Updated: Nov 15, 2020
Gospel Reflection for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
The hearts and minds of men and women are different and that's why we complement one another in relationships. I recently listened to a talk by Sister Miriam James Heidland at the Theology of the Body Congress. She expressed how the male heart requires more time than the female heart to trust, but when a man entrusts his heart he gives all.
The word that captured me in today's Gospel was "entrusted." A man going on a journey called in his servants and "entrusted his possessions to them." The beauty of the Lectionary is that the first reading always connects with the Gospel. So, this passage in Matthew 15 reflects Proverbs 31 when we read of a husband "entrusting his heart to [his worthy wife]."
assign the responsibility for doing something to (someone)
confer a trust on
commit to another with confidence
believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of
allow someone to have, use, or look after (someone or something of importance or value) with confidence
have confidence; hope
Look at those action words: assign, confer, commit, believe, allow, and have.
Confidence appeared three times. It's important to remember that God is active and calls us to be, too. He is confident in our work for the Kingdom and calls us to be confident in His work in our hearts and in our lives.
In our society, we read "In God We Trust" on our money. In our churches, we see "Jesus, I Trust in You" on the images of Divine Mercy. However, it's hard to really know what it means to trust in Our Lord before we really recognize that Our Creator, Redeemer, and King trusts in us!
He put breath in our lungs and taught us how to breathe on our own. He put muscles in our body and taught us how to walk and work with our hands. He put a brain in our skull and taught us how to think, speak, and feel. Some of us were given talents in music, business, numbers, writing, or teaching. Some of us were given the body of an athlete or the voice of a singer. Some may seem to wake up with these talents and some may put 1,000+ hours into learning how to acquire them. Whatever we are doing, Jesus calls us to share in His joy.
When we hear of talents, we typically think of the skills we have or the ones we would love to have. The Scripture this week takes us back to the basics, to see what we are doing with the time and resources we have been given. Some may say, "I don't have any talents..." Or, "If I only had more free time." Or, "Once, I have a salary like that." Or, "Next year, I'll be a lot less busy." These words focus on comparison and analysis paralysis rather than embracing the opportunity of the present moment. Grasping at what others have takes away from the authentic joy I find in truly receiving what I have been given.
The last servant in the parable received only 1 talent while the others received more. Fr. Mike Schmitz informed us in his homily today that 1 talent = 15-20 years of daily wages!! So, this could translate to $1 million! For what seemed like a little at first glance is incredibly generous! I'm not the best at budgeting and can relate to the third servant who got scared about how to use what the Master just handed to him. He saw what the other two had been been given and likely felt inadequate. Yet, the Master trusted him personally with $1 million!!
One of the most beautiful consolations of this story is that the Master could have just buried his talents in the ground before he left for his journey. So, the simple act of entrusting them to his servants makes it clear that he wanted them to be shared and multiplied.
The third servant doubted God's trust in him and was afraid of failing. The other servants received the talents with conviction and devotedness. They embraced the opportunities to be good stewards of what they were given. They must have had great parents who reminded them to always "leave the place better than they found it." Think about what this world would be like if everyone had that attitude. If we gave more than we took, listened more than we spoke, and served more than we were served, we would be living like Christ.
As I was laid off from a position years ago, my boss said that there were many things that I said I would like to do or plan to do, but didn't do them. I was worried about how to do them perfectly, so I distracted myself from doing them at all. From that day onward, I have been more cognizant of when I'm stagnant and when I'm scared to fail or even scared to succeed. This renewed awareness has helped me to hone in on my spiritual gifts and make sure I share them with others. After all, the gifts are not for me; they're for others. I'm the only one who can share the ones I've been entrusted with. You are the only one who can share the ones you've been entrusted with.
I enjoy how John Piper describes this on his website Desiring God:
The first and most obvious thing we learn from [Romans 1:11,12] is that spiritual gifts are for strengthening others. This, of course, does not mean that the person who has a spiritual gift gets no joy or benefit from it...But it does suggest that gifts are given to be given. They are not given to be hoarded. “I desire to share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.” What does strengthen mean? He’s not referring to bodily strength but strength of faith. The same word is used in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, where Paul says, "We sent Timothy, our brother and servant in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you in your faith and to exhort you that no one be moved by these afflictions." To strengthen someone by a spiritual gift means to help their faith not give way as easily when trouble enters their life. We have spiritual gifts in order to help other people keep the faith and maintain an even keel in life’s storms. If there is anybody around you whose faith is being threatened in any way at all, take stock whether you may have a spiritual gift peculiarly suited to strengthen that person.
Our Master is so gracious with His talents and there's really no way to fail unless we decide to. No one sets out to lose the talents we have been given, but it's possible to lose them all. We lose when we don't do anything. As Wayne Gretzky said, "you miss 100% of the shots you never take." If we try, we may miss and are statistically and realistically guaranteed to miss at some point. Bob Rose said, "there are no mistakes, just happy accidents." Rather than focusing on the misses being mistakes and failures, we can consult our coaches, teachers, pastors, and friends and try again.
In the Church, sloth is one of the seven deadly sins. We are called to be pilgrims on the move and soldiers in the battle. We keep trying and we keep falling. Our Father wants us to make forward progress and to come back to Him again and again for forgiveness so that we are healed, encouraged, and strengthened to try again.
"Giving up is the only sure way to fail" Gena Showalter
God never gives up on us. He asks us not to give up on Him. We don't know when Our Master is coming back again, but He promises He is coming back. We are asked to have faith and trust in His promises. He has entrusted this world and all different kinds of resources to us. He is a good, good Father who only gives each of us the best. He gives us what we need and what we truly desire.
As a single young adult, I have tried to encourage others by reminding them that we are exactly where God wants us to be right now with exactly the resources He has called us to use to bring Him glory. Often, we get so distracted coveting others' life circumstances, gifts, talents, or resources. No matter where we find ourselves today, let us trust Him. Let us believe that God knows what He's doing whether He is giving us 5, 3, or only 1 talent. Today, I was reminded that, "God's not asking me to do everything perfectly, but faithfully."
This parable is placed in Matthew 25 one chapter before the Passion of Our Lord in Matthew 26. Let us remember the ultimate trust fund that Christ left for us on the Cross. Death can be scary. Life can seem burdensome. Days can seem overwhelming. Christ asks us to keep our eyes on Him and remember that He died so that we can live life abundantly as we work each day with a generous, loving heart and steadfast spirit. He didn't bury His heart but rather gave it away. He allowed His Sacred Heart to be pierced so we can enter into His joy and live with Him for eternity.
In my C.S. Lewis Bible, this passage was highlighted as the reflection to the Parable of the Talents:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Though it sometimes seems safer to bury our talents, Jesus uses this parable to teach us that it's not good. Though we should have a reverent fear of the Lord, there is no reason to be frozen in fear. In describing the Christ character of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis says, "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he's not safe, but he's good. He's the King."
As we prepare for the feast of Christ the King next Sunday, let us reflect on what God has entrusted to us and the wonder and awe of being trusted by the King of Kings! God trusts us! He gives us so many opportunities to display our trust for Him each day.
Imagine Jesus looking you in the eyes and handing you a number of talents:
He smiles and says,
" I'm entrusting you with these talents to take good care of until I return.
Do you trust me and my plan for you?"
What do you say in response? Do you believe yourself to be trustworthy? Do you trust Him?
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