Wed, September 14, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

25th Sunday

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

The Parable of The Shrewd Manager by Marinus van Reymerswaele (1490–1546), National Museum in Warsaw, Poland.

Bible passages


Luke 16:1-13

Jesus told his disciples another story. He said, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager. Some said that the manager was wasting what the rich man owned. So the rich man told him to come in. He asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Tell me exactly how you have handled what I own. You can’t be my manager any longer.” ‘The manager said to himself, “What will I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig. And I’m too ashamed to beg. I know what I’m going to do. I’ll do something so that when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.” ‘So he called in each person who owed his master something. He asked the first one, “How much do you owe my master?” ‘ “I owe 2,000 litres of olive oil,” he replied. ‘The manager told him, “Take your bill. Sit down quickly and change it to 1,000 litres.” ‘Then he asked the second one, “And how much do you owe?” ‘ “I owe 25 tonnes of wheat,” he replied. ‘The manager told him, “Take your bill and change it to tonnes.” ‘The manager had not been honest. But the master praised him for being clever. The people of this world are clever in dealing with those who are like themselves. They are more clever than God’s people. I tell you, use the riches of this world to help others. In that way, you will make friends for yourselves. Then when your riches are gone, you will be welcomed into your eternal home in heaven. ‘Suppose you can be trusted with something very little. Then you can also be trusted with something very large. But suppose you are not honest with something very little. Then you will also not be honest with something very large. Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling worldly wealth. Then who will trust you with true riches? Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling someone else’s property. Then who will give you property of your own? ‘No one can serve two masters at the same time. Either you will hate one of them and love the other. Or you will be faithful to one and dislike the other. You can’t serve God and money at the same time.’

Biblical Homilies


“Jesus told his disciples another story. He said, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager. Some said that the manager was wasting what the rich man owned. So the rich man told him to come in. He asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Tell me exactly how you have handled what I own. You can’t be my manager any longer.”“ (cf. Verse 1-2)

In last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus spoke mainly to the Pharisees and scribes: the lost sheep, the lost drachma. Now he speaks again to his disciples, to those who follow him, who have decided for him - thus also to us.

This parable is about a steward who is accused behind his back - for that is how it is said in Greek: "diaballein" (διαβαλλειν) : behind - by the rich man he serves. This rich man now sets up an examination to determine whether what he has heard is true, whether his steward has really acted unjustly. And the steward has a bad conscience because he knows very well that the examination will confirm what he has heard, namely: that he is an unjust steward, and that he will then be dismissed.

“‘The manager said to himself, “What will I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig. And I’m too ashamed to beg. I know what I’m going to do. I’ll do something so that when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.” ‘So he called in each person who owed his master something. He asked the first one, “How much do you owe my master?”  ‘“I owe 2,000 litres of olive oil,” he replied. ‘The manager told him, “Take your bill. Sit down quickly and change it to 1,000 litres.” ‘Then he asked the second one, “And how much do you owe?” ‘ “I owe 25 tonnes of wheat,” he replied. ‘The manager told him, “Take your bill and change it to 20 tonnes.” ‘The manager had not been honest. But the master praised him for being clever. The people of this world are clever in dealing with those who are like themselves. They are more clever than God’s people.“ (cf. Verse 3-8)

But the administrator is still in service during this examination. So he still has a short time left as a steward and he takes advantage of it: The unfaithful steward suddenly becomes wise in adversity, in the human, in the worldly, in the earthly sense. As a steward he still has the authority of the Lord. That is the decisive moment in this parable. He sees hardship approaching. He cannot work hard, he does not want to beg, that would be too shameful. Therefore, he now looks for such people who are to provide for him later, when he has been released. So, on the basis of his authority as administrator, he simply reduces the debt of the individual - so obviously that the landowner had to notice from the altered promissory notes that his administrator had made very massive changes.

And surprisingly, the lord - that is, this landowner - praises his steward, because he has actually done the smartest thing he could have done in his case, even if it was to the detriment of his lord. But the landowner has to admit: That was clever. It was clever - in the sense of the world. It was to the master's detriment, but he did what he could do to be provided for and, in a sense, to secure his pension. He abused his authority and simply granted an indulgence, which was fine from a purely legal point of view, because he still had this authority from his master. So the issue here is not the wrong he may have done, but his cleverness. The steward used the short time he had left to provide for his old age and for his later life, to the master's detriment. And yet the lord of the manor praises him and says, 'That was the cleverest thing he could have done.' That is the thinking of this world.

Jesus thus holds up the cleverness of the wicked for their evil purposes to the shame of the good. The wicked are wise. The cleverness of the children of light sometimes leaves much to be desired in this world, but the cleverness of the children of this world is masterful. What wisdom do the disciples of the Lord display? Are we really using this life wisely? Are we really using everything, the mundane that comes our way, to gain eternal life? Are we really living our lives in true wisdom? This is what it is all about. How do we deal with everything that is entrusted to us with a view to eternal life? Or are we possibly even missing out on real life? Do we just use it for ourselves without using it for eternal life? How do we deal with God's offers of grace, or quite specifically: with the sacraments? Do I let God grant me forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance as often as possible? Do I go as often as possible to the Eucharist, in which all salvation is summarised, in which the Lord turns to me and becomes one with me in a way that cannot be more profound in life? How do I deal with the Word of God? How do I deal with time? How do I deal with all that God has entrusted to me in people, in knowledge, in experience, in spiritual and earthly goods? How do I deal with all this? Do I, for example, buy out time, as the Scripture says, towards eternal life? Am I wise? That is the question! How do I use my position and influence in professional life - for eternal life towards my salvation or just for myself? Do I use it all selfishly - then I am unwise - or do I really use this chance, the short time that is also given to me as a steward of all the goods that God has entrusted to me? Do I use this time like this unjust steward, but in the right way? Do I use these things selfishly, without fruit for eternal life, or do I use them profitably for eternal life?

"I tell you, use the riches of this world to help others. In that way, you will make friends for yourselves. Then when your riches are gone, you will be welcomed into your eternal home in heaven.“ (cf. Verse 9)

Jesus now draws the consequence from this parable: ego (εγϖ), thus quite emphatically, "I say to you: Make friends with the help of unjust mammon" Unjust mammon means earthly possessions, wealth that is sought for its own sake. This is a danger to the soul. Therefore, we are to use it wisely, so that it may benefit us for eternal life, so that "when it comes to an end with you" - in Greek here is the aorist tense, expressing something final - "you will be received into the eternal dwellings" - that is the contrast to the perishable dwelling on earth. The friends we are to make with the help of unrighteous mammon are fellow human beings, the poor, who then stand up for us in judgment when Jesus says: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Mt 25:40)

“‘Suppose you can be trusted with something very little. Then you can also be trusted with something very large. But suppose you are not honest with something very little. Then you will also not be honest with something very large. Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling worldly wealth. Then who will trust you with true riches? Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling someone else’s property. Then who will give you property of your own?” (vgl. Vers 10-12)

Jesus establishes an indissoluble connection between the small and the great. True faithfulness, faithfulness to Jesus, the willingness to do his will, is confirmed in the small things of everyday life and in dealing with earthly goods, which are fleeting. Whoever is not faithful in this, is also not faithful in the goods of a higher kind, the spiritual and spiritual gifts.

Jesus then contrasts the mammon of unrighteousness and the true. The mammon of unrighteousness means the godly use of earthly good. The true is the good of salvation entrusted to the children of light.

In the image of foreign property and true ownership, Jesus finally summarises what has been said: The foreign is not the property of man. We are only stewards over the earthly gifts, over the "unjust mammon" that has been entrusted to us. It is not our own, but foreign goods. But the spiritual and mental goods Jesus calls "yours". They will be our imperishable property. Therefore, we are to handle the goods we have to administer wisely, just like the steward in the parable, so that with the perishable, the foreign, we may attain the imperishable, our own.

“‘No one can serve two masters at the same time. Either you will hate one of them and love the other. Or you will be faithful to one and dislike the other. You can’t serve God and money at the same time.’“ (cf. Verse 13)

At the end of the Gospel, Jesus once again explicitly points out: No household servant can serve two masters! He speaks here quite deliberately to those who follow him, to his disciples, but also to the tax collectors and sinners who now follow him. You cannot serve and adhere to such opposing masters as the perishable and the imperishable at the same time. You cannot cling to this world and to God at the same time.

Jesus speaks of the sluggishness and indecision of the children of light compared to the children of the world, who act very decisively and wisely in the things of the world. So he is concerned that we adhere to him completely, right down to the smallest things of everyday life. Then we will be wise stewards of the manifold gifts of God.