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One of the ways we can describe Jesus is as being pure love and mercy. There are no conditions attached when Jesus offers his love and mercy to us. He is not capable of saying, “I will love you if you do this for me.” Jesus would never say, “If you love me, then I will be able to love you.” Jesus’ love is without limits or restrictions. Jesus also offers his mercy in the same way, without any constraints.
In his mercy, Jesus will forgive every one of our sins regardless of its depravity. A key point to remember is that Jesus can only offer us his mercy. As with the love of Jesus, his mercy is never thrust upon us. It is up to us whether we embrace his compassion that will deliver us from our sins.
We are the ones who must present ourselves before Jesus asking for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation to experience his mercy. As we know in Reconciliation, Jesus gives us absolution for our sins before we leave the confessional. There are no strings attached. Jesus wipes away our confessed sins. The penance we receive should remind us of the cross Jesus bore for us to be able to experience the redemption from sin. In completing the penance given, we are expressing our desire to conform our lives to Jesus, the desire to live without sin.
However, lurking about is the devil who immediately pushes us to begin to sin again. He brings us to the threshold of sin, time, and time again. As opposed to the common belief, it is not the devil does not make us sin. He only gives us the opportunity; we are the ones who step over the line. The devil presents us with choices that tweak our desires. We are the ones who fail to follow the moral conscience the Lord provides to help us determine right from wrong.
Thus, we need to determine which master we want to serve, the devil, or God. If we want to follow the Lord, then this life on earth will be an effort as we suppress our free will to follow the desires that violate our moral conscience. We will experience being merciful to others by sharing our gifts, whether financial or talents. We will recognize that we will struggle to live in Jesus’ words to love God and our neighbor. Over and over again, we will need to humble ourselves from our inevitable faults and ask for forgiveness. We will strive to be faithful, growing stronger each day through Jesus’ love and mercy. We will prayerfully keep our hearts focused on the promise of heaven.
Alternatively, others chose to follow the devil. The evil one makes promises that appeal to one’s vanity, one’s desires to be powerful and wealthy, to know all the pleasures of the world. One can be self-indulgent, prideful in collecting everything that brings satisfaction to every selfish want. If one follows this master, sin is a silly word that will not factor into any decision made.
Such is the attitude of the steward in today’s Gospel story. He confidently steals from his master until the master becomes aware of the miscreant’s deeds. Instead of showing remorse, the steward continues in his sinful ways habits by collaborating with his master’s debtors to rewrite promissory notes for smaller amounts than the actual debt owed.
All parties in the parable have colluded with the devil in their actions — the threat of the effects of sin on their souls was not a consideration. The steward reduces the debt, with the hope that the debtors will remember his efforts and see to his physical needs for shelter and food once he loses his job. The steward, who seemed to be doing a merciful act by reducing the debts, is only enabling the debtors to become dishonest as well. In their acts, the debtors are as guilty of stealing as is the steward. The master, who should be furious when he discovers an additional loss of his income, praises the steward for his sinful ingenuity. We can see how the devil has infiltrated every aspect of this event, successfully tempting all these men to place wealth as the ultimate goal. In no part of this story, does one find any action that leads any of them to Jesus, the master we should follow if we want eternal life.
In the parable, one may believe money to be the cause of the evilness that occurred. Money itself is not evil. It is the acts that people do after procuring wealth that brings about wickedness in people. Money becomes tainted with evil because it is easy to fall victim to the devil’s temptations of identifying personal gain as the priority in one’s life. Money, however, loses its sinful stink when we use it to serve others and not indulge ourselves. Jesus does not want us to abstain from all the world’s pleasures and entertainments, but we should be using our moral conscience to guide us.
We cannot serve two masters. We must choose between Jesus and the devil. There are no other options. If we direct our acts to design a personal paradise in this world, then we are obligating ourselves to the devil. Following his beck and call will eventually bring us to despair and torment. Continually listening to his lies takes one down the slippery slope of sin that ends in the fires of hell for all eternity.
If one chooses Jesus as the master of our lives, then we accept the suffering on earth looking forward to the peace of heaven. If we are using our acquisitions of material goods to seek eternal happiness, then we are allowing Jesus to guide us. With Jesus as our master, we are confident that by placing our trust solely in him, we will receive his love and mercy that is unending.
Take time today to consider; which master are you following?
Deacon Dan Gilbert