A young man in Montana bought a horse from a farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the horse the next day. However, the farmer did not come with the horse. “I’m afraid the horse has died,” he explained. The young man said, “Well, then give me my money back.” The farmer said, “Can’t do that. I spent it already.”
The young man thought for a moment and said, “Ok, just bring me the dead horse.” The farmer asked, “What you going to do with a dead horse?” The young man said, “I’m going to raffle it off. I just won’t tell anybody he’s dead.”
A month later, the farmer met up with the young man and asked, “What happened with that dead horse?” The young man said, “I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and made a profit of $998.” The farmer said, “Didn’t anyone complain?” The young man said, “Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a similar story filled with crooked people. The steward had been entrusted with managing the rich man’s wealth, and instead he wasted it. He lost his job, and he was too lazy to take on harder work, and too proud to depend on others to help him. He turned his master’s debtors into crooks, because they were happy to accept the benefit that would come to them as the steward began altering their bill for what was owed to the master. When the steward’s job ends, they will owe it to him to return the favor he has shown them. It seems like the plot for a law and order show. Clearly the steward belongs in the penitentiary. But, there is no condemnation. Instead, the master commends him because he is so clever. It doesn’t seem very Christian for Jesus to be using such characters as an example for us to follow.
“The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” This is his point. So often we are very adept at making things go exactly as we want them to, we know just the right words to say or how to act. But, we are part of the children of light – we are committed to following Jesus. And so often we don’t try very hard to prove it.
Think how difficult it is to lose weight. Suddenly we restrict how often we enjoy our favorite foods, our physical activity increases, we set a goal and discipline what goes into our mouth until it is reached. As children of the light, we want a personal relationship with Jesus. But, we cannot wait for it to happen. We can set a goal to turn off the TV for thirty minutes to read the Bible or say the rosary. We can include in our schedule fifteen minutes of quiet time to sit in the presence of the Lord and focus on his love for us. And suddenly we begin to see the hand of God at work in so many parts of our life.
We are very careful to be polite to strangers so that others will not judge us to have bad manners. We even think before we say something or how we will act because we do not want to appear to be ignorant or silly. But, we are children of the light. We have to be careful to turn aside from our anger so that we don’t speak words that hurt someone we love in our own home. It isn’t enough to not speak hateful things, so we choose to be generous and loving even in how we judge people in our heart.
We live in the world, but because of our relationship with Jesus, we are meant to be different – more generous, more patient, more of an influence for good on the people around us. Think how the world would change if we were more serious about being children of the light in what we say to one another, and how we treat each other, even in what we think about each other. Jesus has chosen us to shine the light of his love into the world. It doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work and determination to be what Jesus expects us to be. We have to focus on what is important.
–Fr. Stephen W Bierschenk