaithful steward whose master asks him to give an account of his stewardship. Finding himself wanting and wary of what will become of his status in the future, he offers a favorable settlement with his master’s debtors. The steward goes about his business in a dishonest but intelligent way. Jesus calls his disciple’s attention to what extent the steward went in the present to win favors of people in the future when he eventually loses his job. Jesus is not condoning his cunning way but showing the “children of light” the necessity to act smart with things of this world to gain eternal reward.
The example of the deceitful steward may not appeal to the moral sensitivity of Christians. Still, Jesus used it nevertheless to highlight the importance of wise and prudent behavior or attitude in the race to make heaven. St. Augustine, in his Sermon 359 on this parable, made the following helpful commentary that helps us make sense of it:
“Why did the Lord propose this parable? Not because that servant was a model for us to imitate. Nonetheless, the worldly-wise steward had an eye to the future. So too should the Christian have this determination to secure his eternal reward. If not, the steward puts him to shame.”
How carefully and zealously do we plan for our spiritual future? How devoted are we to finding intelligent and practical ways to obtain graces to validate us for heavenly citizenship? The Master in the parable praised the steward for his street smartness, decisiveness, shrewdness, and prudence in navigating his way out of a messy and challenging situation. Like the steward, like “the children of this world,” we should turn difficult and discouraging situations into positive ones. We should use the things of this world, including money, in the service of the poor to gain access to heaven. We are not encouraged to be dishonest like the steward, but we can imitate his undaunted attitude and tactfulness in overcoming obstacles in the path to eternal reward. We must put in the effort and never flag the zeal to work out our salvation. If we don’t act astutely in the face of dangers to our faith, then, as St. Augustine says in his sermon, the steward would have put us to shame. Are we using all our natural and supernatural resources to gain eternal rewards in heaven? Think about this.
Please note- I will preach a mission appeal for my religious order, the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), Province of Nigeria and Ghana, at Our Lady of Grace Parish, Greensboro, NC, next weekend. Please keep me in your prayers for a successful mission.
Also, please say a prayer for me as I celebrate the 22nd anniversary of my priestly ordination on September 23, the feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina.
Fr. Bernard, OP