The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A wise investment

Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011
33rd  Sunday in Ordinary Time—A
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
1Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30
The Mass readings, particularly the Gospels, these last few weeks have been reminding us of the Christian’s need for vigilance. We must properly dispose and prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ. We both wait and work for the Kingdom of God. Through his Holy Spirit, and with the aid of Scripture, the sacraments, the tradition of the Church and all those within it, God is among us. “The Kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus tells us (Luke 17:21).
This is a particularly important point to consider as we approach the beginning of Advent and then the Christmas season, when we celebrate the first coming of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about a man going on a journey (clearly referring to himself after his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension) who entrusts his wealth to his servants (referring to his disciples, then and now). This is remarkable. Through no merit of their own, these servants are entrusted with their master’s possessions. He gives it to them freely to do as they please until he returns.
Each of them receives a different amount—according to his ability, as the text says—but in every case it is no small portion, even for the third servant receiving the least. Just one talent in the time of Jesus was a HUGE amount of money. An absurd amount, actually. Today, it would be like an extremely wealthy individual giving one person $5 billion, another $2 billion, and the third $1 billion. So, the last, while receiving less, still receives an incredible amount of money.
However, the parable is not about money, nor is it referring merely to the special individual talents and material possessions we have. Also at stake, and even more important, are the many spiritual gifts bestowed upon us—each according to his or her ability. Some are given great humility; others are granted great spiritual wisdom or knowledge, while still others may display remarkable fortitude or charity in serving others.
The list is endless. By the grace of God, even the “poorest” among us is incredibly rich in some way. As the beginning of the Gospel of John says, from the fullness of Christ we all receive “grace upon grace” (1:16).
Why all these different gifts? Why do some seem to receive more of one and less of another? Why do we not each receive everything we could possibly need—the five talents, or $5 billion, as it were?
The answer is a wonderful mystery to contemplate: the distribution is unequal so that we each receive what we need from others. God wills us to need one another! No one sins or is saved by his or her self. We must each share in some way the grace we have been given. We must invest it in one another to bear fruit for the building of the Kingdom of God, just as the servant with five talents did, and the one with two. Each took what he had been freely given and traded with others to grow even richer—making others richer in the process (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1936-1937). As the Lord told St. Catherine of Siena in a vision, “I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me.”
Those who do so “share their master’s joy,” both now and most fully in the Eternal Kingdom. Grace must be invested, not conserved. We not only wait for the Kingdom of God, but as the Body of Christ participate now in its building. The Christian life is one of participation in the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christ has breathed into us through Scripture, the sacraments, the tradition of the Church and all those within it. We are called to share our master’s joy to make one another rich in the things of God. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
Stop and re-read that last sentence again. We are called to do GREATER works than Jesus accomplished during his time on earth!!! That is amazing!
But we don’t do them alone. We do them through the grace entrusted to us by Christ and shared with one another. “I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus says. “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
God is absurdly lavish with us. He entrusts the wealth of his Kingdom to us. He allows us to work with him in building it up. The first two servants in today’s parable, though receiving different amounts, participate equally in the building of the Kingdom because they invested what had been gratuitously given to them.
The third servant, however, did not merely neglect to do this. He refused to help, to invest the enormous talent entrusted to him. Even worse, when it came time to settle accounts upon the master’s return, he blames it all on the master, contemptuously claiming that he had been paralyzed by fear, and offering back only what he had been given. The punishment was not unjust. He had chosen it; he had refused to share in his master’s joy, deciding to selfishly hold on to what had been given him rather than allowing others to benefit as the others had done with their investment in the Kingdom.
The third servant hoped for the future Kingdom without participating in its present manifestation. How could he then share in what he had not helped to build?
We must ask ourselves the same question. The most successful corporations, sports teams, and other organizations in our secular world know that building a rich future means investing in the present. It’s the only wise investment to make in sacred matters as well. The third servant bet on the future by forfeiting the present, and lost it all as a result.
In his generosity, God has entrusted the Kingdom to us. The grace we have been given is not ours to keep, but to share so that it may bear fruit for others. So, we must ask ourselves each day: How am I investing the spiritual wealth entrusted to me for the future of the Body of Christ? How am I being faithful in small matters so that I may share in God’s tremendous joy? Who today needs the grace which has been granted to me, and whose grace may I likewise benefit from?

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