First Reading: Am 8:4-7.; Psalm: 113. R. v. 1a; Second Reading: 1Tim 2:1-8; Gospel: Lk 16:1-13
THE GHOST REPORTER
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The parable of the dishonest steward is a very familiar parable. Each time it is read, our attention are quickly drawn to this shrewd steward who not only stole from his master but also demonstrated his astuteness in preparing for what lies ahead of him. Much to our surprise in this parable is Jesus’ illustration of this dishonest steward’s proactive decision as something we should emulate as children of light. Today, we shall neither dwell on this dishonest steward nor on the reason as to why Jesus would recommend his shrewd attitude as something worthy of emulation. We shall rather be looking at someone behind the scene – the ghost reporter.
Who could this reporter be? We were only told in this parable that charges were brought against the dishonest steward but were not told who the reporter was. But I suppose the reporter could be a fellow steward or somebody very close to the dishonest steward. But definitely somebody very smart and observant.
One exceptional quality of the dishonest steward was his cunning intelligence. He was so guileful and crafty in keeping a clean slate on his exploitative escapade that his master never found out until he was reported. His immediate action towards his master’s debtors when he was eventually caught further resonates his craftiness. However, somebody found out his dealings. In those days, masters could leave their homes while their stewards run their businesses and give account at the end of the day. So whoever discovered these deceitful dealings of the steward must be somebody very close. However, the identity of the reporter is not our concern for today; but on why the reporter decided to report the case.
Generally in life, actions are persuaded by motives; for actions and intentions are interwoven. What then exactly was the motive or intention of this reporter? Could it be that the reporter was not crafty and bold enough to do exactly what the dishonest steward was doing and so decided to report him? Or could it be that this reporter disliked the dishonest steward or was greatly offended by him and as a way of getting back at him decided to report his secret dealings to his master which he knew all the while but was quiet? Could it also be possible that the reporter was trying to write his/her name on the rich man’s good book so as to gain some favour afterwards? Or was the dishonest steward selfish with what he got from his crooked dealings and unwilling to share it with the reporter? Another possible reason could also be that the reporter tabled this report out of pure concern to save this rich man from being financially ruined?
I understand this story was a parable and should not be interpreted literally. But the questions raised from this parable are not disconnected from true life experiences that we can learn from. Sometimes we take an action in life that appears good to the vision of all but is motivated by selfish reasons. Sometimes we bring up a case not to help or reprimand a culprit or those affected but to get even. We can sometimes be quiet about injustices done by a friend or loved one but suddenly decide to speak up when the same crime is committed by another or someone we dislike. Behavioural psychologists assert that more of human actions are motivated by personal incentives than the common good.
The reporter in this parable will only be doing a kind and godly service if he did what he did purely out of concern for the good of the rich man. And if only he had reprimanded the dishonest steward beforehand to desist from his crooked dealings but he persisted. Corrective measures should always begin with the immediate offender
The prophet Amos in the first reading of today re-echoed the prophetic mission of every true disciple of the gospel. Amos as a prophet was at loggerheads with the Judges of Israel (the leaders of Israel in his days) for accepting bribe from the rich while injustice was meted out on the poor. The rich so oppressed the insolvent poor by trading them for silver or a pair of sandals if they failed to repay their debts. Some who couldn’t pay what they owe were sold into slavery for money. Amos could have chosen the side of the Judges and the rich with the financial advantage that came with it. But he completely opposed their unjust dealings as a fighter of injustice. There is no best motive to an action than the interest of the common good.
Our world today is replete with unscrupulous dealings. A lot of people want to be rich and desire to make it by all means possible. Lies, forgery and deception have become part of businesses. In public offices exist already structures of corruption through which workers enrich themselves. Very few leaders in government offices today are sincere and transparent in their financial dealings. Obviously, there are a lot of dishonest stewards out there and a majority of us falls into this category. Sadly, very few of us are perturbed and are willing to act differently. The prophetic mission of every true disciple is to oppose evil and injustice. To speak up when necessary for the sake of the common good; especially when the poor and vulnerable are affected. Even when we are scared to speak; our actions should speak for us.
Just as Jesus said, we cannot serve God and mammon. We cannot be honest and dishonest at the same time. We cannot choose to serve God while following the operative manual of the world. We cannot pretend to mean well intervening in a case when our decisions are induced by ulterior motives.
Many crimes and evils are concealed today by those called to combat injustice because they have been silenced by blackmail, threats, promises and money. People are accused wrongly, prosecuted and imprisoned because they have no one to speak for them. Who will speak up like the reporter in the parable of today to expose the evils that others are scared to talk about? Not for any selfish reasons but for a healthier community. We need prophetic voices like that of Amos to collapse the unjust structures in our society without fear or favour.
Even in our families secrets exist. Secrets strong enough to destroy a home. Secrets between father and son to be concealed from a wife and mother. Secrets between mother and daughter to be hidden from a husband and father. Secrets between siblings which are hidden from their parents. Regrettably, money, threats or some positive incentives are the signatures used to seal this secret treaty. This consequently deflates the drive to challenge one another to desist from the sinful action in question. This is not about encouraging gossips or saying whatever we see or know. But about seeking to edify one another; challenging one another, and taking further steps to do so when the person in question is recalcitrant to our chastisement.
Just as Saint Paul encouraged in the second reading, let us at this Mass offer prayers for one another. For those in positions of authority and different professions; for parents and children and all God’s people. That God may grant us the grace to lead a quiet, peaceable, godly, and respectful life. So that God’s kingdom may reign in hearts and order our actions towards the good of all. Amen.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, forgive our shortcomings and pardon our negligence. Grant us the grace to boldly bear witness to you as we seek to promote justice and truth in a world corrupted by injustices and fear. Amen.