Reading (Philippians 3:17-4:1) Gospel (St. Luke 16:1-8)
In the Gospel reading today, one would almost think that Our Lord is suggesting that we ought to be dishonest, that we can cheat and steal and take things that do not belong to us, and just simply look out for ourselves. After all, if He says that this man was commended for his dishonesty and he was acting in a way that was prudent, really, all that he was doing was acting in a way that was selfish. But the Lord was making a clear distinction between the people who live for this world and those who live for the next. He said that those who live for this world act more prudently toward their own than the people who are living for Heaven.
When we put this up against the first reading, Saint Paul makes the exact same distinction. He talks about those whose minds are occupied with earthly things, and about those people, he says that they conduct themselves as enemies of the Cross of Christ. Their end is their destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. So the very things that they should be the most shamed about are the things they find to be the most glorious. We think about the steward in the Gospel reading: As he walked away and was commended by his master for his enterprising activities, he probably thought himself to be quite impressive because he had found a way that he could go into other people’s homes and eat their food and sleep in their place and he did not have to work, and he did it at somebody else’s expense. So he probably thought this was a rather glorious thing. If we think about how things operate in the world today, we can assume that he probably went around and let everybody he knew know all about what he did because he thought it was pretty fun and impressive and probably pretty humorous that he was able to squander this money from his boss. And so everybody else around him knew how enterprising he was.
That is not the way the Lord is recommending that we live. What He is telling us is that we need to be living for the next world. When we see how people operate for this world and what they do to take care of themselves and make sure that their physical needs and desires are met, what He is telling us is that we need to make sure we are doing something similar with regard to our souls. But obviously, squandering money and stealing and doing things like that will not be good for our souls. So Saint Paul reminds us that our citizenship is in Heaven and it is from there that we await our Savior, and that He is going to change even this lowly body of ours. We need to be about the works of God and that is what Our Lord is telling us: that we need to be striving to find ways that we can be more upright, that we can be more holy, that we can be more honest, that we can be more decent, more virtuous. That is the way people who are focused on Heaven are to be living their lives – not to be trying to be what one might call “prudent” in this sense, as we heard in the Gospel reading (“enterprising” might be the way that the old translation was read), but it is not to be that way because that will lead us away from Heaven. That is why He tells us that the worldly are more enterprising toward their own than the otherworldly because the people who are living for Heaven do not really care about those things. That is not what is important.
What is important is making sure that we are doing God’s Will, making sure that we are seeking what is right and just and proper so that our focus is indeed on Heaven, that we are living as citizens of Heaven, that we are not glorying in what we should be ashamed of; but rather, that we are focusing on Christ, trying to imitate the saints as Saint Paul tells us to do, and, ultimately, imitating Christ and living His life in this world. That is the way we are to live, and that is the most prudent and enterprising thing that can be done in this world. The people that are living for this world will think we are simpletons, they will think we are squares, they will think whatever they want, and they will try to take advantage and walk all over you. But it does not matter because if your heart is focused on Heaven, then you know what it is all about and you are indeed acting in a prudent and enterprising manner because you have seen the truth and you are living for that truth, modeling yourself after Christ, living according to your citizenship which is in Heaven, and keeping your eyes focused there because it is from Heaven that we await our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.