In this reading for the 17th/18th September, we are not called to imitate the steward’s dishonesty, demonstrated both before and after his dismissal, but his shrewdness. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
1 Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward who was denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. 2 He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” 3 Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. 4 Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”
5 ‘Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” 6 “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down and write fifty.” 7 To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”
8 ‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.’
Other readings: Amos 8:4-7 Psalm 112 (113) 1 Timothy 2:1-8
The whole of the gospel reading for this Sunday, Luke 16:1-13, has not been given above, due to lack of space. The final verses have been omitted. You are invited to read verses 9-13 in your Bible or Sunday Missal.
The parable of the dishonest steward, with which the reading begins, is perhaps the most difficult of all the parables of Jesus. How could Jesus suggest to us as an example a man who is clearly dishonest? The answer to this question comes in verse 8, at the conclusion of the parable, when the steward’s master praises him ‘for his astuteness’. We are not called to imitate the man’s dishonesty, demonstrated both before and after his dismissal, but his shrewdness. The steward quickly grasps how desperate his situation is and immediately seeks a solution. Jesus challenges us to do the same.
The final verses, not given above, concern the proper use of money. They urge us to be trustworthy ‘in little things’ as well as great. We are challenged to be slaves of God, not of material things. Luke places these verses here to ensure we do not misunderstand the parable of the dishonest steward.
Do I really understand the urgency of the call of Jesus?
Am I willing to learn from ‘the children of this world’?
Let us pray that we may shake off our lethargy and behave as ‘children of the light’.
Let us resolve to be honest in little things as well as great.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy