Ordinary Time 25, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
He teaches his way to the poor (Ps. 25:9—The Grail)

Biblical experts and commentators appear to agree that the parable of the dishonest steward raises questions more than it provides answers [1]. They find the parable puzzling [2].

The poor, on the other hand, do not find too many questions or puzzles—albeit they may well notice that Jesus’ use of an unusual story, just as his use of paradoxical sayings does, makes it even more startling and arresting of his hearers’ attention [3]. Having the true religion and a living and simple faith, the poor do not analyze religious teachings too deeply and in minute details and they submit to orders readily and unquestioningly [4].

These poor, I suppose, are the childlike to whom are revealed things the Lord of heaven hides from the wise and the learned or the called by God who are neither wise by human standard nor powerful nor of noble birth (Lk. 10:21; 1 Cor. 1:26). Their faith is not cluttered with too many speculations that may make them miss the main point altogether. Clear-sighted, they see, better than most, that commended in the parable is not the steward’s dishonesty but rather his foresight or shrewdness or creativity, which makes for readiness for crisis or any eventuality and also for generosity with one’s possessions and the wise and responsible use of them.

Needless to say, the poor persons’ ready and unquestioning religion and submission are taken advantage of by the unscrupulous, by the likes of the dishonest, the exploitive and the oppressive merchants denounced by the prophet Amos. Father Robert Maloney, C.M., points, for instance, to “a perennial danger ... that the ‘cross’ might sometimes be used as ideology; that is, as an argument for justifying oppressive behavior” [5]. And indeed, there is no predicting the great lengths the wicked rich will go in order to exploit and gain advantage, to maintain the status quo and perpetuate their control of places of honor and authority. To return to Amos, the affluent oppressors of his time made the perverted claim—not without the consent and encouragement of professional prophets and temple priests—that wealth, in and of itself, demonstrated God approved of them and their behavior [6]. In Jesus’ times, too, there were those who set aside filial devotion and obligation in the name of religion (Mk. 7:10-12). And the poor, once in these rich oppressors’ clutches, do not have a prayer.

Yet, really, the poor’s recourse is mostly prayer, a heavenly weapon—according to St. Cyprian of Carthage—that gives one the strength to stand firm and endure [7]. Hence, the helpless poor offer supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgiving for everyone (including kings and those in authority, not a few of whom bear much responsibility for their poverty and misery) so that they may lead a life of peace (cf. 2 Sam. 11; 1 Kgs. 21; Dan. 13; Mt. 5:44; Lk. 23:34; Acts 9:1-2, 13-15; Rom. 12:14; Jas. 2:6-7).

Moreover, they have a prayer and stand a good chance as God raises up for them prophets from among themselves (Dt. 18:15, 18), prophets like: Amos, whose utterance identifies acceptable holocausts with the surging of justice like water and of goodness like an unfailing stream (Am. 5:24); St. Ambrose, for whom shrewdness or foresight entails knowing that “the bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever” [8]; St. Vincent de Paul, who proved that the children of light could be as zealous as the children of the world and embodied trustworthiness and honesty in matters small and great; biblical scholars who are committed to seeing to it that Sacred Scripture is not used as a tool of exploitation and authoritarianism by anyone, clergy or lay [9]; a theologian who points out that the poor have a right not just to bread but also to roses [10]; Christ Jesus, first and foremost, the one mediator between God and human beings, who, by giving himself as a ransom for all, offered once for all the one supreme and truly acceptable holocaust that is celebrated in the Eucharist. The same Jesus questioned and puzzled the authorities too.

We do need people, after all, who delve deeply and minutely into things, so that the poor may be taught God’s way.


Notes:

[1] Barbara E. Reid, O.P., “Grace-Filled Complexity,” America (September 13, 2010) 44.
[2] William Barclay, And Jesus Said: A Handbook on the Parables of Jesus (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1970) 146-150; http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Generosity-Handling-Money (accessed September 16, 2010); http://carm.org/unjust-steward-luke-16-1-8 (accessed September 16, 2010); http://www.apuritansmind.com/christianwalk/McMahonMercyOfTheMaster.htm (accessed September 16, 2010)
[3] Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentiss-Hall, 1990) 43:148-149; see also Robert P. Maloney, “An Upside-Down Sign: The Church of Paradox,” America (November 22, 1997) 6-11.
[4] Cf. P. Coste, XI, 200-201; XII, 171.
[5] He Hears the Cry of the Poor (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1995) 43.
[6] Cf. Joseph Telushkin, Biblical Literacy (New York, NY: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1997) 313.
[7] Cf. a letter by St. Cyprian which forms part of the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for September 16, the memorial of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian.
[8] http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/luke161.htm (accessed September 16, 2010).
[9] Cf. Bernard Brandon Scott and Adela Yarbro Collins, “The Jesus of History,” America (August 30, 2010) 17-19; see also Luke Timothy Johnson, “The Jesus Controversy,” America (August 2, 2010) 11-13.
[10] Cf. Patrick T. McCormick, “A Right to Beauty: A Fair Share of Milk and Honey for the Poor,” Theological Studies 71 (2010) 702-720.