Read the Parable of the Crafty Servant
At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: There was a certain rich man who had a steward, who was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear of you? Make an accounting of your stewardship, for you can be steward no longer.’ And the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do, seeing that my master is taking away the stewardship from me? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I shall do, that when I am removed from my stewardship they may receive me into their houses.’ And he summoned each of his master’s debtors and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bond and sit down at once and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred kors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bond and write eighty.’ And the master commended the unjust steward, in that he had acted prudently; for the children of this world, in relation to their own generation, are more prudent than the children of the light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves with the mammon of wickedness, so that when you fail they may receive you into the everlasting dwellings.
Notice that it doesn’t start out to by saying “The kingdom is like…” this is less a parable than an illustration in a homily. It has a point. But the point is so confusing! Today when I meditated on it I came to this idea…
At other times Jesus reminds us that “harlots and publicans” will enter the kingdom before the snarky righteous. If that is so… would we not want them praying for us? If we went about the world judging folks for their morality when they were not even yet Christians would we not be doing the same?
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a rich man from Turin, Italy. He secretly cared for the poor with his personal income, doing errands, buying needed things, tending the sick and the dying. It is believed that in one such outreach he contracted Polio. He sickened rather quickly in June of 1925 and then…
Although he was lying on his death bed on July 3rd, he could not forget his closest friends – the poor. It was Friday, the day he would normally visit them, and he wanted the usual material assistance to be brought to them. He asked his sister to take a small packet from his jacket and, with a semi-paralysed hand, he wrote the following note to Giuseppe Grimaldi: “Here are the injections for Converso. The pawn ticket is Sappa’s. I had forgotten it; renew it on my behalf.”
When the priest who was attending him asked, “What if your grandmother were to call you to heaven?”, he replied, “How happy I would be.” But he immediately asked, “What about father and mother?” The priest replied, “Giorgio, you will not abandon them; you will live in spirit with them from heaven. You will give them your faith and your self-denial, you will continue to be one family.” These few words were enough to ease Pier Giorgio’s final human concerns and he smiled, nodded his head and said, “Yes.”
His earthly suffering ended at seven o’clock in the evening on July 4, 1925. His funeral was a triumph with the sight of hundreds of his poor following the coffin. Then it became known to everyone, even to his own family, who Pier Giorgio truly was.
Although I believe this man was a Saint, he was made a saint in no small part by his love and charity, and the prayers of those he had affected.
We can’t hold the world to a standard of Christian Morality. In fact, I can’t expect Christian morality of most folks who call themselves Christian. Why would I try to enforce my understanding of divorce, marriage, and birth control for example, on others? We are not legalists: only following the law will not save anyone. If a country’s entire legal code were based on laws tracible to the scriptures and yet no one had faith, that country would be as lost – maybe more so – as any other heathen nation.
The only reason we like “blue” laws is that they make us feel smug and safe.
Should I not rather pray for them, do charity, share generously even with the fallen and – if asked – preach the Kerygma, the basic plan of salvation?
Once they desire to come into the Church, then we begin forming Disciples who have a moral code, a fasting tradition, and a promise of adherence to the magisterium of the Church. Which is to say that RCIA should be more of this second phase, Didache, rather than the first phase which should happen on the streets, in offices, in parks and shops, in the places where all of us evangelize.
Harlots, publicans, and all sorts of “the fallen” will enter the kingdom before me. Drug addicts, drug dealers, racists, “the other political party” (which ever that is)… I should ask them to pray for me as I dress their wounds, feed them, welcome them, and treat them like the fully-human, image of God that they are. I should welcome legal changes that protect them from abuse, that elevate their status as human persons – and that draw them out (not force them out or punish them out) of their fallen lives. For their work dehumanizes them even so.
But what about the political activism of the Church in areas like social justice? Why should the Church care about – and be politically active around – immigrants, suicide, racism, the death penalty, and abortion, to name a few such areas? Because these laws impact the human person and affect the ability of the Church to even share the Kerygma, to do her job in the public square. She cannot care for the poor, the sick, the outcast, the voiceless if the structures of society are engaged to marginalize them, brush them aside, or kill them. Some levels of dehumanization are final. And to be avoided.
And that – dehumanization in and by the world and rehumanization in the Church by God – is what drew hundreds of thousands into the Church in the Roman world. Slaves and Masters found themselves equally redeemed children of God before the Altar. Plebs, Freedmen, Barbarians, Patricians, men, and women, could kneel and sing together before the God that made them all.
It was entirely destructive of the Culture of Death that Rome had built, denying the equal personhood of everyone around them, sucking their wealth into her yawning maws, paving the wilderness with roads that – yes – helped spread the Gospel, but also ended the cultures that were colonized, destroyed the countrysides to which they came, and carried the Roman army to every corner of the known world. The practice of Rome was to divide and conquer: to fester local rivalries into wars, then to take sides and crush one side whilst fully colonizing the other.
The Church had to use those same roads to come behind and heal the damage Rome had done – in some places all too well. The Church had to convince the Celts to evangelize the Danes and the Saxons; later she had to convince the Normans that the Saxons and the Celts were Christian people too.
Only humans can enter the Kingdom of God. The world, the flesh, and the devil will do everything to remove that notion from your heart, the Church must work, pray, and love to keep that notion firmly implanted in you, our culture, and our laws. It’s possible that at the Last Day, the intercessions of your Divine Image may save me. Even if you never go to Church.