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Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

News of financial fraud and mismanagement is commonplace in our world. Today's Gospel reading reminds us that the dishonest handling of other people’s money is not a new problem.

Jesus told a story about a man who had been cheating his employer. Called to give an account of his service he knew he would be in big trouble. His mismanagement was sure to be detected and his immediate dismissal would follow. He knew he was too weak to do manual labour and too proud to beg. What else could he do?

Then he had a brilliant idea. He would use those few remaining days to ingratiate himself with his employer’s debtors. One by one, he asked them how much they owed. Whatever the amount happened to be, he invited them to reduce it. The debtor was glad to have the discount and the manager knew his employer’s debtors were now in debt to him. They were under obligation, as co-conspirators, in a dishonest transaction.

But this is one of the most puzzling stories that Jesus ever told - because of its conclusion. He ended the story with the employer commending the man, and then Jesus urged His disciples to learn from his example.

What was it about this man that Jesus found so commendable? Obviously, it was not his dishonesty. What Jesus admired, and recommended to us, was his “astuteness” or foresight. Looking ahead he saw that something had to be done now, before he lost his job, to make provision for his future.

Most of us have the foresight to plan and secure our financial future. Experience has taught us that it is wise to save for the rainy day! We insure our income against sickness, accident and untimely death. What Jesus called “astuteness” we would call being wise.

The point of the parable is to ask if we are applying that same wisdom and astuteness to our spiritual life? How many of us build spiritual reserves for the disappointment and discouragements that we are sure to face?

God provides us with various means for our eternal salvation. The obvious ones are the Mass and the Sacraments, and the Bible. How well do we use these resources? Do we think of every Mass, every Holy Communion and every Confession, as storing up treasure in Heaven? Another way of storing up treasure is prayer. The Holy Spirit is within us, urging us to cry out “Abba, Father”. Sometimes we are so involved in material matters that we do not hear the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit within us. Do we gain the maximum interest on our investment by making every prayer an act of love?

We read our daily newspaper, magazines and novels. We can make time for these, but can we find time to read the Bible? We will find more treasure for our eternal salvation in the Bible than in any secular reading. In fact, passages in the Bible can be read over and over again, with more and more insight each time. If we were spiritually astute, this is how we would invest our time.

The wonderful thing about storing up spiritual treasure is that we can draw on it when we are in need. No-one can go through life without facing trials and difficulties: the death of a loved one, the break-up of a marriage, the ingratitude of children and the loss of a job. Now if we are well supplied with spiritual resources those problems will not defeat us; God will give us the strength to cope with them.

Holy Spirit, if anyone neglected to invest money for their future, we would regard them as a fool. How much more foolish we would be if we failed to build up our spiritual capital! Give us the wisdom to know that this is the time God is giving us to balance the books.

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