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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for 05 November 2021, 1st Friday of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Lk 16:1-8

Today’s Gospel is one of the most misunderstood passages in the New Testament. People often take it as an endorsement by Jesus of something so patently immoral as cheating. Maybe this is one of the reasons why there are some devout Christians who don’t see a disconnect between their Christian faith and their involvement in graft, bribery, extortion or profiteering.

Is Jesus commending the dishonest steward for his corrupt ways? No. He is actually criticizing those among his disciples whom he calls the “children of the light.” He points out how, compared to the “children of this world,” they tend to be very lacking in wisdom and prudence when it comes to dealing with worldly affairs.

Jesus is clarifying through this parable that while he teaches his disciples to seek first the kingdom of heaven, he also expects them at the same time to be able to develop the gifts of cleverness and astuteness about managing their temporal concerns properly. He expects his disciples to be intelligent too with regard to the ways of the world.

He is not suggesting that we should immitate the fraudulent ways of the corrupt; what they are doing is definitely wrong. But what he is saying is, we should at least give them some credit for their sense of foresight and intellectual sophistication when it comes to conducting their corrupt transactions. Believe me, the most corrupt people in this world are very intelligent people! Some of them are even honor graduates of elite schools in the country and abroad.

Today’s Gospel is very relevant to many present-day societal issues, and is a good critique to the wrong attitudes of many Christians towards politics and governance, and other temporal concerns like business, commerce, and trade.

There is a strong tendency for some believers to dichotomize between the spiritual and the material, between the heavenly and the earthly, the otherworldly and the thisworldly concerns. And so we have people who think that faith is a matter of building enough spiritual capital that will compensate for their physical and material depravity.

I usually find myself reacting when people practically equate the term worldly with its negative sense. As in, “Napaka-worldly mo naman.” As if the world were so bad. If this world was created by a good God, then it must be essentially good. And God made us its stewards or caretakers precisely to keep it good, and in accord with its original design and purpose.

Many Catholics have developed a very wrong notion of politics as innately corrupt and rotten, and so their tendency is to avoid it, or not to have anything to do with it. Many of them say they would rather remain neutral because politics is divisive. Well, today I want to tell those people that the Lord is telling them that they are wrong. If we don’t want the affairs of this world to fall into the hands of crooked and corrupt people, then we should be more involved in them.

On many occasions, Pope Francis himself has encouraged Catholics, especially the laity, to be more positively involved in politics. In his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, for example, he called politics one of the “highest forms of charity” since it is supposed to serve the common good and look after the interests of the most disadvantaged in society. We should actively commend and encourage those who feel called to the vocation of governance and public service. We should have more good people in government.

When politics becomes very corrupt, we should not fail to recognize the amount of intelligence that is invested in it by corrupt people. It means they have been very successful in manipulating and controlling public opinion through the mass media and the social media. It means they have been spending a lot of time, energy and resources on research in order to understand the psychology of the electorate, and how to make them fall for their brand of politics.

Look how they come up with videos that are well-produced, well-scripted even if false, down-to-earth, captivating, entertaining and convincing? Analyze how they have mastered the use of sound bites that people can quickly recall. Look how they also use a lot of intelligence to develop strategies and tactics in cheating and vote buying. Can those who represent principled politics not do better by investing just as much time, talent, efforts and resources towards good and principled politics?

We should be able to use as much intelligence in preempting the moves of the evil one in society as in a chess game, to know the minds of the enablers of bad politics, to counteract the moves of those who promote a politics of patronage that keeps the whole nation poor, backward, uneducated, underdeveloped and incapable of meaningfully participating in nation building.

How can an army of paid trolls be more intelligent than a whole multitude of well-motivated volunteers who are willing to sacrifice, who contribute from their own resources, and who have God on their side? Remember, the Lord said, “You must be innocent as doves but clever as serpents.”

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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