Father David's Reflection for Saturday of Week Thirty-One (Ordinary Time)
The Responsorial Psalm gives a keynote for the readings: “I will praise your name forever, Lord” (Psalm
In Romans 16: 3-27 Paul is praising God for all the “co-workers in Christ” who as “good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” worked with him to serve the Church “with whatever gift” each had received. He mentions twenty-six co-workers by name (verses 3-15). And Paul’s secretary, Tertius, adds his name and three others to the four whose greeting Paul includes with his. This is the picture of a Church united in mutual respect and love. All, including Paul, are called by their first names. No titles of rank or status. No separation into levels of prestige. Just grateful recognition of the contribution each was making to the work of Christ: “I will praise your name forever, Lord.”
Paul ends by positioning his “gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ” within the context of God’s universal plan and all-inclusive will. Paul’s ministry is not his project, to structure and carry out as he pleases. His role is stewardship: to work “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and… according to the command of the eternal God.” This is true of all ministry in the Church. We act as stewards, managers of God’s plan, not our own. That is why we all must be accountable to God and to one another: bishops to the members of their diocese, pastors to their congregations, laity to clergy and clergy to laity. This is stewardship.
In Luke 16: 9-15 Jesus is saying that like wise stewards we should use money to invest in our “final destination” instead of squandering it on snacks here in the “departure gate.”
But Jesus affirms another principle here: “promotion” should be based on an evaluation of how “trustworthy” one has been in using the gift and gifts of grace.
There is, strictly speaking, no “promotion” in the Church, since all are equal. But the appointment of bishops (and transferring them, against the prohibition of the Council of Nicea, from smaller to larger dioceses) is not at present based on an evaluation process that any professionals would consider serious, much less on spiritual discernment. Still, change is in the air. Responsible stewards are working for reform and renewal in the Church. We must participate in that effort with unwavering loyalty, fidelity and hope as stewards of Christ the King.1
1 See Michael J. Buckley, S.J., Papal Primacy and the Episcopate; Archbishop John R. Quinn , The Reform of the Papacy (Crossroad, 1998 and 1999); Bishop John Heaps, A Love That Dares To Question (Aurora Books, 1998); Bernard Häring, C.SS.R., Priesthood Imperiled and My Hope For The Church (Triumph Books, 1996 and 1999); Peter Steinfels, A People Adrift (Simon and Schuster, 2003)..
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Work for change guided by the Gospel.