On the Unjust Steward.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Unjust Steward.
Imagine that you see before you the unjust steward at the moment when his lord calls on him to give an account of his stewardship. What alarm, what dismay seizes on him! See the perplexity in which he finds himself, not knowing what is to be done, debating within himself as to the best means of getting out of the difficulty. It is a sad sight, almost enough to move one to pity, but it is also extremely instructive.
1st. Consider the words of the rich man: “Give an account of thy stewardship, for now thou canst be steward no longer,” (St. Luke xvi. 2.) The rich man represents Almighty God; the unjust steward is a sinful man, who has wasted and misused the goods committed to his management, his body and his soul, his worldly possessions and intellectual gifts. Because of this infidelity on his part he is now accused before God. By whom is the accusation brought? By the omniscience of the Most High, by the devil, by his own guilty conscience, by each and all of these he is accused. Nay more, as St. Chrysostom declares, the earth itself cries out against him, the very heavens cry out, the creatures he has put to a bad use cry out against him for his disloyalty, so that God is as it were compelled to arraign him before His tribunal and call him to account, saying: “Give an account of thy stewardship,” give an account of the use thou hast made of thy memory, thy understanding, thy will, thy health, thy learning, thy earthly and spiritual endowments. Not yet, my soul, has the Lord addressed to you this awful summons, but you know not how soon it may sound in your ears. Wherefore: “In all things look to the end, and see how thou wilt be able to stand before the strict Judge, from whom nothing is hidden; who is not appeased by bribes, who admits no excuses, but will judge that which is just.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 24.)
2d. Consider how the steward consults within himself, and says: “What shall I do because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able, to beg I am ashamed.” (v. 5.) Observe that first of all he consults not with his friends and relatives, but with himself, since when he stands before the judgment-seat of God, each unhappy individual must answer for himself; friends and relatives can do nothing to help him. Observe also that the steward says: “What shall I do?” He does not say: What shall I say, how shall I excuse myself, for in the presence of the just Judge words are of no avail; fair speeches, polished, well-turned sentences will not advance our cause; deeds alone and works will be taken into consideration, works, be it remarked, that have been performed in the past, for as the steward says: “To dig I am not able,” i.e., hereafter there will be neither time nor place to dig, the time for action is over, the night has come wherein no man can work, when even begging is an impossibility. You will not be able to throw yourself at the feet of the Judge and implore pardon, nor will you be able to invoke the assistance of the saints; alone and helpless you will stand before the just Judge with your good works and nothing more, I exhort you therefore to employ yourself now in digging for treasures, treasures which will go with you into eternal life; do not now be ashamed to beg, to beseech God for pardon with true contrition, humbly to implore the intercession of the saints; remembering these words: “Why dost thou not provide for thyself against the day of judgment, when no man can be excused or defended by another, but when every one will be burden enough for himself? Now thy labor is fruitful, thy tears are acceptable, thy sighs can be heard, thy sorrow is satisfactory and purifying,” (B. i. ch. 24.)
3d. Consider what is written in the Gospel: “The lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely,” (v. 8.) Observe and understand that what the lord commends is not the unjust action, but the wisdom the steward exhibits in averting the fate that threatens to overtake him. You ought also to display a like wisdom in spiritual matters, wisdom in providing for the strict account that will soon be demanded of you. The steward looked to the end and provided against it before it was too late; see that you do the same. He bethought himself of his opulent friends; do you imitate him, and send before you friends who will speak for you in the judgment, who will assist you for eternity; that is to say, practice some good works every day, never lie down to rest without having performed some act of charity, if it only be a prayer for the holy souls; in short, make unto yourself, as the unjust steward did, “friends of the mammon of iniquity;” that is, make such use of earthly goods, if you have them, live in such a manner in this evil world and even in the cloister you cannot escape contact with it that when you fail, when your last hour comes, they may receive you into everlasting habitations, as one who, with Christian forethought, provided well against the day of reckoning. Supposing, my soul, that you were called upon this day to give an account of your stewardship, would it be found that you had wisely provided for it, or would you be taken by surprise as were the foolish virgins? If your case would be that of the latter, why, I ask you, did you enter a Religious Order? You could not have fared worse had you remained in the world.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
Copyright © 2013. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.