And since all of us are servants, servants for Christ, we cannot serve two masters. Stop trying to perform the impossible, the unreachable, the unattainable, the unwanted situations in life that do great damage to the human soul at the end of the day.
We cannot serve both God and cheating. We cannot God and greed. We cannot serve God and infidelity. We cannot both God and selfishness. We cannot God and a false human brand of marriage that more and more Christians have no issue with, while God continues to be insulted. We cannot serve both God and Planned Parenthood, as they continue to treat the beautiful gift of human life as easily disposable, and then sell parts of it for a little extra mammon. We cannot serve both God and a sports team, or Sunday morning sports, or yelling at the television. But we can serve God and enjoy any sports in a healthy context.
This is one of those parables Jesus tells to his disciples where at the end of it, either your head is spinning out of control, trying to figure out exactly what he’s saying, or, there’s a natural understanding in one’s heart that he’s teaching something rather simple. I prefer the simple interpretation. Such as, don’t place your politics and bank accounts beyond the reach of humbly kneeling before a merciful God who desires our prayer, prudence, and penance, and not our punishment.
This parable, simply, points to the power of Divine forgiveness and the master’s willingness to let go of some debt owed to him, rather than hold that debt – that sin – against the foolish steward, which we all are at times. The foolishness of acting in a manner that is unworthy of the master’s compassion is reversed by the steward – us – acting prudently on behalf of the master, and not oneself.
This parable is like a semi-conversion story, where the steward realizes he’s in some very deep do-do because of his intentional waywardness. The line in the sand has been crossed. The wall has been hit hard. He’s in trouble, and he knows there’s no place where he can go that will take him beyond the reach of God. There’s nowhere in this created world, even to the farthest ends of the universe, where God will not see us. Beautiful Psalm 139. Read it please. “O where can I go from your spirit, or where can I flee from your face? If I climb to the heavens you are there. If I lie in the grave you are there.”
The steward has nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide form the Master, the Savior. And neither do we. So the steward’s best bet, coming to his senses like the Prodigal Son, is to give in, somewhat. It reminds of St. Augustine’s famous quip, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” The steward becomes prudent instead of greedy; In his fear he says, “I’ll do something in favor of my master instead of against him before my master does something to me. I’ll beat him to the punch, and hopefully avoid his punch.”
The good news is the turning away, at least momentarily, from serving himself in greed, and serving the goodness of his master. I suspect that’s a continuous temptation for many of us…where the blessings and the temptations of a passing world can override being a faithful, humble servant to Christ on his terms. And representing our Lord with truth and accuracy. Prudent acts are required on our part, be they spiritual or physical, to allow God’s grace to carry us back to a better place where we stand before the Master.
Interestingly, the master in the parable admires and commends the semi-conversion of his unfaithful steward. “Here’s your promissory note for 50 measures of olive oil, instead of 100 owed, which is better than zero collected.” You know what that is in the world of eternal thinking? That’s a recipe for Purgatory. The semi-conversion keeps us out of eternal damnation; H-E- Double Hockey Sticks. So the master here is okay – for now – with semi-conversion. The prudent acts of the steward on behalf of the master means the master doesn’t have to wipe out the steward. Because of mercy and compassion.
This parable reveals very clearly that we have much to say about our final destination. However, in being servants for Christ, it’s okay to have some semi-conversions along the way over the years, as long as we don’t stay there. But not serving both God and mammon is a teaching from Jesus that calls us to full conversion.
Full conversion to Christ is nothing short of maintaining a daily life of prayer; performing consistent works of mercy – from the sick to the poor; being faithful to the teachings of our Christian faith without watering them down, or trying to change the unchangeable. Full conversion to Christ incorporates the prudent act of reading about the lives of the Saints, and increasing in our lives the virtues in their lives that raised them to a holy Communion.
Full conversion to Christ, the only true master between God and men, must be grounded in the reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Many folks are satisfied with collecting promissory notes for 50 when 100 is available and owed to Christ.
The steward in this parable is satisfied with Purgatory. Through God’s mercy and compassion, he has at least been saved for the moment through acts of prudence. Our goal is not Purgatory. Our goal is heaven, which means full conversion to Christ.