By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - on the Gospel
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The Smart Servant

Amos 8:4-7 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Luke 16:1-13

An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that he has come to reward him for his years of devoted service. He was asked to choose one of three blessings: either infinite wealth, or infinite fame or infinite wisdom. Without hesitation, the dean asks for infinite wisdom. “You got it!” says the angel, and disappears. All heads turn toward the dean, who sits glowing in the aura of wisdom. Finally one of his colleagues whispers, “Say something.” The dean looks at them and says, “I should have taken the money.”

Wisdom, in the sense of being smart or shrewd as we see in today’s parable of the dishonest servant, is not an end in itself. One can be smart and use one’s smartness to do mean things. Many con artists and terrorists are smart people who use their smartness to create unhappiness in the world. Today’s parable challenges us to be smart in the pursuit of the kingdom of God just as godless people are smart in their pursuit of selfish goals and ambitions. Jesus uses the example of a smart manager in his master’s business to teach us the need to be smart in the Lord’s service. We are challenged to imitate the manager’s shrewdness, not his dishonesty. “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (Luke 16:8).

Why did the master who had made up his mind to fire the manager now commend him? Probably the manager had been running his master’s business in a drab, routine and lifeless manner devoid of creativity and imagination. As a result the business was failing, so the master decides it is time to fire him: “Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer” (verse 2). The manager is facing a real danger of being dismissed from service. He knows the seriousness of the situation. He is not kidding himself. He knows exactly how helpless he is out there. He says to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg” (verse 3). He knows he is in a very difficult and precarious situation. He scratches his head and comes up with this ingenious plan to safeguard his future. The master praises him because if the manager had been using such smart thinking in the daily running of the business he would have made a much more successful manager rather than a failure.

The parable challenges us all to be smart managers. Me a manager, you say? Yes, we are all called to be managers. God has entrusted the whole of His creation into our hands as His managers. Jesus Christ, in addition, entrusts the kingdom of God – the kingdom of love, justice and peace – into our hands as his managers. World peace and harmony, and the renewal of all things in Christ, are the business of us all, collectively and individually. Jesus calls it the kingdom of God. Our business as followers of Christ, non-ordained as well as ordained believers, is to help bring about the kingdom of God starting from our own selves. We have all been given the necessary resources to do this. We have been equipped with the truth of faith, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts, and we have been given time. Sooner or later we shall all be called upon to render an account of how we have invested and managed these resources.

Events in our world show that we live in difficult and precarious times, like the manager in the parable. The manager faced squarely the truth of his helplessness and vulnerability and did something about it. Why do we keep on telling ourselves the lie that we are safe and secure and that nothing can ever happen to us? We do not have to wait, like the dishonest servant, for a last minute display of smartness to fix our eternal concerns. The time to be smart is now. The smart manager used what he could not keep to get what he needed so badly, friendship with his business associates. We should likewise invest all our temporal and spiritual resources to gain the only thing that matters in the end: the kingdom of God.

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