August 7, 2022
“And the Lord replied,
‘Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful…
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.’”
A bit of cultural context is helpful. In our culture, we are almost always focused on the future: our plans, our goals, our achievements, our retirement. The future becomes a distraction for us to truly experience the present. It is only in the here and now, however, that we can fully live, love, and encounter God. In Jesus’s culture, the focus was on the here and now for most and, for scholars of the law, Pharisees, and Sadducees, the focus was on the past. It was all too natural for the steward who found himself in the fortunate situation of his master’s delay to look out for number one, satiate his desires, and take advantage of the other servants. It was this moment that counted, not some possible future. As we often need a call to the present, those to whom Jesus was speaking needed a call to the future. There is something more significant than today coming. The master will return.
Even with our future orientation, however, the idea of reward or, especially, punishment is not more palatable for us. Our issue, I believe, is about our self determination, control, and personal responsibility for success. We are the masters of our own domain. That we should bear responsibility, accountability, or consequences outside of ourselves appears unjust. Although segments of our society seem all to ready to impose their standards on others, we generally bristle at an outward and external standard. Yet, the Gospel is very clear. How we treat those in our power and prioritize our desires over the dignity and needs of others has consequences. It may be in the future, but we will be held accountable.
This is particularly true in the Church. I am keenly aware of my power as your pastor. The sexual abuse crisis in the Church has focused a fine point on power differential and the need for appropriate boundaries, respect for the dignity of each person, and honoring the presence of God in the other. Although I am called to be a shepherd, I do not have all the answers and am on a journey with you, not just for you. I have my own failings and can be curt, short tempered, and dismissive. For these moments, I humbly ask your forgiveness. Yet, all of us who have power over others, from parents to CEOs, are challenged by today’s Gospel. Do we act for the good of those entrusted to us? Do we choose service over self? Are we willing to sacrifice for a future not our own? Do we recognize our accountability for the gifts we have been given? Much will be required of the person entrusted with much and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. With what or with whom have we been entrusted?