As I’ve already written a piece about the Collect for the 25th Ordinary Sunday in the past, I’ll intrude on Bishop McGough’s turf and comment on the Gospel. In a parable, Our Lord sketches a wicked steward about to be fired by his master for squandering his property. He plots to defraud his master of even more money by reducing the amount owed by debtors, thus ingratiating himself with them so that when he is out on his ear he’ll have friends. The Lord seems to be praising this iniquitous creature for being a fraud and thief. But, no, that doesn’t seem right. Christ is up to something. Parables have twists.
We can learn several things from this wicked steward. First, the steward is not the master. Everything we have is from God. Paul says that “It is the first duty of every steward to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). One unavoidable day we are going to have a reckoning. We shouldn’t be overconfident about how well we are doing, especially because we are all sinners by both commission and omission, failing to do what we ought. How much of what God has offered all our lives have we squandered? We have a lot of making up to do.
Next, we learn from this parable that small problems, left untreated, lead to bigger problems. Situations deteriorate. Small sins lead to grave sins. The steward was a cheat before, but when things got worse he became an even worse cheat. Had the steward been diligent, he wouldn’t be in this mess. Be wary of your first steps and slides towards sinning by negligence or actions. Avoid near occasions of sin.
Speaking of praise for cleverness, you’ve been waiting for an explanation of why Christ praised this swindler, this crook. St Augustine teaches that Christ used an argument a minori ad maius: if the wicked steward is commended for his cleverness about worldly matters, how much more will the upright steward be commended? If earthly affairs require dexterity in planning and decision in action, how much more do heavenly matters and the spiritual life, the pursuit of heaven, require discipline and diligence?
We won’t just wind up in heaven, friends, automatically. We must beg for graces and apply elbow grease, industriously, with a keen eye, two eyes even, on our state in life. Deal with faults right away. Go to Confession.