10 August 2006

The Unfaithful Steward - A Patristic Comment

In what follows, St Peter Chrysologus gives a refreshing (and, perhaps to our ears, unique) interpreation of a difficult pericope--the parable of the unfaithful steward. As you read, you will notice that the church father sees the "summons" as Gospel, because it calls the man to repentance so that he might receive Christ's forgiveness in true faith. You will also notice that St Peter turns the phrase "Give an account" from condemnation of the sinner to the salvation in Christ. It is, at least for me, a magnificent homiletical turn.

And a change against him was brought before him that he had squandered his goods, and he summoned him (vv. 1-2). He summoned him by means of the Gospel. And he said to him (v. 2). And what does he not do by means of the Gospel[—]by means of which he criticizes behavior , he lay bare what was hidden, he exposes ones conscience, he reproves offenses he enumerates sins, and to the one who persists in them he threatens punishment, although to the one who changes his ways he promises pardon in return? And he summoned him, and said to him: “What is this I hear about you?

Give an account of your stewardship; you will no longer be able to be a steward (v. 2) Why does he join such severity with such kindness? Why does he remove him from stewardship before receiving his report? Give an account; you will no longer be able to be a steward. As man he now asks for an account, as God he announces what is not at hand and what will be. Give an account; you will no longer be able to be a steward. He asks for an account, not to exact but to forgive. He asks, in order to be asked; he asks here, so as not to ask there; he asks in this age, so as not to ask at the judgment; he is in a hurry to ask, in order that the time of punishment not preclude time to make amends.

Give an account of your stewardship; you will no longer be able to be a steward. Why? Because the end of your life and the moment of death are coming; already attendants from heaven are ready to bind you, already judgment is beckoning; so hasten, in order not to lose time to make amends, you who have list the time to the do good deeds.

Give an account. That is to say: “Settle your account, settle your business, so that you do not have to pay back what belongs to me; you will settle it, however, if you now stop squandering it. I assume your prior debts, when I assumed you; I paid them off, when I absolved you. As your Advocate I was present to be heard on your behalf; although I am the Judge I stood trial, I was found guilty by those judged guilty by me; although free of punishment, I underwent punishments, and did not avoid being sentenced by those who were condemned; I the conqueror of death accepted death, I the destroyer of hell entered the underworld, not only to wrest you from your punishment by these means, but also to raise you to my dignity. So see to it that although the period of your stewardship has left you excluded, you be now included among the recipients of my everlasting gift.

Source, 177-178

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