380. The Parable of the Unfaithful Steward. Essenes and Pharisees.
10th February 1946.
Waiting for the Master many people are scattered over the lower slopes of a rather isolated mountain, which rises from intertwined valleys surrounding it; in certain places the slopes rise sheer from the valleys. To reach the top there is a path cut in the calcareous rock like a scratch winding up the slope. In some parts the borders of the path are the steep incline of the mountain on one side, and a deep precipice on the other. And the dark yellowish-red rugged path, looks like a ribbon thrown among the low dusty-green thorny bushes, full of aculei; I would say the aculei are the very leaves that cover the arid rocky slopes and adorn themselves with bright violet-red flowers, like tassels or flocks of silk torn from the garment of some unfortunate person who happened to pass along the thicket of thorn bushes. And this blue-green tormenting vegetation, full of sharp thorns, is as sad as if it were spread with impalpable ashes and extends in stripes also at the foot of the mountain and in the plain between the mountain and other mountains, both north-west and south-east, alternating with places where there are real bushes and real grass, which are neither tormenting nor useless.
The crowds have camped on the green grass, patiently waiting the arrival of the Master. It must be the day after the speech to the apostles, because it is a cool morning and the dew has not yet evaporated from all the stems. It particularly decorates those thorns and leaves which are in the more shady spots, transforming the quaint flowers of the thorny bushes into tassels studded with diamonds. This is certainly the beauty hour for the sad mountain. Because during the other hours, in the scorching sun or in moonlit nights, it must look like a horrible place of hellish expiation. A large wealthy town can be seen to the east, in the very fertile plain. Nothing else is visible from this hillside, which is still low, where the pilgrims are, but from the top the eye must enjoy a wonderful sight of the nearby districts. Taking into account the height of the mountain I think that one's eyes would rove over the Dead Sea and the area to the east of it, as far as the mountain chains of Samaria and those that hide Jerusalem. But I have not been to the top, so...
The apostles are moving about among the crowds, trying to keep them quiet and orderly and to put sick people in the best places. They are assisted by some disciples, perhaps those who are active in that locality and had led to the borders of Judaea the pilgrims anxious to hear the Master.
Jesus appears all of a sudden. He is wearing a white linen tunic and a red mantle, to make the heat of the sunny days compatible with the coolness of the nights, as we are not yet in summer. He has not yet been seen and He looks at the crowds waiting for Him and smiles. He seems to be coming from behind the eastern side of the mountain, half-way up the hill, and He comes down quickly along the difficult path.
It is a boy, who, either because he was looking at the flight of birds nestling among the bushes and which take off when a stone rolls down the mountain side and frightens them, or because his eyes were attracted by the sudden appearance, sees Jesus and bouncing to his feet shouts: "The Lord!"
They all turn round and see Jesus, Who is now about two hundred metres away. They start running towards Him, but with a gesture of His arm and with His voice, which is heard clearly, perhaps because it is echoed by the mountain, He says: "Remain where you are." And smiling all the time He comes down as far as those waiting for Him and stops at the highest spot of the tableland. He greets them from there: "Peace to everybody" and with a particular smile He repeats His salutation to the apostles and disciples who have gathered round Him.
Jesus is beaming with beauty. With the sun in front of Him and the greenish hillside behind His back, He looks like the vision of a dream. The hours spent in solitude, something unknown to us, or perhaps an overflow on Him of fatherly caresses, I do not know what, accentuate His ever perfect beauty, they make it glorious, imposing, peaceful, serene, I would say joyful, as becomes a person who comes back from a tryst and whose countenance, smiles and eyes show all his happiness. The evidence of this divine encounter shines infinitely more brightly than can normally be seen after the meeting of poor human lovers, and the Christ appears dazzling with it. And He subdues all the people present who contemplate Him silently with admiration, as if they were intimidated by the intuition of a mysterious reunion of the Most High with His Word... It is a secret, a secret hour of love between the Father and the Son. No one will ever know it. But the Son keeps its seal, as if, after being the Word of the Father, as He is in Heaven, He could hardly be once again the Son of man. Infinity, sublimity find it difficult to become "the Man" again. Divinity overflows, explodes, radiates from Humanity like sweet oil from a porous earthen jar or like the light of a furnace through the veil of ground glass.
And Jesus lowers His beaming eyes, His blissful face, He conceals His wonderful smile, bending over the sick people, whom He caresses and cures while they are seized with astonishment looking at the bright loving face bent over their misery to make them happy. But at last He must stand up and show the crowds the Face of the Peaceful, Holy One, of the God Incarnate, still wrapped in the brightness of the ecstasy. He repeats: "Peace to you." Even His voice is more melodious than usual, as it resounds with sweet triumphant notes... It spreads powerfully over the silent listeners, searching for their hearts, caressing them, shaking them and inviting them to love.
Everybody is deeply moved, with the exception of that group of Pharisees, who are more arid, coarse, prickly and harsh than the mountain itself and are standing like statues full of incomprehension and hatred in a corner, and with the exception of the other group, all dressed in white and standing aloof, listening from a brow and whom Bartholomew and the Iscariot point out as "Essenes".
And Peter grumbles: "And so there is another extra fowl-run of hawks!"
"Oh! Never mind. The Word is for everybody!" says Jesus, smiling at Peter, referring to the Essenes.
He then begins to speak.
"It would be lovely if man were as perfect as the Father in Heaven wants him. Perfect in every thought, affection, deed. But man does not know how to be perfect and misuses the gifts of God, Who has given freedom of action to man, ordering, however, good things, advising perfect things, so that man might not say: “I did not know.”
What use does man make of the freedom given to him by God? The greatest part of men use it as a child would; or as a fool; the rest use it as criminals. Then death comes and man is subject to the Judge Who asks severely: “How did you use or misuse what I gave you?” A dreadful question! How less worthy than motes will then look the goods of the Earth, for which man so often becomes a sinner! Poor in eternal misery, divested of a garment that nothing can replace, he will stand dejected and trembling before the Majesty of the Lord, and will find no word to justify himself. Because it is easy to justify oneself, deceiving poor men. But that cannot happen in Heaven. God cannot be deceived. Never. And God does not resort to any compromise. Never.
Now, then. How can one be saved? How can man make everything be of use to his salvation, even what has originated from Corruption, which taught men to use metals and gems as instruments of wealth and fostered their eager desire for power and pleasure of the flesh? So will man, who, however poor he may be, can always sin by desiring gold, offices, women immoderately, − and at times he becomes the thief of such things to have what rich people have − so will man, rich or poor as he may be, never be able to save himself? Of course he will. How? By exploiting wealth on behalf of Good; exploiting misery on behalf of Good. The poor man who is not envious, who does not curse, who does not attempt to take what belongs to other people, but is happy with what he has, exploits his humble condition in order to achieve future holiness, and in actual fact, most poor people know how to do that. But the rich are not so capable, as wealth is a continuous trap, set by Satan, of the treble concupiscence.
But listen to a parable and you will see that the rich also can save themselves although they are rich, or they can make amends for their past wrongs, by making good use of their riches, even if they were unjustly obtained. Because God, the Most Good God, always grants many means to His children so that they may save themselves.
So there was a rich man who had a steward. Some enemies of the latter, who were envious of the good position he had, or because they were very friendly with the rich man and therefore mindful of his wealth, accused the steward saying to his master: “He squanders your wealth. He embezzles your goods. Or he does not make them yield any fruit. Be careful. Defend yourself!.”
The rich man, after hearing such repeated accusations, summoned the steward. And he said to him: “I have been told so and so. Why have you done that? Give me an account of your stewardship, because I will not allow you to keep it any longer. I cannot trust you and I cannot make an example of injustice and servile tolerance, which would induce the other servants to act as you did. Go and come back tomorrow with your documents, that I may examine them and ascertain the situation of my property before handing it to another steward.” And he dismissed the steward, who went away and began to worry saying to himself: “And now? What shall I do now that the master is taking the stewardship from me? I have no savings, because, as I was sure that I would get away with it, I spent in enjoyment everything I usurped. I do not feel like working as a peasant, subject to other people, because I am no longer used to digging, and I have grown heavier with orgies. And I dislike begging even more. It is too humiliating! But what shall I do?'
He thought it over and over again and he found a way out from his painful situation. He said: “I have found it! As I secured a pleasant life for myself so far, in the same way I will make sure that my friends will offer me hospitality out of gratitude, when I am dismissed from my office. He who does good always has friends. Let us go, therefore, and help people, in order to be helped, and let us go at once, before the news spreads and it is too late.”
And he went to the sundry debtors of his master and he said to the first one: “How much do you owe my master for the money he lent you three years ago in springtime?”
And the debtor replied: “One hundred measures of oil for money and interest.”
“Oh! Poor fellow! What, with such a large family and with your children afflicted by diseases, you have to give so much?! But did he not give you money to the value of thirty measures?!”
“Yes, but I needed it urgently and he said to me: 'I will give it to you, but on condition that you will pay me back whatever the sum will yield to you in three years.' It yielded the equivalent of one hundred measures. And I must give them.”
“But that is usury! Don't! He is rich, while you are not far from starving. He has a small family, you have a large one. Write here that it yielded to the value of fifty measures and forget about it. I will swear that it is the truth. And you will benefit by it.”
“But will you not betray me? And if he finds out?”
“Do you think it is possible? I am the steward and what I swear is sacred. Do as I tell you and do not worry.”
The man signed the document, handed it to him and said: “May you be blessed! You are my friend and saviour. How can I compensate you?”
“In no way! But if I should get into trouble and be dismissed because of this, you will welcome me out of gratitude.”
“Of course! Certainly! You may rely on that!”
The steward went to another debtor and talked to him more or less in the same way. This debtor was to give back one hundred measures of wheat, because the drought had destroyed his crops for three years, and he had to borrow what was necessary to feed his family.
“Forget about doubling what he gave you! How can one deny wheat and exact twice as much when a fellow and his family are starving and one's wheat is eaten by worms in the barns, because there is superabundance of it! Write eighty measures.”
“But if he remembers that he gave me twenty, then another twenty, and then ten?”
“How can you expect him to remember? I gave them to you and I do not want to remember. Do as I say and it is all settled. There must be justice between rich and poor people! If I were the master, I would accept only the fifty measures, and perhaps I would remit them as well.”
“You are good! I wish they were all like you! Remember that my house is open to you.”
The steward called on other debtors, in the same way, stating that he was willing to get into trouble to put matters right according to justice. And offers of help and blessings rained upon him.
When he was reassured about his future, he went to his master, who, in turn, had dogged his steps and discovered his trick. The master, however, praised him saying: “What you did is not right and I do not praise you for that. But I must praise you for your cunning. The children of this world are really more cunning than the children of Light.”
And I repeat to you what the rich man said: “Fraud is not right, and I will never praise anyone for it. But I exhort you to be shrewd, at least like the children of this world, with the means of this world, to make them serve as money to enter the Kingdom of Light.” That is, make good use of earthly riches, which are means distributed unjustly and used to purchase a fleeting welfare, which is of no value in the eternal Kingdom, so that they may open its door to you. Assist the poor with the means you have, give back what you or any other member of your family took unjustly, break with the evil guilty love for riches. And all these things will be like friends who in the hour of your death will open the eternal gates to you and will receive you in the blissful abode.
How can you expect God to give His heavenly goods, if He sees that you cannot make good use even of earthly goods? As an impossible supposition, do you want Him to accept squanderers in the heavenly Jerusalem? No, never. Up there one will live with charity, generosity and justice. Everybody for One and everyone for everybody. The Communion of Saints is an active and honest society, it is a holy society. And no one who has proved to be unjust and unfaithful can enter it.
Do not say: “But we shall be faithful up there, because we shall have everything up there without any fear.” No. He who is unfaithful in little, would be unfaithful even if he possessed Everything, and he who is unjust in little is unjust in much. God does not trust true wealth to those who in the earthly test prove that they do not know how to use earthly riches. How can God entrust you one day in Heaven with the mission of supporting spirits of your brothers on the Earth, when you have shown that extortions, frauds and greed are your prerogatives? He will, therefore, deny you your treasure, which He had kept for you, and He will give it to those who were shrewd on the Earth, by using also what is unjust and unwholesome in deeds which make them just and wholesome.
No servant can serve two masters. Because he will belong to one or to the other, and he will hate one or the other. The two masters whom man can choose are God or Mammon. But if he wishes to belong to the former, he cannot wear the colours, or follow the voice, or use the means of the latter."
A voice rises from the group of the Essenes: "Man is not free to choose. He is forced to follow a fate. We do not state that it is distributed unwisely. On the contrary the perfect Mind has fixed, according to its own perfect plan, the number of those who will be worthy of Heaven. All the others strive in vain to become so. That is the situation. And it cannot be otherwise. As one coming out of a house may be killed by a stone falling from a cornice, whereas one in the thick of the battle may not suffer the slightest wound, likewise he who wants to save himself, but it is not written so, will only commit sin even unawares, because his damnation is fated."
"No, man. It is not so. And change your mind. By thinking so you do the Lord wrong."
"Why? Tell me and I will change my mind."
"Because, by saying so, you mentally confess that God is unjust with His creatures. He created them in the same way and with the same love. He is a Father. Perfect in His paternity, as He is in everything else. How can He, therefore, make distinctions and curse a man when he is being conceived and is an innocent embryo? When he is incapable of committing sin?"
"To take His revenge for the offence received from man."
"No. God does not take His revenge thus! He would not be satisfied with a miserable sacrifice like that, with an unjust forced sacrifice. The offence made to God can be removed by the God made Man. He will be the Expiator. Neither this nor that man. Oh! I wish it had been possible for Me to have to remove only the original sin! I wish there had been no Cain on the Earth, no Lamech, no corrupt sodomite, no homicide, thief, fornicator, adulterer, blasphemer, no one without love for one's parents, no perjurer, and so forth! But of each of those sins, the sinner is guilty and the author, not God. God left His children free to choose between Good and Evil."
"And that was wrong" shouts a scribe. "He tempted us beyond measure. Although He knew that we were weak, ignorant, poisoned, He led us into temptation. That is either imprudence or wickedness. Since You are just, You must grant that what I say is the truth."
"You are telling lies to tempt Me. God had given Adam and Eve all the necessary advice, to what avail?"
"He did the wrong thing even then. He should not have put the tree, the temptation, in the Garden."
"In that case, where is the merit of man?"
"He would have done without it. He would have lived with no merit of his own, but only with the merit of God."
"They are tempting You, Master. Leave those serpents alone, and listen to us, who live in continence and meditation" shouts once again the Essene.
"Yes, you live. But badly. Why do you not live holily?"
The Essene does not reply to the questions, but he asks: "As You gave me a convincing answer on free will, and I will meditate on it with good will, hoping that I will be able to accept it, now tell me. Do You really believe in the resurrection of bodies and in the life of souls completed by it?"
"And do you want God to put an end to the life of man thus?"
"But the soul... Since the soul is happy with its reward, why make matter rise again? Will it increase the happiness of the blessed souls?"
"Nothing will increase the bliss of a saint when he possesses God. Or rather, one thing only will increase it on the Last Day: the knowledge that there is no longer sin. But do you not think that it is fair, that as during this day body and soul were united in the struggle to possess Heaven, they should be united also in the eternal Day to enjoy the reward? Are you not convinced? Why do you live in continence and meditation, then?"
"To be... a more perfect man, the lord over the other animals that obey their instinct without control and to be better than most men who are soiled with animality even if they display phylacteries, fringes, tassels and wide garments and they call themselves “the separated ones.”"
Anathema! The Pharisees, upon hearing the pungent remark, which is approved by the crowds with a murmur, become excited and shout like madmen. "He is insulting us, Master! You are aware of our holiness. Defend us" they shout gesticulating.
Jesus replies: "He, too, is aware of your hypocrisy. Garments have nothing to do with holiness. When you deserve to be praised, I will be able to speak. But My answer to you, Essene, is that you sacrifice yourself for too little. Why? For whom? For how long? For human praise. For a mortal body. For as short a time as the flight of a falcon. Raise your sacrifice. Believe in the true God, in the blissful resurrection, in the free will of man. Lead an ascetic life, but for those supernatural reasons. And with your risen body you will enjoy eternal happiness."
"It is late! I am old! I have perhaps wasted my life in an erroneous sect... It's the end!..."
"No. It is never the end for those who want good! Listen, sinners, and you, who are in error, or you, whatever your past may have been. Repent. Come to Mercy. It opens its arms to you. I show you the way. I am the pure vital fountain. Get rid of what has misled you so far. Undress and come to the fountain. Clothe yourselves with light. Revive. Have you stolen like highwaymen, or like gentlemen and craftily in business or in offices? Come. Have you had bad habits or lustful passions? Come. Have you oppressed your neighbour? Come. Repent. Come to love and to peace. Oh! Let the love of God flow upon you. Relieve that love, which is in anguish because of your resistance, your fear, your hesitation. I beg you in the name of My Father and yours. Come to Life and to the Truth, and you will have eternal life."
A man shouts from the crowd: "I am rich and a sinner. What shall I do to come?"
"Give up everything for the sake of God and of your soul."
The Pharisees grumble and scoff at Jesus, calling Him "vendor of illusions and heresies", and "sinner feigning holiness", and they warn Him that heretics are always heretics and that such are the Essenes. They say that sudden conversions are nothing but passing enthusiasm and that an impure man will always be impure, a thief will always be a thief and a murderer a murderer. They conclude by saying that, as they live in perfect holiness, they are the only ones entitled to Heaven and to preaching.
"This was a happy day. Seeds of holiness were falling into hearts. My love, nourished by the kiss of God, was giving life to the seed. The Son of man was happy in sanctifying... You have poisoned the day. But it does not matter. I say to you − and if I am not gentle, the fault is yours − I say to you that you are the ones who show themselves just, or try to do so, in the eyes of men, but you are not just. God knows your hearts. What is great in the eyes of men, is abominable before the immensity and perfection of God. You quote the old Law. Why, then, do you not live according to it? You alter the Law in your favour, aggravating it with burdens that give you a profit. Why, then, do you not allow Me to alter it to the benefit of these little ones, removing all the tassels and heavy useless burdens of the precepts made by you, which are so many and such that the essential Law disappears under them and is smothered? I feel sorry for these crowds, for these souls, who seek fresh air in Religion and find a slip-knot. They seek love and find terror... No. Come, little ones of Israel. The Law is love! God is love! This is what I say to those who are frightened among you. The severe Law and the threatening prophets who foretold Me, but notwithstanding the cries of their distressing prophecies they were not able to withhold sin, end with John. After John comes the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of love. I say to the humble: “Go in. It is for you.” And everyone with a good will strives to go in. But for those who will not lower their heads, beat their chests and say: “I have sinned”, there will be no Kingdom. It is written: “Circumcise your heart and be obstinate no longer.” This land saw the prodigy of Elisha, who made the foul water wholesome, by throwing some salt into it. And do I not throw the salt of Wisdom into your hearts? Why are you then worse than water and you do not change your spirits? Mix My salt with your formulae and they will have a fresh taste, because they will give the Law its primitive strength. In you, first of all, as you are the most needy. Do you say that I change the Law? No. You tell lies. I give the Law its original form, which you distorted. Because it is the Law that will last as long as the Earth, and both sky and earth will disappear before one only of its elements or its advice. And if you alter it, because you like to do so, and if you draw fine distinctions looking for loop-holes for your faults, you had better know that it is of no avail. It is of no avail, Samuel! Of no avail, Isaiah. It is written: “You shall not commit adultery” and I complete it adding: “He who sends back his wife to marry another one, is adulterous, and he, who marries a woman repudiated by her husband, is adulterous, because what God joined, death only can separate.” But harsh words are for obdurate sinners. Those who have sinned, but grieve desolately for doing so, must know and believe that God is Goodness, and let them come to Him Who absolves, forgives and admits to Life. Go with this certainty. Spread it in people's hearts. Preach mercy, which gives you peace, blessing you in the name of the Lord."
The crowds disperse slowly, both because the path is narrow and because they are attracted by Jesus. But they disperse.
The apostles remain with Jesus and while speaking they make their way. They seek the shade walking close to a thicket of ruffled tamarisks. But there is an Essene in it. The one who spoke to Jesus. He is taking off his white clothes. Peter, who is ahead of everybody, is dumbfounded seeing that the man is left with only his drawers on, and he runs back saying: "Master! A madman! The one who was speaking to You, the Essene. He is undressed and is weeping and sighing. We cannot go there."
But the man, who is lean, bearded, with no clothes on his body except his drawers and sandals, is already coming out of the thicket and he turns his steps towards Jesus weeping and beating his chest. He prostrates himself: "I am the one whose heart has been miraculously cured. You have cured my soul. I will obey Your word. I want to clothe myself with light, leaving every other thought, which might clothe me with errors. I will live apart to meditate on the true God, to obtain life and resurrection. Is that enough? Give me a new name and tell me a place where I can live of You and of Your words."
"He is mad! We could not lead such a life and we have heard so many of His words! And he... just after one sermon..." say the apostles to one another. But the man, who has heard them, says: "Are you going to put limitations to God? He has broken my heart to give me a free spirit. Lord!..." he implores, stretching his arms out towards Jesus.
"Yes. Your name is Elijah and be fire. That mountain is full of caves. Go there, and when you hear the earth quake because of a dreadful earthquake, come out, and look for the servants of the Lord to join them. You will then be re-born and you will be a servant, too. Go!"
The man kisses His feet, gets up and goes away.
"But is he going nude like that?" ask the dumbfounded apostles.
"Give him a mantle, a knife, tinder and flint, and some bread. He will walk today and tomorrow and then he will retire to pray where we stopped and the Father will see to His son."
Andrew and John run after him and they reach him when he is about to disappear round a bend.
They come back saying: "He took everything. We also told him where we were. What an unexpected prey, Lord!"
"God makes plants flower also on rocks. And in the deserts of hearts He makes spirits of good will rise to comfort Me. Now let us go towards Jericho. We will stop in some house in the country."