The gem at the centre of the second reading could easily be missed in the flow of the text:
“ God our Saviour desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”.
In our multi-cultural society where religions, and no religions, live alongside each other, what is the position of Catholic Christianity on this? The reading states:
“For there is one God......”.
All humankind without exception is made in the image of God and invited to know, love and serve Him. The desire for God is written in the human heart and there are moral and religious truths to be found in our human experience by men and women of good will. But, crucially, our text goes on to say;
” ...and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ who gave himself as a ransom for all”.
The gift of salvation and truthful fulfilment is given through and in this Jesus and in the Holy Spirit of Jesus and the Father. The offer is not made simply on the basis of our common humanity as made in the image and likeness of God, though “fallen”, subject to sin and sorrow. It is actually given in Jesus who is the image of God and the image of real humanity, the real “Adam”, Son of God and Son of Man. It is not just part of the dynamism of the old creation but the in-breaking of the transforming power of the new creation beginning with the resurrection of the crucified Jesus.
The Second Vatican Council put this in a very moving and dramatic way in article 22 of the document on the Church in the Modern World.
” All this applies not only to Christians but to all people of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. Since Christ died for all, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in the paschal mystery in a manner known to God”.
Let us notice here again that specific reference to the historical death, and actual resurrection, and ongoing Lordship of Jesus - “the paschal mystery”.
We, like Paul,as this second reading continues are called to be teachers of this faith and truth to non-believers, heralds of the kingdom and missionary apostles.
Prayer is the framing context of this reading as it is of our Christian lives.
“I want all to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument”.
How far this is from our contemporary world where religions fight violently against each other and within themselves – in Egypt, Syria, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, the Holy Land and elsewhere.
“That all might be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet”.
In the gospel the steward is commended for his shrewdness. All of us, Christians along with others, individuals, communities, nations and the whole human race, need to exercise stewardship. Need to exercise foresight, judgement, care, using the experience, skills and potentials of our God-given human ingenuity. Our first reading is God's reminder to us that it is ridiculous to claim to love God whom we cannot see when we do not love our neighbours whom we can see. And on our planet today we see so many of our neighbours suffering. Where is our good stewardship
We who, through no merit of ours, have received the gift of faith, have received it in a three fold way: as truth and knowledge of Jesus for the mind; the love and loving of God in the heart, and the hope and courage of the Holy Spirit in our doings. The wicked steward in today's gospel was shrewd in his self-centred darkness, we are to be as shrewd in the expanding light of Christ.
For us Christians it is within the rhythm of the death, resurrection and Lordship of Christ that we are to use our human skills, ingenuity, our technology and our experience. This is not to give into “the world” but so that the world might be given over to the coming kingdom of God and “all might live godly and reverent lives in peace and quiet..”