Friday November 7, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 15:14-21) Gospel (St. Luke 16:1-8)
In the Gospel reading today, it strikes us as very strange that the Lord would actually commend this dishonest steward for what it is that he has done, but it is the point He makes that the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light. In other words, if you have your focus on God you are not going to worry so much, first of all, about the self, and then, secondly, you are not going to worry about trying to be dishonest because you are not interested in the things of this world but rather you are interested in the things of the next world. So the people who are very worldly are going to be caught up in themselves, in their own pursuits, in their own selfishness; they are going to be interested in focusing on themselves, on what is best (in their mind) for themselves. Whereas, if we are focused on heaven, we are not interested so much in this world but we are interested in Christ and our focus is elsewhere: We want to do what is best for Him and we want to serve Him.
The point the Lord is making here is that we have our choice of whom we are going to serve. This man was the steward of somebody else, but he chose to serve himself rather than his master. Each one of us is a steward of someone else as well, that is, a steward of Jesus Christ. We have a choice. Are we going to serve Him or are we going to serve ourselves? Now if we decide to serve ourselves, when we stand before the Lord, He may well look at us and say, “You did a really good job of serving yourself. In fact, you were dishonest in this matter and look at what you gained for yourself. You cheated and swindled someone in this matter and look at what you gained for yourself. In this matter you were selfish and arrogant, and look at what you gained for yourself. Because you decided to serve yourself, you are no longer going to be in My service; in fact, you’re going to be released. Now you can go and spend time for the rest of eternity with someone else who didn’t want to serve Me but who wanted to serve himself and who wanted be selfish and arrogant.” We will not be allowed into His house but rather we will go to spend the time with Satan, whom we have chosen to serve.
When we realize that we are stewards of the Gospel of Christ, we have an obligation to live what has been entrusted to our care. Oh, He will commend us indeed for our ingenuity, but we are not called to such things. We are called to be faithful, faithful to the Gospel, faithful to what it is that He has asked of us. Remember, elsewhere He says, “When you have done all these things, say, ‘I am a useless servant who has done nothing more than what I was asked to do.’” He is not asking us to try to be creative in the way that we are going to live the Gospel but rather He is asking us to be obedient. So if we find ourselves suddenly being real creative in the way we are doing things, we really need to look and make sure we are serving Him and not serving ourselves. And if we can look at our lives and realize that it is really focused on the self and not focused on Christ, we may be commended for our ingenuity but we are certainly not going to be commended for our obedience. We will receive the reward that is due to us because the Lord told us that, for those who are seeking themselves, they have already received their reward. In other words, there will not be one in heaven because we have received it here. Just like this man, he might be accepted into people’s homes, he might be well liked because he wrote off the debt for other people, but he is being released from his master’s service.
When we put it in that kind of a light, I do not think any of us want to be released from our Master’s service. We need to serve Him. We have been entrusted with much and much is going to be expected of us. Saint Paul was given the Gospel of Christ to preach to others, and he made it his point never to preach it where it had been preached before. But that is not what we have to do. Living in a neopagan society, we do have an obligation to bring Christ out into the world to people who do not know Him or have walked away from Him. But it is as Saint Paul told the Romans at the beginning of that first reading; he said, “I am convinced about you that you yourself are full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and able to admonish one another.” That is what Christ has already done for us; therefore, we cannot boast of what we have done but only what Christ has done in us. And so we must accept that goodness, that knowledge, that grace the Lord has given and use it not for our own benefit but for His, and serve Him as faithful stewards in this world so that we will be welcomed into His house forever, lest in this world we decide to serve ourselves, to be dishonest stewards, to be selfish.
One way or the other, we will be welcomed into our master’s house. The question is simply: Who is our master? There are only two possibilities, and we will spend the rest of our eternity with the one whom we choose to serve. And so either we are going to be like the one who refused to serve Christ or we will be with the One Who served us in this life. We are called to serve Him. That is what it comes down to: to serve Satan or to serve Jesus; there is no in-between. Satan, of course, will try to convince us that we are not serving him but we are serving ourselves. What is the difference? If we are going to be self-serving, it is not going to serve Christ. And so that is the choice we have to make. We have to choose whom we are going to serve because for all eternity we will serve in our master’s house.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.