Friday, November 07, 2014

For Acting Prudently

By Melanie Rigney

Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. (Psalms 122:1)

(Jesus told the disciples the parable of the dishonest steward and how he reduced the amount owed himself to gain favor with the master’s debtors, then said:) “The master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8)

Lord, I prostrate myself in gratitude for Your eternal mercy.

For some of us, it’s the parable of the prodigal son. We’re the older brother, and we can’t stand that the father killed the fatted calf for that profligate, who wasted his share of the estate and how he’s back and welcomed with open arms.

For some of us, it’s the parable of the vineyard workers. We don’t see why the people who worked a half day or less should get the same wages as those who toiled from early in the morning.

But for many of us, it’s the parable of the dishonest steward that seems at odds with everything that should be right and good and holy. Why on earth does Jesus commend the steward, who’s being dismissed, for marking down the debts owed the master, even if the part the steward is forgiving is his own commission? What’s so prudent about that?

Maybe all three of these parables, while difficult, are about gradualism, the concept that people whose conduct is less than pleasing to God—and that’s all of us, friends—don’t change overnight. It’s not clear that the prodigal son’s focus was on the error of his ways or his hunger. It’s not clear that the vineyard workers who received a day’s pay for showing up as the workday ended were there bright and early the next morning. It’s not clear the steward had any other motivation than to curry favor with those he had taken advantage of now that he was going to be out of work. But maybe they were a foot or an inch closer to God as a result of what they learned in those encounters.

Some of the most moving writing I’ve read this year has come from Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, in her Patheos blog posts about her own return to faith. She openly acknowledges that while she was away from faith, an atheist in fact living with her boyfriend, she felt drawn to Mass and received the Eucharist on more than one occasion. The story of course has a God ending; she’s now a sister of the Daughters of St. Paul. Sister Theresa writes in part:

Gradualism does not dismiss the law. Gradualism has great respect for the law, but an even greater respect for the people for whom the law was made. For that reason, gradualism believes that in order for a person to fully accept the law, we must give the Holy Spirit time to work in that person’s soul. … This is not playing fast and loose with God’s law, this is mercy … and common sense.

And perhaps it’s that mercy… and common sense… that Jesus is attempting to share with us in that difficult parable of the dishonest steward. The steward’s self-interest drove him to do the right thing in reducing his commission. Perhaps the next time he faced a difficult situation, he came closer to making the right decision for the right reason. May we do the same.


Consider whether there is a place or person in your life where you could show some mercy and give the Holy Spirit a bit more time to work a miracle.

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