Sunday’s Scripture Readings focus on the use of wealth and the Gospel in particular can be very confusing. It seems like Jesus is praising the dishonest steward for being dishonest!
There is one sentence in Sunday’s Parable of the Dishonest Steward that has always flummoxed me. It’s verse 9: “Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Huh?!? Make friends with dishonest wealth in order to get to heaven? Boy, that turns everything upside down. It doesn’t seem to square at all with justice and charity. I can’t help but wonder what Pope Francis would say about that verse, given his great emphasis on caring for the poor.
But on the other hand, maybe there is method in Jesus’ madness.
I’ve often said our personal sinfulness is something to be thankful for. That sounds as strange as what Jesus said above, but isn’t it true that an honest acknowledgment of our sinfulness drives us right into the arms of God, hoping for God’s mercy and help? I keep doing the same old stuff over and over and over again, and when I was younger I really despaired of ever being forgiven. After all, I was a “Baltimore Catechism” kid and it was really drilled into us that part of a good confession was firmly resolving not to commit the same sins again. Well – hah–you know how that works, don’t you?
True repentance means running to God for help because I realize I can’t do it alone. Maybe the reason we keep sinning the same old sins is because God knows it keeps us coming back to God. This could be the point that Jesus was trying to make. Sure, he says, make friends with wealth. Go ahead and make money a deity in your life. After all, it is seen as a valid way of life by our culture. If you think that’s how you will find peace and meaning in your life, go for it. Like my spiritual director said, “If you’re going to be bad, be good at it!”
And then, when you realize how short-lived and disappointing that way of life is, then you can turn to the way of Jesus and find true life.
With love and prayer …
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.