We have to work. We need a job that is fair and pays well. We need money. We need a career which fulfills our life. We need relationships that complement and fulfill ourselves as human beings.
We need values. We set priorities. We need our families and our human relationships. We need to be fair, honest and just. We need to say what we mean and mean what we say. We build our lives on integrity.
Today’s gospel reminds us that we are called to be trustworthy. Each of us have some sense of what it is to be trustworthy– “reliable, dependable, honest, full of integrity, truthful, ethical, responsible and true.”
A trustworthy person is consistent, compassionate, kind, humble, available and authentic. A trustworthy person does not play games with people. “What you see is what you get.”
Today’s gospel describes a steward, somewhat like a business manager today for someone who was very wealthy. Every once in a while, we hear a story of someone “cooking the books,” siphoning off money for personal use.
We hear Jesus praising the ingenuity of such a dishonest person today and suggesting that we employ our own and better ingenuity to grow into the person that God wants us to be, to develop our own person and talents, to discover the job and career that uses our talents to the best, to be of genuine service, to earn an honest living, to honor our fellow workers or employees, to help life to work for everyone.
The famous Catholic philosopher and theologian, Bernard Lonergan, a very formative figure in modern Catholic thinking, (died 1984) wrote once that he loved this Gospel story because “it was the one place in scripture where human intelligence and ingenuity are praised.”
Why would Jesus use an example of dishonesty to do this? Because, what Jesus is praising here is not dishonesty, but ingenuity – ingenuity as the opposite of complaint, and whining and despair. Jesus points out, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser suggests, “that those outside religious circles tend to be more ingenious in times of trouble that we committed believers, who too often give ourselves over to grumbling and inaction.”
Our first reaction when things go wrong is “woe is me,” rather than, “okay, now what do we do.”
I am thinking of a friend of mine whom I visited Friday dying of cancer of the esophagus – all come on in a period of two weeks, had surgery 8 years ago, declared cancer free and the cancer returned two weeks ago– symptoms revealing cancer throughout his body. Dennis died before I could see him Friday. [His wife] Sally remarked “Dennis was very much at peace, had lived a good and very effective life. He was ready to go to wherever and whatever heaven is.”
– ingenuity rather than complaint, whining and despair.
Jesus is talking about “a life attitude here”. How to accept, think about and rethink the person I am, the person that I want to be, whenever I face obstacles in my personal goals or the results of decisions that I made or when things unplanned just happen.
So, we say to God — “oh well! I was not planning for this! So what do I do now, Jesus?”
Trust me, Jesus says, to get you through this. They, people begin to appear. Friends show up. Tears and laughter subside. Something new happens, a new future opens. New possibilities appear. Patience, Hope appear.
We are easily shocked when our lives are turned upside down. So, I think that Jesus is inviting us today – to be prepared, not to despair, and after whatever shockwave there is, to put our ingenuity to work, to think out and walk through, the best, positive way that we can, with the help of others who will appear to help us to sort out all the possibilities that will follow.
Ingenuity is the opposite of complaint and despair. It is hidden deep inside of us. Our family and friends will help to bring it out of us.
“You cannot serve both God and Mammon,” Jesus concludes, and we remember that God serves us always and at all times. God is trustworthy.
St. Paul’s last wish in his letter today is “that in every place” we “should pray, without anger or argument.” Our spirit of ingenuity and God’s spirit of ingenuity will help!
In our first reading today, the prophet Amos criticizes people who trample through life and trample over others, who suck as much life out of life as possible.
That is not where we are or how we want to live. St. Paul encourages us “to lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. Our ingenuity will help! We need to be resourceful.