Sunday, November 9, 2014

Well Done, My Good And Faithful Servant

This weeks gospel is a very famous parable. The parable of the talents. It is so much a part of our culture that the word "talent" actually came into our language this way. A talent is an amount of money. Yet contemplating this parable caused it to mean a natural ability or an aptitude. That meaning has become so pervasive that many don't even associate the word with money at all. Here it is:
Jesus told his disciples this parable:"A man going on a journeycalled in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,and made another five.Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the groundand buried his master's money.
After a long timethe master of those servants came backand settled accounts with them.The one who had received five talents came forwardbringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.’Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,'Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.'His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,I will give you great responsibilities.Come, share your master's joy.’Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,harvesting where you did not plantand gathering where you did not scatter;so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!So you knew that I harvest where I did not plantand gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bankso that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,more will be given and he will grow rich;but from the one who has not,even what he has will be taken away.And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"
Jesus is telling us about the final judgement. Matthew 24 has the apocalyptic discourse where He talks about the tribulation and false prophets and all that. Then in Matthew 25 he gives us 3 pictures of the last judgement. The 5 wise virgins and 5 foolish virgins, this parable of the talents and finally the picture of the Jesus separating the sheep and the goats based on "As you did it to the least of these you did it unto Me." 

None of these pictures lines up very well with the protestant notion of Sola Fide. That is salvation by faith alone. All of them clearly refer to salvation yet none of them mention faith. None of them mention sacraments or mortal sin either so the typical Catholic way of talking about salvation is not really affirmed. Jesus says the divine life has to change our behavior in certain ways. If it does not we should really wonder if we have it.  

Jesus wants us to know how we will be judged. It is an exam. He want us to pass. So he gives us the questions. For the parable of the talents the question is simple. What did you do with what you were given? Exactly what is Jesus talking about? Is He saying we should be venture capitalists and buy and sell and trade? Is He concerned that we develop our skills and abilities and use them to the fullest? Yes, but that is not the essence of it. Remember how this ends. This is a matter of salvation. It is not a matter of prudence. So what is it?

What does God give us? Money? Yes. Ability? Sure. Most of all God gives us love. Unconditional, self sacrificing love. Do we all experience it with the same intensity? Not really. Yet we all receive a huge amount. Remember even one talent is a lot of money. We all receive forgiveness. We all are given graces to help us transform our lives and become holy. What do we do with them? We give them away. If we are really living the faith and letting God transform us we don't want to simply receive God's grace we want to become a giver. What do we give? Money? Yes. Time and talent? Sure. Yet we give more. We give it all. We start to really love. 

How do we know if we are doing this right? We know because we grow. If we are constantly building others up and being a blessing to those around us then somehow we end up with more. More people to love and more people to give yourself to. You become like the 5 loaves and 2 fish. You just let Jesus break you and give you away and somehow there is more and more that you are able to give. Fr Baron calls it spiritual physics. When you give it away you end up with more. 

Jesus' point is that you need to be having this dynamic happening. You need to be seeing your love and your circle of influence growing. If you don't you are missing it. You are not really embracing God's grace. You have made God's gifts an idol. Whatever they are you are not using them to experience divine life but rather you are living in fear of losing it. 

The fear of losing God's favor can be good when it motivates us to act. What is happening here is the fear is paralyzing. People become so concerned with doing something bad that they never do anything good. What is behind it? It is an inaccurate image of God. He sees God as someone just waiting to catch him in a mistake. What need to be more concerned with what we can do right. Sure there are some things we need to avoid yet all the things we say No to are to allow us to say Yes to something else. We need to say Yes to our abilities and Yes to the people in our lives and Yes to many opportunities and on and on. 

That is what the life of the 5 talent man looks like. He is not winning 5 more talents at other people's expense. He is living the free, total, faithful and fruitful love. That love will overflow and create an abundance of blessing for you and everyone around you. That is what the grace of God is meant to do to us. That is what it will do if we cooperate. Then the Father will look at us and say:
Well done, my good and faithful servant.Since you were faithful in small matters,I will give you great responsibilities.Come, share your master's joy.

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