Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
Where will you be on Saturday, December 2nd?
If you are one to hedge your bets on eternal life….is there? maybe? ….or thinking of “Church,” if there is time after the ball game… you might check your comfort level with some thoughts from Mathew’s Gospel during these last weeks before Advent. In last Sunday’ a parable of the ten virgins some were “locked out”. That may not sound so bad until you see what that means for the “lazy” servant in today’s Gospel. He is cast out into the “darkness” that lies outside the kingdom which means the realm of the damned, where there is constant “wailing” and “grinding of teeth”. Jesus describes that realm in a number of passages – (Mt. 8;12; 22:13; 24:51) — at times he speaks of existing in a “fiery furnace” (Mt. 13 42, 50).
Today’s gospel sounds great and some have said it is a moral incentive for capitalism (making a profit). After all, Jesus says, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich…” The parable centers on the talents entrusted to three slaves by a very rich person who is about to set off on a journey. Whatever the talents were– a measurement of weight in gold, silver, or copper – even one talent was worth a lot in modern currency. Talents were used in commercial trading. There are various interpretations that seem plausible for the meaning of the talents as they are used in the parable, from meaning natural abilities or financial resources meant for the service of others to spiritual gifts meant for the edification of the church. But there is quite a contrast to these interpretations given by biblical scholar and author, John J. Pilch and he cites an early church father to confirm a similar conclusion. The people of Jesus’ time were neither capitalists nor interested in self-improvement. They believed all goods already existed and are already distributed. There is no more where this came from. To get more one had to defraud another. Wealthy people were especially under suspicion. The rich master who at the outset seems honorable at the conclusion is dishonorable! The third slave who buried his talent calls him a “demanding person” and the master agrees, “So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant….!” The third slave should at least have put his money in the bank. The first two slaves didn’t simply serve their rich master, they imitated him. They doubled their income.
So what is Matthew’s version of the gospel saying? This advice is being offered to the community around the year 80 AD (CE) about how to behave after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension while they wait for his second coming. The followers of Jesus should not be lazy and worthless rather imitate the cleverness, but not the greed, of their masters. The risk of cleverness is preferable to the security (call it ‘numbing’) of doing the proper and honorable thing, “playing it safe.” Jesus’ own life manifested similar risky choices. Are we “playing it safe” living in a numbing security? We are entering a very busy season of the year and very time consuming in terms of making sure everything is set for “Christmas.” We would say that we are not lazy but is that the kind of laziness Jesus is talking about? Are we clever like the two slaves who doubled their earnings? Is it possible that the commercials and the things we need before Christmas are a numbing security for the things of this life? Or are we clever enough not only to distinguish and recognize values that are eternal from those that are temporal but that we are also “energized” to pursue them?
On Saturday, December 2, Sister Susan will give our parish a day’s retreat focusing on Mary. Sister’s life is a witness to her words. It will give us an opportunity to engage (or maybe even “energize”) our inner life and outer life. One is the flowering of the other one is the root of the other. Our soul needs it! It will be a time to reflect and pray and also answer some questions. Prayer is the life-breath of our soul, the oxygen of our spiritual life. Mahatma Gandhi used to say “that prayer is more necessary to the soul than food to the body. The body in fact can fast, but the soul cannot.”
Where will you be on Saturday, December2 or are you going to hedge your bets?
God Bless You,