Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
St. John Paul II Seminary
November 6, 2020
At some point in my life, I began meeting regularly with auditors, and along the way, learned about GAAP accounting – GAAP being an acronym for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, a kind of gold-standard in the accounting industry.
But you don’t have to be an accountant to see that the unjust steward in today’s Gospel wasn’t following GAAP accounting. Quite the contrary, he was engaging in fraudulent behavior. As you recall, the steward had fallen out of favor with his boss. The steward was about to be fired and was facing financial ruin. He dreaded the loss of a comfortable lifestyle to which he had become accustomed.
His solution was to ingratiate himself with his master’s debtors. So he invited them into his office and handed each of them their invoices and instructed them to reduce the amount of money they owed his boss. That way, he figured, when he was fired these debtors would be so grateful that they would bring him into their homes and sustain his expensive tastes.
As many times as we have read this parable, we may wonder why the employer praised the steward for his cleverness. We may also wonder why Jesus seems to confirm the employer’s untoward praise, instead of condemning the unjust steward’s behavior outright.
But Jesus is not lauding the steward’s chicanery. Rather, he is teaching us a key truth about the spiritual life, and it is this. If the children of this world are shrewd in amassing earthly goods for their comfort, shouldn’t we, as Lord’s disciples, be equally shrewd in using the goods of this earth so as to further our eternal happiness and surely not to impede or endanger it? We might say that the Lord is challenging us to exercise “a holy guile” in the use of material things, lest these good things corrupt us, absorb our time and our interest, and soon enough become our masters.
From a different angle, the lesson of this parable might be this: the children of this world will do anything and everything for fame and fortune. Shouldn’t we be ready to do anything and everything we can—with God’s help – to amass, not fleeting earthly wealth, but treasure in heaven? Do we expend as much effort, forethought, and discernment in our spiritual growth as, let us say, a successful day trader expends in making money on Wall Street?
No matter how you look at it, the spiritually astute person knows how to evaluate every decision in light of eternity: what to eat and drink (or not), what to watch on-line (or not), how to spend one’s time, where to go and with whom, what to own and not to own. The spiritually astute person will not distain this world and its blessings, fleeting and transitory though they be, but instead will use them well and wisely, in view of eternal happiness.
Where Your Heart Is . . .
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be!” (6:21) On this First Friday, when our thoughts and prayers turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us ask for the grace, once and for all, to choose honesty over dishonesty, fidelity over infidelity, self-sacrificing love over selfishness. Then our hearts will be set on Jesus, the font of mercy and charity. They we will experience that peace the world cannot give.