1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13 or 16:10-13
"The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones."
It seems to me that everyone has those moments of betrayal when growing up. I once felt betrayed by a classmate who decided not to work with me in a project. Not only did I lose trust that one person, I also began to wonder if other people felt the same way about me. That experience did stir up within me the desire to be trustworthy in all things, but it also left me wondering if maybe others did not think of me as trustworthy. To live a life worthy of trust is not an easy in today’s world. Neither is it easy to learn to trust others, especially when those others have betrayed our trust.
There is no doubt that the readings for today’s Mass challenge us to be trustworthy in all of our dealings with others: God, our family and our neighbors, which includes every living person on earth. If we are not worthy of trust, then we will never be able to enter into loving relationships with anyone else. And others will not be able to enter into lifelong loving relationships with us. Trust is the basis for our faith.
One of the easiest ways to lose other people’s trust is to cheat them of what is their due. Many of us have come across people who are very good at cheating others of what rightly belongs to them. And the poor are easy targets. Over the years, we have had scandals involving Saving and Loans institutions, Banks, Fortune Five hundred companies, Wall Street Firms that have robbed billions and billions of dollars from ordinary people, only to see very few wrongdoers go to jail. The Prophet Hosea could have very well taken his script from Congregational records or court cases.
Some of us may be surprised by Jesus’ example of what some texts call the "unjust steward." That’s because we didn’t live during Jesus’ time. Administrators, tax collectors, stewards and managers would set their own price for the goods they sold on behalf of their bosses. These people would charge much more than what the product was worth. They would keep as much of the profit as they could, and then give the rest to the owners. Apparently, his boss caught him charging too much money. What the unjust steward did was to reduce his profit considerably so that the buyers could come back to buy from his owners. Like Zacchaeus, the tax collector, it seems that this dishonest steward was beginning to make restitution. I think this may be why Jesus praised him.
Jesus’ words about serving God or serving mammon leaves us all re-examining our lives and our priorities. In our desire to become more secure, to gain more wealth or to become very rich, we can trample on the poor, the less fortunate and the powerless of our society. We sometimes do this by actually cheating them when we do not pay our taxes, look for loop holes that favor us or provide a very poor service. Other times, we harden our hearts to the plights of the people who have less than we do or who have suffered great tragedies for no fault of their own. This is when we know that we have allowed our love for money to be dishonest with our brothers and sisters in need. We have, in that very moment ceased to be trustworthy. It is when we remember that no disciple can serve two masters that we can be transformed into trustworthy people!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.