We Sanctify the World Primarily by Sanctifying Ourselves.

The Thirty-First Friday of Ordinary Time.

Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:

• Romans 15: 14-21.
• Psalm 98: 1-4.
• Luke 16: 1-8.

The Twenty-First Thursday after Epiphany.

Lessons from the dominica,* according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:

• Ephesians 6: 10-17.
• Psalm 89: 1-2.
• Matthew 18: 23-35.


8:46 AM 11/8/2019 — Today our Lord tells us the parable of the knavish steward who is forced to give an accounting of his services, and is a repeat of a Gospel lesson we heard a few Sundays ago. Afraid that his duplicity is about to be exposed, steward engages in an almost reckless gamble, taking it upon himself to reduce the debt owed to his master by the creditors in the hope that one of them might hire him after his own master fires him; and, our Blessed Lord, perhaps with a tinge of sadness, appends the story with the statement:

And this knavish steward was commended by his master for his prudence in what he had done; for indeed, the children of this world are more prudent after their own fashion than the children of the light (Luke 16: 8 Knox).

     It sounds confusing. Is our Lord praising the steward or condemning him? We forget that parables, as used by our Lord, are a particular Middle Eastern form of teaching which has a hard time penetrating our literal, Western minds. The stories in these parables are not supposed to make sense like a novel or a drama on television. The events of a parable are intended to symbolize deeper realities; and, in the case of the parable of the shrewd and unscrupulous steward, the lesson our Lord teaches us is a spiritual one. That great Father and Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine, tells us what this parable is really all about:

Why did the Lord propose this parable? [he asks.] Not because that servant was a model for us to imitate. Nonetheless, the worldly-wise steward had an eye to the future. So too should the Christian have this determination to secure his eternal reward. If not, the steward puts him to shame (Sermon 359, 9-11).

     We are well accustomed to seeing people make unbelievable sacrifices to improve their life-style or standard of living. At times we may be taken aback by the lengths some people will go to acquire more wealth, more power, more fame. The media frequently—almost constantly—trains a spotlight on our society’s most ambitious people and their so-called accomplishments; but, are any of these people thinking of salvation? What would happen if these very same people were to put the same amount of zeal into the purification of their souls in anticipation of their final judgment?

What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! [says Saint Josemaría.] Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike.
  When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our soul, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works (The Way, 317).

     I particularly like the last sentence of that quote from his book called quite simply, The Way. Even our apostolic works, even what we choose to do for the poor and the needy or the betterment of this earthly realm is made fruitful by the pursuit of personal holiness. No one ever went to heaven solely because of what he did for his fellow man; he went to heaven because what he did for his fellow man he did because he had already become a saint, and would have gone to heaven even if he had locked himself up in a monastery and done nothing but pray. In fact, a lot of people go to heaven that very way.
     Today’s Gospel lesson ends at verse 8, but when it was read a couple of Sundays ago it went all the way to verse 13, in which our Lord concludes His parable by reminding us of an ineluctable fact:

No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16: 13 NABRE).

We have only one Lord. We must serve Him with all our heart, with the natural gifts He Himself has given us, using every licit means throughout our lives to ensure both our own salvation and that of those we encounter along the way. The coherent Christian does not devote one part of his attention to God and another to the affairs of this world; he must convert both into the service of God and neighbor, contributing to the sanctification of the world primarily by sanctifying himself.

* In the extraordinary form, on ferias outside privileged seasons, the lessons from the previous Sunday are repeated.