Culture of Life
Saintly Cardinal and Shrewd Steward
User's Guide to Sunday
BY Tom and April Hoopes
September 12-25, 2010 Issue | Posted 9/3/10 at 4:05 PM
Sunday, Sept. 19, is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II).
Today Pope Benedict XVI will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman at Cofton Park of Rednal in Birmingham, England. Traditionally, a bishop will perform a beatification in a place of significance to the life and ministry of the holy person. Pope John Paul II broke with that tradition to perform beatifications in Rome; Pope Benedict has largely returned to the tradition. It is said to be a sign of how highly he regards Newman that he is performing this beatification himself.
Today, look up the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light” on YouTube to play for your family. The hymn was written by Cardinal Newman.
To dive deeper into Cardinal Newman’s work, go to http://www.NewmanReader.org and click on “Guides to Works” and then, under “Sermons and Discourses,” click “Best Known.” You’ll find a selection of Cardinal Newman’s most powerful sermons from when he was an Anglican and some of his most provocative essays from when he became a Catholic.
Amos 8:4-7; Psalms 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13 or 16:10-13
Today’s Gospel reading is the parable of the “Shrewd Steward.” It is often called the parable of the “Dishonest Steward,” but that’s not quite right. Think of this Gospel this way: It ends with Christ declaring that we cannot serve both God and mammon. This theme enters famous sayings of his such as “Woe to you who are rich” and “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
The steward decides to give his master an accounting. He has nothing to lose, having already lost his job, so he decides to make himself “guilty as charged” of the accusation that he has squandered property. In preparing the accounting for his master, he cancels debts for fractions of what their master has charged for them.
First, he is exercising his power to dispose of his boss’s property. He has the freedom to set rates of return; he exercises that freedom in the peasants’ favor.
Second, he is making friends among the peasants.
He was denying that profit was the sole criterion of business dealings. In doing so he was striking at the heart of an idol, the idol of money.
He was also exercising charity and service. Yes, he knew this would bond him to the community he was entering. But he wasn’t doing it to enrich himself, but to survive.
What could the possible application of this parable be to our house?
The readings give two possible applications.
In the first reading, we hear of stewards who have quite the opposite attitude of the Shrewd Steward. They want to cheat their customers in order to enrich themselves. The Lord, it turns out, is watching something so small as how they handle their scales. “Never will I forget a thing they have done!” he says. As the Gospel puts it: We must be faithful in our business dealings in order to be trusted with spiritual riches.
In the second reading, we get a picture of Christ as “shrewd steward” to God the Father’s “master”: “There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all.” In this reading of the parable, Jesus is the steward who, confronted with our unpayable debt, exercises his authority with creation to pay for it himself.
Just like the original steward, he hopes this will allow him to be welcome in our homes. Let’s not let him down.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.
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