The beautiful opening lines from the Catechism of the Catholic Church give us a summary of the fundamental meaning of human life: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life” (CCC 1). God has created us precisely so that we may be with him and his saints forever in the eternal joy of Heaven. The whole of divine revelation, from the law and the prophets up to the coming of Jesus Christ and his saving mission, all points to this fundamental truth about man, namely that we are created for union with God.
St. Paul in today’s second reading brings this truth to the fore, stating clearly that God “wills everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.” And at the center of our knowledge of the truth is that Christ Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all.” In view of the goal of eternal salvation, Paul requests that “supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone.” He says that the purpose of such prayers is that “we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity,” but he has more in mind than a peaceful life here on earth. He is doing his part for the fulfillment of God’s plan that everyone be saved.
Some of the conditions for being admitted into God’s house (Heaven) are spelled out in Psalm 15: “Lord who shall be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain? He who walks without fault; he who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart; he who does not slander with his tongue… who takes no interest on a loan and accepts no bribes against the innocent” (vv. 1-5). In the days of the prophet Amos, the people of Israel were failing to meet these criteria. Consumed by greed, they were cheating and oppressing the lowly and the poor. Since the Lord justly rewards everyone according to his or her deeds (cf. Rm 2:6; Rev 22:12), the people were in grave danger of punishment.
God truly loves his people and he does not want anyone to perish and lose the joy of eternal communion with him. So he sends Amos to the people to awaken their conscience so that they change their lives and attain the salvation that God wishes for everyone. The warning of Amos is motivated by divine love.
It is precisely against the backdrop of God’s solicitude for our eternal salvation that we can comprehend the somewhat startling parable in today’s Gospel, in which Jesus appears to praise a dishonest steward. Jesus tells this parable, not to praise dishonesty, but as an expression of his deep concern for our salvation. He wants to awaken us to the danger of eternal peril, and to the need for us to cooperate with grace to be saved. To tell a person the truth about eternal life and to point out how to get there is a genuine manifestation of love.
The dishonest steward is confronted with the stark prospect of a perilous future; he is about to be dismissed on the grounds of misusing and wasting his master’s property. He shrewdly and boldly takes advantage of his master’s generosity to ensure a good future for himself. The master commends him “for acting prudently.”
The message of Jesus is this: just as the steward took initiative to assure for himself a happy earthly future, in the same way, we must act prudently to prepare for our future life of eternal happiness. Prudence includes the proper use of all our earthly goods. We are servants of God, not of money. If we are wise, we will cooperate with God’s grace and put our trust in his mercy, not in “dishonest wealth.” Just as surely as the steward in the parable is going to have to “prepare a full account of his stewardship,” we are all going to face divine judgment. God will reward all of us according to our conduct in this life. The parable is as much a warning for our eternal salvation as is the message of Amos in today’s first reading. Heeding the exhortation of St. Paul, let us renew our commitment to offer prayers for everyone, that all may come to knowledge of the truth and be saved.
As a Christian, do I contemplate and reflect why God created me? Do I help others to know about eternal life? Am I caught in things of the world rather than of God?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 7. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.