Who is that rich man and who is the steward? God is the rich man, who possesses the whole earth, and the fulness thereof. That unjust steward is the man to whom God's wealth is committed for administration; God is then the master of all, rich in all things, powerful because He can do all things; all that is on this earth He has given, for man's use, and besides He has given us many other gifts and graces; in short, all that we have comes to us from God. What have we of ourselves? Be not so foolish as to imagine that anything about your body or your soul comes from any other source than from God's generosity. Would it not then be natural that we should use all things for God's glory? But what are the facts? We misuse the gifts of God, we abuse our bodies; for, finding ourselves strong and healthy, we delight in committing sin. We abuse the gifts of the tongue, for we say bad words; we even curse and blaspheme the name of God. We abuse our sight by looking on objects that stir up concupiscence; we abuse our hands by thefts, by injuring our neighbor; we abuse our memory, which is frequently the willing receptacle of all past wickedness; we abuse our intellect by learning more and more of the ways of committing sin; we abuse our will by desiring that which is evil, "the
soul of the wicked desireth evil."
My dear young people, appreciate the gifts of God in this life, for a time will come when you shall have to give an account of the use you have made of these gifts and graces. This rich lord had heard that the steward or manager of his property was throwing it away. He became angry, he called him to him and said, "How is it that I hear this of thee? Bring your account books to me, that I may look into them, for I will not allow this squandering, and you shall not be my manager any longer." God will call us before Him at the hour of our death and an account will be exacted from us of all our life. Every one must die, every one must make this accounting. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment." Follow me now in what I am going to say. Set aside for a while that lightness of mind which is the mood of the young especially, and think seriously for a few moments. There will be great pain and torment when you will have to leave in death all that you have in this world, parents, friends, and riches: but it will be harder to appear before Jesus Christ the Judge. There we shall stand before that throne, without friends, without father or mother to excuse us; without companions, without help or encouragement, before a most just Judge, who, without regard to persons, will be most exact in His demands of justice. "I will judge thee according to thy ways."
At that dreadful moment we shall not be altogether alone; two angels will be at our side; the good angel, our guardian angel, and the bad one, the demon. These have been struggling for possession of our soul all our life, and now they stand at the judgment-seat of God with us until they hear what God's decision will be; and in the company of the one or the other we will go to the place assigned for us by God's judgment. If we died in the grace of God, the good angel will stand beside us, bright and triumphant; if on the contrary our life has been bad, the demon prepares to take us with him into the place of eternal torture. "Give an account of your stewardship," says Our Lord. I have created you that you may love Me and serve Me faithfully, but no sooner did you come to the use of reason, when you should have known Me, than you turned your back on Me, and waged an implacable war against Me. Now give an account of all the bad thoughts you have entertained during your lifetime, of the lustful glances, of the many bad words. What evil deeds have you done in public and in secret; give an account of those acts of disobedience to your superiors. These things have you done and I have been silent." Give an account of the Sundays and feasts of the Church desecrated by hardly hearing a Mass, that you passed in looking for pleasures, never thinking of God. You did not hear the word of God. What scandals have you given! Give an account of the souls you sent to hell by your bad example and your bad advice. What good could you not have done, and you were so neglectful as to do nothing. You had time, and threw it away in pleasures and amusements; whole days were spent at play with your companions; many hours of day and night were passed reading books, novels good and bad, but you could not find time for a short prayer. Up in the morning and to bed at night without a thought of God.
Yes, give an account of the many means of salvation which I gave you. I instituted for you the Sacraments, which are intended for every station in life. I left you My most precious Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament, to be a food to your soul, to strengthen you in the journey of life. You neglected to receive it, or you received it unworthily, and consequently My graces and benefits were thrown away on you. For you, I descended from heaven, became a child, and was laid in a manger in extreme poverty; for you I was persecuted by the Jews^ apprehended by them, delivered unto death, crowned with thorns, scourged, nailed to a cross where I shed the last drops of My blood for your redemption: "You thought that, like you, I was silent." All these gifts you have abused; they were pearls thrown before the sinner and you trod them under foot and despised them.
Remember the day will come when you will have to give an account; it may be very close at hand, it may be in a short time, this year or the next. If God should call you to Him to give this account of yourself, would you be ready, and would you go gladly because you knew everything was in order? Many, yes, all of us, would beg for a little respite, in which we might redouble our efforts to get ready, still to do a little good and to repair the evil which we have committed. St. Bridget was told by an angel that in three days she would die, and she began to cry.
"Three days!" she said. "Only three days to prepare for eternity? 0h, at least a year." And this is the case of a saint.
But if you, my young friends, knew that now or in three days you would die, what dread would come over you at your want of preparation! and if you had but these three days, would you not spend them in prayer? The man who is condemned to die does nothing but pray before his execution; the priest is constantly with him, so as to keep his mind on holy subjects. Under such circumstances you, too, would think only of holy things; you would fast and do severe penance, you would give away all that you had to the poor, in order to be prepared to go to the other world. But since you know neither the day nor the hour when you will have to appear before God, live as you would if you had only a few moments to prepare. "Thinkest thou this, man, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" How foolish is such bold presumption! The thought of the judgment peopled the deserts with anchorites and penitents. Even great saints trembled at the thought. Holy King David trembled at the judgments of God, as we see frequently in his psalms. "Lord, enter not into judgment with Thy servant" he said, and punished his body with fasting and severe penance, "Until his flesh was changed." St. Hilarion, a very severe penitent, coming to the hour of his death, had great fear, but he spoke to his soul: "Soul, have courage; you have served the Lord for seventy years in the desert and you still fear?'' St. Jerome thus wrote: " When I recall the thought of the terrible judgment which shall be passed on me at my death, I look with terror around my rocky cell in the desert, and it appears to me as if every stone would speak against me, and would hurl itself down on me." St. Jerome prayed day and night in a most lonesome desert and still he feared the last judgment. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi after forty years spent in her baptismal innocence, asked her confessor with a trembling voice:
"Father," she said, "do you think I will be saved?" What fear will not those experience who from their tender years have committed sin? "It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God." None will feel this more than those who feel the weight of their sins. When you fall into the hands of the great Judge, there will be no chance to escape. The unjust steward, it is true, found means to put himself out of the danger of starvation by smart entries in his account book. The sinner will not be able to do this. Our Lord praised the ingenuity of the steward, for He said: "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." Because we have so much care for the goods of this world, while for the soul we have no care. We know that to escape the consequences of an adverse judgment, we must observe all the laws of God, for "whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all." We break all the laws of the Decalogue, and we are unmoved, because we do not realize the gravity of our act; at the same time we know that one wilful, impure thought is a mortal sin and sufficient' to condemn us to hell, though certainly a thought is of little importance. What matters it if we eat meat on a day on which it is forbidden? What if we satisfy the demands of our passions? These things are serious; think how terrible it is to fall into the hands of the living God! The efficacy of prayer will then be at an end; no one can put in a plea for us. Now it is easy to conciliate the just Judge by a good act of penance, by a good thought, by a holy aspiration; we can make Him our friend now. How precious then are our present moments, when by so slight an act we can gain heaven, by such slight repentance obtain the forgiveness of our sins! Use them then with the greatest care, and be as greedy of the treasures of heaven as the miser is avaricious of his money. St. Francis had a revelation of his predestination, and by it was so overcome with joy that he nearly died. What will be your joy when you shall enter into the realms of the blessed?
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900