The steward in Sunday’s Gospel confronts the reality that he can’t go on living the way he has been. He is under judgment, must give account for what he has done.
The exploiters of the poor in Sunday’s first reading are also about to be pulled down, thrust from their stations (see Isaiah 22:19). Servants of mammon or money, they’re so in love with wealth that they reduce the poor to objects, despise the new moons and Sabbaths — the observances and holy days of God (see Leviticus 23:24; Exodus 20:8).
Their only hope is to follow the steward’s path. He is no model of repentance. But he makes a prudent calculation — to use his last hours in charge of his master’s property to show mercy to others, to relieve their debts.
He is a child of this world, driven by a purely selfish motive — to make friends and be welcomed into the homes of his master’s debtors. Yet his prudence is commended as an example to us, the children of light (see 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8). We, too, must realize, as the steward does, that what we have is not honestly ours, but what in truth belongs to another, our master.
All the mammon in the world could not have paid the debt we owe our master. So he paid it for us, gave his life as a ransom for all, as we hear in Sunday’s epistle.
God wants everyone to be saved, even kings and princes, even the lovers of money (see Luke 16:14). But we cannot serve two masters. By his grace, we should choose to be, as we sing in Sunday’s psalm — “servants of the Lord.”
We serve him by using what he has entrusted us with to give alms, to lift the lowly from the dust and dunghills of this world. By this we will gain what is ours, be welcomed into eternal dwellings, the many mansions of the Father’s house (see John 14:2).
Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.