Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the Year
We are all too familiar in Ireland in recent months with broken trust where money is concerned, especially other people’s money! The parable of the unjust steward in today’s gospel, however, is probably dealing with a farm manager in the Palestinian peasant economy of Jesus’ time, rather than a banker. The parable follows on from the three “lost” parables last week, spoken by Jesus in answer to the complaint of the Pharisees and the scribes that he was welcoming and eating with tax collectors and sinners. The disciples are addressed in this parable, maybe because they had a problem also about God seeming to let sinners off scot free. Jesus, probably tongue in cheek, tells the story of the unjust steward who takes advantage of his master’s generous nature to cook the books and win friends for himself among the oppressed peasantry of the time.
The whole point of the parable would seem to be that the steward, knowing that he was in a critical situation, showed astuteness and smartness in his dealings. Tax collectors and sinners had seen their own critical situation in relation to salvation, unlike the “good” Pharisees and scribes, and had shown great astuteness and cleverness in accepting the values of the Kingdom as proclaimed to them by Jesus. They accept the image of a merciful God which he has portrayed.
Because the parable was not always understood as being about grace and mercy rather than money matters, some of Jesus’ other sayings about money were added in Luke’s gospel; these make clear that serving God takes priority in life and if money gets in the way of that, it has to be relinquished. On the other hand, using the money one has to serve the poor gains for oneself friends with God.
The understanding of God as a God of mercy, as today’s and last week’s parables make clear, was a constant in the life of St. Catherine of Siena: “She had a profound perception of the suffering of her world, particularly of the suffering caused by sin, and of the deep need there was for God’s mercy. Often in her prayer, as she experienced divine mercy towards her, she would hear God saying: ‘I want to show mercy to the world and I want to do so through you and my other servants.’” (Mary O’Driscoll,O.P., Catherine of Siena, Editions Du Signe, p. 31).