October 30, 2016
Anyone expecting to find immediate principles of conduct in the parable of the dishonest steward (Luke 16:1-8a) is bound to be frustrated. What are we to think of the steward's actions? He not only gets way with defrauding his master but he is praised for doing so by the very person he has defrauded. How Luke chooses to provide his readers with ways to apply the parable in their Christian life seems strained (vv. 8b-13). It appears as if Jesus holds up the clever, but fraudulent activity of the steward as commendable and worthy of imitation (vv. 8b- 9). Verses 10-13 contain sayings that are not directly related to the parable.
On the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this week's stories of wildly inordinate mercy may be hard to take in. Mercy sounds like a beautiful idea -- until the day it is we ourselves who suffer irreparable loss at the hands of another, and righteous outrage smolders deep in our heart. The 9/11 attacks were a horrifying public humiliation for the people of the United States, and the nation's response was anything but merciful. As violence piles up ever-higher in our city streets and around the world, responses of fear, rage, and reprisal are the norm. So many people are trapped in the conviction that violence and trauma define their identity, and that the only way out is retaliatory violence.
This Sunday Mother Teresa will be canonized and very few doubt her holiness. But in light of this canonization I think it is important to note that for many years this saint experienced a real crisis of faith. In a collection of her letters Mother Teresa: Be My Light, compiled by her spiritual director, we read that after founding the Missionaries of Charity, she had doubts about the existence of God, about the soul and therefore the promises of Jesus - and heaven. This revelation has been received in a variety of ways. In an extensive article in Newsweek published by the late journalist and atheist Christopher Hitchens, he criticized her as being an over-promoted religious celebrity. He also contended that Mother Teresa's doubts made complete sense because the Catholic faith is based on asking people to believe "impossible things."