(Before reading the reflection, take a moment and read the Gospel, or better yet, have someone read it to you. The Good news is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus tells an odd parable today about a manager who has not been working honestly. It is not entirely clear what Jesus means. But maybe we can figure something out.
Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.
We have heard about squandering property before. The younger son in the parable of the forgiving father last week does the same. Eventually he comes back to the father asking forgiveness. We know the father runs to greet him.
So the rich man summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’
Okay, we can agree that this is a different sort of parable. Not about forgiveness, then. The manager is fired. His situation cannot get worse.
Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’
This is not a parable about repentance exactly, either, is it? We do not see the manager falling to his knees, asking to be forgiven. But like the younger son in the other parable, the manager makes a plan. The situation calls for action.
So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’
The manager manages. He speaks to the people who have not paid the master for his property they bought, and reduces their bills. He makes sure each person likes him a little bit better. This might make them more likely to give him a place to live when he loses his job. That is his plan.
It's not a great plan. It will not fix his situation with his boss.
But it is a step forward.
And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly
The rich man is somewhat impressed with this. He sees the manager taking some positive action. He sees him acting shrewdly. "Shrewdly" means he uses sharp powers of judgment. This sounds very like Right judgment which is another name for the Holy Spirit's gift of Counsel, the gift of making good choices. The manager's actions do not fix what he did wrong, but they are a step in the right direction.
the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light
Who are these children of light Jesus is talking about? Of course, they are us! We are children of the light of Jesus' risen life that we receive at our Baptism. So what does he mean when he says we are not as shrewd as the children of this age, as shrewd as the manager in the parable?
As children of light, we know that if we squander the Father's property, if we make bad choices, if we sin, we can always, always go to God and be forgiven. We can go to the sacrament of Reconciliation, confess our sins, and hear those words of forgiveness: "I absolve you..."
If we do not go to God and ask forgiveness, that is not very shrewd.
If we do not make an attempt to make things better with those around us, that is not very shrewd either. It is not using sharp judgement. It is not using right judgement. We cannot make things all better—only God can do that—but we can take a step in the right direction. When we go to the sacrament of Reconciliation, we are given Penance. This is the first step on the path in the right direction.
We can be like the manager. When we realize that we have not been making good choices, we can act. We can take a step towards God again by attempting to make things better for the people around us.
Let us go this week, acting shrewdly, attempting to make things right with God's help.