Parable of the Unjust Steward, A.N. Mironov, 2021
Transcription of Homily
Translation of the Epistle for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.
We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. For whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time, Jesus said
to his disciples this parable: There was a certain rich man who had a steward: and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship: for now thou canst be steward no longer. And the steward said within himself: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I will do, that when I shall be removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. Therefore calling together every one of his lord’s debtors, he said to the first: How much dost thou owe my lord? But he said: An hundred barrels of oil. And he said to him: Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: An hundred quarters of wheat. He said to him: Take thy bill, and write eighty. And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.
The saving words of the Gospel.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Something of an enigmatic Gospel, if you have a hard time getting it, that’s okay. St. Jerome wrote to St. Augustine and said, “I can’t figure it out. How do you explain this to me?” So I think we’re, me first of all, we’re in good company here if we have a hard time making sense of this Gospel. Nonetheless, meditating on it this last week, what struck me, was how this is really the story of each one of us. We are this Steward, each one of us a steward who has received untold graces from our Lord. How many graces have we received from Him after our baptism? And what have we done with them? Is He getting a full return in His investment? It’s a worthy question to ask ourselves. Of all of the graces that I’ve been given, of what can our Lord say, “This has borne fruit.”
I would imagine the vast majority here understand what the three ordinary means of salvation are. Namely, sacramental grace, prayer, and virtue. Not one of those, not two of those, but all three of those. And it’s precisely our docility to grace that is going to make those even more efficacious. The way our Lord works on us is dependent on our state. If we are in a state of grace, we have sanctifying grace in our soul, then we can receive what’s called actual grace. So sanctifying grace is to be stable. It’s supposed to be static. Static, not in the sense of paralyzed or dead, but static in the sense of stable. We’re not supposed to be going in and out of grace and sin.
Actual grace, though, what is actual grace?
Actual grace is called actual grace because we’re supposed to act on it. It comes in a moment. It’s not stable. It’s not something that’s static. It comes in a very particular moment, for a very particular purpose that our Lord knows full well. So actual graces, then, are punctual. They come in a moment. What I do with that, whether I hesitate in my response, or I refuse to act, or I obey, those are three different scenarios which have three different effects. If I receive an inspiration of our Lord, and I refuse to act on it, I disobey. That grace is like a little budding flower which I’ve just squashed. It will not bear any fruit. It’s dead, never to come back. Actual graces are singular, non-repeatable, unrecyclable. They never come back. That’s why St. Augustine says, “I fear the grace of God passes me by without my taking advantage of it.” So if I don’t act on it, it dies. If I hesitate, if I hesitate, it will bear fruit but not as much as if I had joyfully, promptly, lovingly, responded to it, and obeyed. On the other hand, if I obey immediately the fruits that it bears are untold. Only our Lord knows what’s going to come as a result of my fidelity to grace and fidelity to grace is the fastest way to holiness. It’s the quickest way on the paths of spiritual advancement, obeying interior promptings of the Holy Spirit. That’s how our Lord will get His full investment back.
To not respond immediately, to not respond joyfully and lovingly, is to diminish the effects and we begin to have a certain spiritual lethargy, and we can end up in a form of spiritual paralysis. Our Lord deserves it. Our Lord deserves our obedient, loving, joyful response and, therefore, it’s an act of justice. To be faithful to grace is an act of justice. To be faithful, the grace is an act of love. And it ought to be done with love, not with resignation. Doesn’t mean I feel good. Doesn’t mean I enjoy it necessarily because it may be very costly to my nature, but it means it’s an act of love. Love is seeking the good of the other. It’s a gift of self. And so these are opportunities that our Lord gives us to grow in charity. It’s also an act of prudence because the Holy Spirit who prompts us knows what is the just means towards the end He’s seeking.
There’s something also to be said about the role of emotions. Our emotions are purified, our passions are purified through this obedience, and they are also calmed down. The work of grace on the soul is that it calms the emotions, it doesn’t pique them. It doesn’t exacerbate the emotions. And so, as we progress in spiritual life, we have less emotion and more consolation. Those are two different things, very different things. One regards passions, which are blind, the other regards a certain perception of the Divine Presence and, and enjoying of His loving presence. These are two very very different things. One is natural, the other supernatural. Both ordinary, one ordinary in the order of nature, the other ordinary in the order of supernature, but they’re different things and they’re easily confused, especially if we are puppets to our emotions. And if we do not rein in our passions and channel them, not squash them, not pretend they’re not there, but channeling them. Channeling them, submitting them to the action of grace.
This fidelity to Grace also brings about what St. Thomas Aquinas calls honestia. Honestia is the virtue which allows me to give the right response in every situation. I haven’t gotten that one yet. And this is a lifelong project, trying to give the right response in every circumstance. And what it does is if somebody were to achieve that, you see that in the lives of the saints, there’s a certain integrity, spiritual proportion, in those saints, those men and women of God who have learned to be docile to grace and therefore give the correct response to the interior prompting.
Where do we go from here so as not to frustrate the actual grace that a Lord sends us? Well, first of all, we should repent of our negligence and do penance for whatever neglect we have in our past. And then leave that in our Lord’s Heart and move on focusing not on the past, but on what our Lord has given us right now. And in order to be faithful to grace three things are going to be very helpful.
Number one is learning to listen, to be attentive to the internal promptings of the Holy Spirit. When I want God’s will, even without knowing what it is, but I have this desire to do His will, to give Him glory, with all of my thoughts, my words, my actions, our Lord takes note. And the promptings He sends, then, bring about with them a certain interior tension, which has healthy, because it’s pulling something out of me. My Lord is demanding something of me but also it’s accompanied by peace. Not necessarily ease, but peace. So number one is attentiveness
Number two is learning to be detached from my disordered attachments. What is an attachment? A disordered attachment is an improper amount of importance I give to anything that is not our Lord. Could be anything. I’m not talking about sin. I’m just talking about the good things that He’s given us. It could be our work. It could be our family. It could be food. It could be our arts, whatever it may be, hobbies. Not bad things, but do I give the proportionate importance to them or too much? If it’s too much, one way of figuring out where my disordered attachments are is what are my distractions like when I go to Adoration? What am I distractions like when I go into mental prayer? What are the thoughts that come to me often? They’re very revealing of these attachments. The idea is not to fight against them but to reattach our hearts to the Heart of Christ. And so that is the way of our attachment to the Heart of Christ. Burning passionate love for the Heart of Christ is what will purify those with other relationships.
And then discernment. Discernment, what is discernment? Well, discernment is making a choice, okay, and the choice I have to make: Is this interior inspiration from God, or from my fallen nature, or from the devil? Well, if it’s from God, it’s not going to go against Scripture. It’s not going to go against Magisterium. It’s not going to go against Tradition. It’s not going to go against Natural Law. It’s not going to go against my state in life. So if I can tick all of those boxes, and it’s good, it’s not in contradiction to any of those things, and it’s good, and it seems like the right thing to do, and it would achieve a greater good, then I obey, joyfully, lovingly, promptly. When that is the response, the graces that follow are things that only our Lord knows. And we just have to make that act of trust and, as a result, wonderful things will happen. Things that He has planned from all eternity.
So on our part is the task of listening, detaching our hearts from things that are not our Lord, discerning, and then acting. When we do, holiness is assured.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
— Fr. Cliff Ermatinger