As I flew in to Boston today, I reflected on the (again) amazing connections between the first reading and the Gospel. In the Gospel for the day, Jesus gives us the scandalous example of the dishonest servant--and hints that we are falling short in not being more like this crafty fellow.
The servant had gotten a hint of his impending dismissal. So what did he do? Not look for another job. Instead, he found a way to kill the two proverbial birds in one clever move. By calling in the Master's debtors and letting them rewrite their IOU's, he was able to both "stick it to the man" and create a network of "friends" (Chicago style) who would reciprocate as needed.
Jesus presents this rather unsavory fellow to motivate his followers to show a little more creative gumption in seeking the Kingdom of God!
And that surpassing example of seeking the Kingdom of God demonstrates in the first reading just how that is done. But if you don't know the back story to this passage in Romans, you won't realize just how crafty Paul really is...
Paul's declarations can pass right by, just sounding like some kind of apostolic curriculum vitae: "I have completed the task of preaching the Gospel from Jerusalem to Illyrium... preaching only where the Name of Christ has never been heard before, and not building on a foundation established beforehand by someone else..."
That should sound familiar to readers of Paul's other letters, especially his first letter to the Corinthians. Because in that letter, Paul has to defend his ministry when other preachers followed in his tracks and insinuated that he wasn't all that much of an Apostle. Paul had to remind the Corinthians, just as he had the Galatians, that he had been the very first one to publicly preach the Gospel among them. Those others, those self-vaunting "super-apostles" were building on his work! And, he hinted ominously, "each one will have to answer for how he builds" on that one foundation, which he (wise architect that he was) made sure was Christ and Christ alone.
Okay, you say, so Paul is echoing something in an earlier letter. What's so clever about that?
Here's what's so clever: he was dictating that letter to the Romans in Corinth!! If they didn't hear it the first time, when he wrote it, they were going to hear it now viva voce as his secretary, Tertius, strove to keep up.
And up in heaven, Jesus was saying, "Attaboy, Paul! Don't let the children of darkness surpass my disciples in energy or initiative when it comes to the Kingdom!"