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Too Weak to Dig, Too Ashamed to Beg


“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This First Friday in the month of November affords us the opportunity to revisit the parable of the “Squandering Steward,” (Luke 16:1-8), a name that I cannot confirm has been officially given to this tale but one that seems appropriate in light of the circumstances

Today we also celebrate the Barefoot Cardinal, Saint Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), a man who stood tall in the face of the heresy that was the Protestant Reformation, implementing the reforms that came from the Council of Trent

”A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property,” Jesus tells his disciples in the opening words of the 16th Chapter of Luke. “He summoned him and said what is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship because you can no longer be my steward.”

The steward naturally begins to panic at the thought of losing his stewardship. “What should I do now that my master is taking the position of steward away for me?,’” he wonders to himself, coming to grips with the fact that he is, as he put it, “not strong enough to dig and too ashamed to beg?”

Suddenly he comes up with an idea. He begins to swiftly settle all debts and promissory notes, doing so at a deeply discounted price. His master rather surprisingly commends him, claiming that he acted with great prudence, a seemingly long lost virtue in our withering secular world

Saint Augustine makes it clear in his writings on this parable that the servant is not being lauded for his duplicity, this precursor to what might be called a “side hustle” today. What he was doing was immoral make no mistake. He was stealing from his master in a desperate, midnight-hour act of self-preservation. “He is commended not for his wickedness, but rather for his foresight,”Saint Augustine explains. “He was looking to his immediate future and his needs. He was out of a job and thinking ahead.“

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The takeaway here is that if the “children of this world” as Jesus calls them, those of a strictly secular bent, are willing to go to extreme measures to provide for themselves and their immediate future, going so far as to steal, then how much more should we as children of the light act promptly, decisively, and with the aforementioned prudence needed to follow Christ? We do this by way of a pure, virtuous and holy life, one rooted in charity and humility, wherein one is redeemed and transformed by way of the confessional and given spiritual nourishment through scripture and by all means the Holy Eucharist.

Augustine goes on to say of this steward that “He was insuring himself for a life that was going to end.” He then asks “Would you not insure yourself for internal life? As Saint Paul reminds us in today’s 1st Reading (Philippians 3:17-4:1) our citizenship, our eternal citizenship, is in Heaven Anything short of this eternal destination is abject failure. Or in the words of French poet Charles Péguy, “There is only one tragedy in the end. Not to have been a Saint.”

Since everything we have is given to us by God and therefore belongs to God ~ our time, our talent, and our treasure ~ this passage affords us the opportunity to reflect upon whether or not we are being good stewards with these gifts that we have been given freely by the giver of all good gifts. Author Marshall Segal points out in his essay How to Squander Your Spiritual Gifts, “Our gifts won’t reach the heights of their potential if we refuse to use them on our knees.”

Let us look to the example of the aforementioned Saint Charles Borromeo. This was a man who harnessed his immense talent by way of a humble nature, simplicity, and being eternity-minded in all that he did. German Author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said “The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.” We see this in the life of Saint Charles Borromeo, whose joy in proclaiming the Gospel and serving others was palpable. His final words echo those of Saint Paul, for he too realized that his citizenship was in Heaven. These dying words, spoken in the year 1585 when he would die at the age of 46, were “Look Lord… I’m coming.”

These words echo those of our Paalmist today, who urges us to “…go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”

Saint Charles Borromeo, pray for us….

Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop (1538-1584)

Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop (1538-1584)

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