The sayings of Jesus which Luke has collected into today’s gospel reading are comments on what we heard in yesterday’s reading. That was about the unjust steward who realized that he was about to lose his job because of mismanaging his employer’s property. To assure himself of friends who would be indebted to him, and might offer him future employment after he was let go, he calls in the people who owe money to his master’s estate and settles their debts for fifty cents on the dollar. To our surprise Jesus commends the steward “for acting prudently.” Jesus does not praise the man’s dishonesty. He praises his prudence. Realizing that the knife is at his throat, the man acts, desperately, to ensure his future.
Today’s gospel continues Jesus’ teaching about money, for which he uses the ancient Hebrew word mammon. This culminates in the sayings, “No servant can serve to masters. … You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus is not saying that money and possessions are bad. Nothing that God has made is bad; indeed everything that comes from God is good. It participates in some measure in the absolute goodness of God the Creator. What is at stake is how we use money. Used to support people and causes we love, money is good. Given the central place in our lives by trying to amass more and more and more, money makes us unhappy and frustrated (as people who give money the central place in their lives soon discover) – because we find we can never get enough.
Jesus’ personal religion taught the law of tithing: giving the Lord out of gratitude, the first claim on our money and possessions. For most Catholics that seems so out of reach to be almost preposterous. There is one place in our country, however, where tithing is a reality: the diocese of
There, after decades of teaching, tithing is all but universal. One consequence
is that whereas all other dioceses are struggling to maintain Catholic schools
in the face of today’s rising costs, all
the Catholic schools in the Wichita, Kansas
diocese are tuition free! Another consequence: the Wichita Wichita
diocese has almost as many seminarians as does our own archdiocese of St. Louis – which has five times the Catholic population
of . Wichita
Think about that, friends. Above all, pray about it.