Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 18, 2022

The parable of the dishonest steward states that, “The master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently”. We wonder why he was praised and not rebuked. His smart use of his intelligence to gain access to people’s homes when he would need them is what the master praises him for in here. More than the virtue of prudence that the Lord highlights in this parable is the virtue of cleverness. The cleverness of this steward, though, leans more toward cunningness because he attains his goal by deceptive means.

Reflecting on cleverness this week I recalled a loved television character from my childhood. The Red Grasshopper was a very popular Mexican comic television series that parodied superhero shows. This Mexican superhero would always wear a conspicuous red uniform and was always ready to come to the assistance of anyone in need of a smart counsel to save them from sticky and dangerous situations. Sayings of his own invention were part of the Red Grasshopper speech. The one he repeated the most was the following: “You did not count on my cleverness”. This particular saying is so engraved in my memory that it came up really quickly when I reflected on cleverness.

The virtue of cleverness is what these three people have in common: The Red Grasshopper, Pablo Escobar and Pope Saint John XXIII. Regarding the cleverness of the Red Grasshopper no further elaboration is needed. Pablo Escobar was a clever Colombian natural like me, who used his intelligence to pursue crooked, evil ends. His cleverness was indeed cunningness.

Pope Saint John XXIII, on the other hand, used his cleverness to pursue the good and was a central instrument of God’s designs for the world and the Church during the previous century. Good sense of humor, the ability to suppress the dramatic aspect of any situation, and the ability to speak straight to the heart were the hallmarks of the “Good Pope” as he was called.  Becoming pope at age 77, he was able to persuade the powerful cardinals of the Church of the necessity for renovations in the Church. Thanks to the cleverness of the Good Pope, the Church of the Second Vatican Council became what we are today.

Our Lord’s message in today’s gospel is a warning against the use of our intelligence in favor of this world, namely all that belongs to evil and darkness. We are to avoid becoming children of this world. Our Lord’s message is also an invitation for us to use our intelligence in favor of God and all that is light. We are to aim at becoming children of light.

Briefly I will mention two ways the Lord encourages us to use our cleverness. First, by being generous. Though the gospel translation describes “wealth” as dishonest, the Lord does not say that it is OK to acquire riches by illegal means. Money as a source of much injustice in this world is what the Lord implies here. Still, we should use our material possessions to help people in need, which in turn may help us attain rewards in heaven.

Secondly, by being honest. Material possessions are given to us as way of training for something greater. The true assets in life are immaterial and have to do with our spiritual wellbeing. The true treasure has a value that transcends this world. God looks at the integrity of our world affairs to entrust us with the affairs of the world to come. Intelligence and will has been given to us by our loving creator. Our will is what decides in which direction we want this intelligence to go, either toward evil or toward goodness.

Everyone around the Red Grasshopper did not count on his cleverness. Our loving master, God almighty, on the contrary, counts on our cleverness to help in the building of the kingdom of light. Let us humbly ask the Lord to give us his grace to use our intelligence following the examples of Saints such as Pope John XXIII.