Wednesday, September 25, 2013


9/22/13 – Cathedral - Deacon Jerry Franzen
Amos 8: 4-7                 1 Timothy 2: 1-8                   Luke 16: 1-13

*A mother was shopping with her eight-year-old son
who spotted a toy that he wanted
but did not have enough money to buy it.
He lacked a dollar.
Of course he asked his mother for the extra money.
Wanting to teach him some financial responsibility,
she explained that
she couldn’t just give him the needed dollar.
He would have to wait until he had saved it from his allowance.
In a brilliant display of resourcefulness,
the boy reached in his mouth,
and to the astonishment of the onlookers,
he pulled out a loose baby tooth
and gave it to his mother. 
Apparently the tooth fairy is generous these days.
He bought the toy.


Today’s Gospel poses some tough questions
to those who attempt to interpret it.
Chief among them is:
“Why does Jesus make the point that the master praised                          the squandering steward
after the steward has curried the favor
of the debtors by reducing their debt?”
Jesus said,
“And the master commended the dishonest steward
for acting prudently.”
It would seem that the steward was further shirking his duty
by not collecting the full measure of the debts,
and thus continuing to squander the master’s money.

An added a bit of information help to form a sensible answer
to that question.
Apparently stewards
functioned somewhat like the tax collectors in those days.
Tax collectors collected the debt of taxes
that the Romans extorted from the Jewish people.
They regularly added their fee to the tax bill;
this is how they made their salary.
Sometimes they added excessively large amounts of tax
to increase their salaries and
to further unfairly tax the Jews.

It is quite probable that the steward,
who was squandering the master’s money,
was likewise looking out for himself.
The amounts owed by the debtors were probably inflated
by the steward, so that he could be sure to get his cut.
And, he might not have always been returning
the master’s full amount to him.

This may be why he had been reported as squandering.
We heard that the steward hoped that
his reduction of the debts
would put him in the favor of the debtors,
so he could rely on them in the future.
Maybe that favor would come from his now finally
charging the master’s customers a fair price.
The steward was resourceful like the boy in the story.
In this light,
we might see the prudence in what the steward did.

He was considering the big picture;
He was foregoing his immediate plans to get rich
in favor of his future security.
Maybe, just maybe, the steward truly deserved the acclamation
that he was now prudent,
because he decided that he valued the love
and compassion he would show for the debtors,
AND the hoped-for love and compassion
he would receive from them,
more than he valued his own desire for wealth.    

Prudence is one of the four cardinal virtues of the Church.
They are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.
Prudence is called the “rudder” virtue,
because it “steers” all the others.
To live a moral life one must know what is good AND
have the intelligent discernment
to translate the general demands of morality
into concrete actions.
That intelligent discernment and its translation to action
is prudence.
It’s  doing the right thing at the right time.
The steward did the right thing at the right time,
for himself, for the debtors and for his master.
In this parable, Jesus is teaching us that we must be prudent.
Like the steward who reduced the debts,
we must seek to do the right thing at the right time.


Fr, Lou Guntzelman of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati
in an article listed some practices that can help us
to become more prudent.
I will mention four of them.

1. We must have the facts; we must inquire,
look at all sides of a situation.
The steward realized
that it was bigger than just he and the master.
He knew he needed friends for the future;
he saw the bigger picture.
WI we are contemplating the use of illicit drugs,
we should ask ourselves,
"Who else will be hurt by my experimenting with illicit drugs?"
Get those facts.

2. We must think.  Reason deeply.
While emotion may play a part, in our actions
acting solely out of emotion can be dangerous.
We may be used to making decisions based on
slogans, impressions and “gut feelings.”
But we must determine with good reasoning
what would be good for ourselves and for others.
We must discover what love demands,
what authentically expresses love.
At first, the steward was acting out of the emotion
of self preservation, to get as much wealth as he could.
As he thought the situation through,
he found a way that his actions, in the long term,
could benefit himself AND the others.

If we are faced with what to do
after we have been hurt by another,
we must listen to reason not emotion.
Emotion would lead us to retaliation.
Forgiveness authenticates our love of the other person,
AND our love of ourself
in removing that burden of the need for retaliation from ourselves.
When we take this view, it becomes simply prudent to forgive.

3.  Don’t let fear be your enemy.
Some act impulsively without deeply
thinking a situation through
for fear that they will be mired in complexity.
“Just make the decision and get it over with.”
Or, some do not follow a reasoned approach,
for fear of being out of step with others.

I believe that most couples
who decide to live together before marriage
make that decision out of fear,
fear that their relationship will not continue,
“if they can’t take it to the next level.”
They fear that their relationship will be hurt,
if they actually tried to deal with all of the complex issues
that are raised by seriously considering
all the implications of their cohabitation.
On the other hand some couples make this decision,
because they fear that other couples will wonder
what is wrong with them.
Fear is overcome by our faith in God. 

4. When in doubt, seek advice.
When we are unsure about our capacity to make a decision,
we must be open to seeking out someone we can trust,
not to make the decision for us,
but to give input AND
to provide the confidence
that will help to validate our decision.
Make use of the experience of others,
especially family, clergy, professionals, friends,
and coworkers.

To act prudently we must call upon our resources
1.    The facts of the situation,
and the teachings of Jesus related to the situation,
and the teachings of the Church.
2.    Our intellect;
take the reasoned approach, not the emotional approach.
We might measure what we are about to do
against the question, “What would Jesus do?”
3.    Faith that overcomes the fears
 that keep us from a decision based
on right reasoning,
Our faith in Jesus must be stronger than those fears.
4.    Outside source of help
If we need help, we must be open to seeking it,
either from those around us who can advise us,
or from the Lord in prayer.

God wants us to be prudent,
to make decisions that will ensure
that we do the right thing at the right time,
the right decisions that lead us to Him in heaven.
We cannot serve two masters: God and the world.
Some know only one master, the world.
It controls their decisions
and sadly they are often not the right decisions.
We know another master: God.
He has given each of us gifts, among them our intellect,
which we must use to make prudent decisions.

Like the little boy in the opening story we must be resourceful.
To be prudent,
each of us must look within ourselves and beyond,
know where those “little loose teeth” might be
so that we can pull them out
and use them at the right time.

A former Yale University chaplain once said,
“Christ came to take away our sins, not our minds.”

*Story taken from “Humor for Preaching and Teaching”
E. K. Rowell and B. L. Steffen Eds. Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998 p 145