A rich man had a steward. This rich man is God, and He alone merits this title truly, because He only disposes of all goods, since He is Sovereign and Master of all. The rich of the world are not rich except by Him; if men have science, wealth, virtue, or beauty, they possess all these goods from His liberality. Besides, these borrowed riches may disappear in one moment or another; their loss may be occasioned by some disgrace, an illness, or a reverse of fortune; while, on the contrary, God is free from all reverses, all accidents, and from every inconstancy.
This man had a steward. We are all the stewards of God, and to all He has confided goods which we should improve. There are goods in the order of nature, and goods in the order of grace. Everything has been confided to us as a trust which we must render fruitful for our Master. Intelligence and genius come from God; we must employ them for His glory. The faculty of loving is a gift of His heart; we should direct it towards Him who is its principal and its most worthy object. If we have riches, let us strive to employ them in doing Him homage and by distributing them among the poor, who are His representatives. The sacraments, sermons, and holy inspirations are the gifts of God. He has lavished them on us as to His children, but it is on the condition that we make them fructify for His glory by making them serve for our sanctification.
The steward in question here was defamed to his master for having badly administered the goods which had been confided to him. From this learn that God knows everything. He knows perfectly those who are faithful and those who are not, those who are negligent and those who are zealous. Therefore, if He remain silent, if He fail to strike the guilty one, understand it well, it is not because He has not seen him or has forgotten him, but His patient mercy gives us time to think of ourselves and to repair the offenses of which we are guilty towards Him. When the time marked by His justice shall come, He shall call us before His tribunal. God calls us all, one after the other, a little sooner or later, but He shall call all without exception. Though we were concealed in an abyss, God need only make a sign, and Death, the implacable messenger, shall hasten to strike us and to cast us at the feet of our Judge. Then our examination shall begin.
What is this I hear of you? A thousand complaints have reached me and directly accuse you. Your conscience groans in its slavery. I have given it to you to be your rule, your guide, and instead of hearing its voice and walking in its light you have stifled its cries, you hold it captive in iniquity, and it complains of the violence you have done it. The poor, whom you should assist
according to your means—the poor, My friends and your brethren, complain of your neglect and the hardness of your heart. The blood of My Son whom I have delivered up for you—this blood, which you trample under your feet and which you despise or which you profane in the sacraments, cries for vengeance against you. My ministers whom you insult—these men of peace who have instructed your infancy, guided your youth, consoled your sorrows—My ministers mourn over your sins, the cry of their hearts has reached me. Why then are all these complaints? Now render an account of your administration.
O terrible words! they shall be addressed to us one day; they shall resound in our ears with the sound of thunder which suddenly comes to awake us from sleep in the middle of the still night. O unfaithful Christian! you have been born of virtuous parents, in the bosom of the true Church, and, consequently in the midst of all graces, and of all the means of salvation; to sustain and to sanctify you, you have had the sacraments, instructions, good examples, wise counsels, remorse of conscience—and what profit have you made of all these graces? "Give an account of thy stewardship, for now thou canst be steward no longer."
There shall come a day when God shall take from us all His goods, and there shall no longer be grace to aid us, nor talents to improve, nor merits to acquire. That day has already come for many whom you have known, and it shall also come for you, and when it shall come and your stewardship shall have been taken from you it shall be forever. Shall you not draw some practical consequences from such a terrible truth? Shall you live always as if this world belonged to you, and as if you were never to depart from it? Oh! do not forget that you are constantly nearing one of these two alternatives-- either an eternity of punishment, if you are a sinner, or an eternity of delights, if you have been faithful.
"But what shall I do?" said the unjust steward to himself. How shall I escape the evils which threaten me ? Then it was that a means was suggested which was more cunning than equitable, and which justified these words of our blessed Lord: "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." The children of the world are they who think only of the present life, and who are occupied only with what interests them on earth. The children of light are they who know that there is another life, who aspire to life eternal, desiring and wishing to gain their salvation. You have the happiness to be of this number, but compare your prudence for eternal things with the prudence of the worldly for temporal things, and see how much their prudence is superior to yours.
They are superior in action, they do not fear pain or suffering, and it is even one of their principles that we obtain nothing without difficulty. They spare themselves in nothing—humiliating undertakings, prolonged watchings, voyages, fatigues, in fact nothing disheartens them. They are superior in reflection; they wish to be ignorant of nothing which can be useful to them. They study, they examine, they search deeply, they consult, they ask; their whole mind is concentrated on what they desire, and they profit by everything. They are superior in their resources; ill success never discourages them, and they arrange to withdraw from unsuccessful business; then it is that their activity and shrewdness are especially manifest. There are no means which they do not discover, no attempts which they do not make, no resources they do not employ; and when placed in greatest disgrace, they have the secret of still finding resources-- witness the unfaithful steward of whom our blessed Saviour speaks. Alas! shall these men be so prudent for the earth, and shall we do so little for heaven? In the matter of salvation we would wish that everything were easy, and we would abandon success, if to assure it we must labor and combat. In our contests for virtue the least reverse discourages us, our falls make us despair, and instead of thinking of the means to repair the past and of fortifying ourselves for the future, instead of animating us with new ardor and of taking new precautions, we are tempted to abandon everything, and we are imprudent enough sometimes to do so.
My God, should I not blush for my imprudence, for my carelessness, for my sloth in a matter where there is question of Thy glory and my eternal salvation! and when the children of the world are so attentive, so prudent, so laborious, and so persevering to attain their ends? May their conduct be always a living lesson to teach me what I should do for Thee, and to sustain myself in the difficult way of virtue.
Source: Short Instructions on the Feasts of the Year, Imprimatur 1897