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Friday – Thirty-first week – OT1
Readings: Rom 15:14-21; Lk 16:1-8.
1/ Reading I: RSV Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.
15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ,
20 thus making it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on another man’s foundation,
21 but as it is written, “They shall see who have never been told of him, and they shall understand who have never heard of him.”
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.
2 And he called him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’
3 And the steward said to himself, `What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.
4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’
5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, `How much do you owe my master?’
6 He said, `A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’
7 Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?’ He said, `A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.’
8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
I. THEME: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegie became popular with his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. This art is needed for people in all areas: religion, politic, education, business. Many who had good and useful ideas for people but did not know how to explain and to convince people, the result is people did not believe in them, sometimes they also caused conflict, separation and discord. Many who had nothing good, sometimes with bad intention; but they know how to convince and to win over people, the result is people listened and do what they wanted. Of course, the ideal situation which we desire is both good and useful for people and the art of convincing, so that people can recognize and follow that ideas.
Today readings gave us two contrasted examples of this art. In the first reading, after skillful explanation of the doctrine: “men were justified not by their good works, but by their faith in Jesus Christ,” St. Paul must convince the Romans to believe that doctrine by reminding them of the four things: First, they are eagerly to know the truth; secondly, God’s grace for people when searching the truth; thirdly, Paul received many good results in his mission; and lastly, his good intention for them. In the Gospel, Jesus praised the shrewd steward because he knew how to win over people, even he used others’ resource. The steward’s intention is to get help from his owner’s debtors after he was fired.
1/ Reading I: In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
1.1/ Paul sincerely helped his audience to recognize the truth: Many people believe the Letter to the Romans is the most difficult letter for Paul to write because of the following reasons: First, Romans was not the community established by Paul. Secondly, the discussed theme easily caused separation. Lastly, the audience had higher knowledge and knew the law. Today passage is the conclusion of the Letter, Paul must convince people to understand his good intention. Paul wanted them to know that he argued with them, not to show his deep knowledge about God or to insult them, but because of the following reasons:
(1) The ones who sincerely search for the truth will understand: “I myself am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.”
(2) The understanding of the doctrine is by God’s grace, not by human wisdom: “But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
(3) He argued fot the common good of the Church: According to God’s plan of salvation, the history has entered a new period, in which the Gentiles has been assimilated to God’s family. He advised people they must be clear in order to act according to God’s will.
1.2/ Paul’s intention is to serve God’s kingdom, not for his profits: St. Paul’s argument might be difficult to convince his audience, but people can see all his works. Paul wanted to show them that he did all things for God’s kingdom; not for any individual profits.
(1) Paul established many communities for the sake of expanding God’s kingdom: He said: “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
(2) Paul had no intention to influence Roman community, or any communities established by others. He said: “I have fully preached the gospel of Christ, thus making it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written, “They shall see who have never been told of him, and they shall understand who have never heard of him.””
2/ Gospel: Know how to use worldly things.
Before analyzing this parable, we need to know that: when using parables, the author only wants to pay attention to one main point, and not to satisfy all related points because it is impossible to do so. The main point Jesus wanted to highlight in this parable is the steward’s way of solving the problem when he was laid off.
2.1/ The unfaithful steward: From the beginning, the audience already knew the steward was not good because he wasted his owner’s goods, and that was the reason why he was laid off. A good steward must be both wise and faithful to the owner. This steward was very shrewd but not faithful. The owner said to him: “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.”
2.2/ The shrewd steward: He knew how to use his owner’s goods as the mean to prepare for his future. He debated with himself: “What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.”
With 50 measures of oil, he discounted for the first debtor and 200 measures of wheat he discounted for the second one, he hoped they will give back to him some when he is in need. He also might think if they refuse to give, he will accuse them with the owner, and they must return all back to him.
2.3/ The owner praised the steward’s way of solving his problem: First, we need to note that the owner did not praise him for his unfaithfulness. The thing the owner praised him was his shrewd way of solving his problem. He knew how to win friends and to influence people. He properly valued people more than material things because he knew as long as he had friends, he will have money to live. When he no longer had any friends, he will be in trouble.
Many people did not act properly when they valued material things above people, the result is they lost both people and material things. For example, when an employer found a talent and good employee, he must pay him accordingly in order to keep him. If he didn’t do so, that employee will work for other company, and the employer will suffer because he cannot find such an employee. Many husbands lost their wives because they did not fairly value what their wives did for the family: caring for children, cooking, doing laundry, washing dishes, cleaning…
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The art of how to win friends and influence people is necessary for the proclaiming of the Good News and for having peace in family and community. We need to wisely and truthfully practice it.
– We must use God’s grace and gifts to benefit ourselves and others in this life and the life to come.
– We should never forget the three steps values and properly practice them as the following order: first, God; secondly, people; lastly, material things. If we turn these values upside down, we will have to pay dearly.