|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
November 19th, 2017 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30 NAB
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called 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 ground and buried his master’s money.
After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing 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 plant and 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 plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so 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.'”
Fair doesn’t always mean equal. Most often it requires a sliding scale. Chores and responsibilities in the home depend on age and ability. In the same way, privileges correspond to the level of responsibility and trustworthiness. The workplace organizes in roles determined by qualification and experience, thus each is expected to contribute in the manner expected of their specific job.
Jesus reveals that in the kingdom of God there’s a sliding scale as well. Each person has a job which is suited to his or her abilities and expectations for outcome that correspond to them. Thanks be to God!
It seems reasonable so what’s the problem? Sin. I’d like to consider specifically Envy and Sloth. Envy stirs discontent within us. It looks around at others and desires their gifts and goods, and rejoices at their misfortunes. It makes us want others’ privileges without necessarily their responsibilities. It convinces us the grass is greener on the other side and blinds us to the Cross present in every state and place in life.
Envy can even distort spiritual aspirations. The Lord has a plan for each one of us (Jeremiah 29:11). He has poured out His redemptive love for all mankind and invites everyone to Heaven. He calls us each to love where He has placed us, not where He has placed someone else.
Sometimes love includes warm feelings and gratitude, other times it tries our patience and drains us. At all times however, love is faithful. I love my kids when receiving their hugs and when disciplining them during a tantrum, when being met with appreciation or the attitude that I can’t do anything right. I love my students when engaging in an inspiring conversation with them, and when having to track down their missing homework or correct a bad behavior.
During the difficult tasks of love however, it’s tempting to think that we are in the wrong place. We look around us and consider if we would be happier doing something else for the Lord. And yet, precisely in faithfully loving during good times and bad, we most resemble our Lord and act as His disciples.
The second obstacle to faithful love is sloth. Sloth is physical and/or spiritual laziness. It especially undermines our strength of perseverance in the unappealing aspects of relational love such as the daily routine of chores, conflict resolution, work deadlines, bearing wrongs patiently, praying when we don’t feel like it, or going to Mass even though we’d rather sleep in. It’s then that we want to just bury the talent God gave us and click the next episode of Netflix.
But God has made us with a purpose and has entrusted us with a noble task. He calls us to greatness through great love. Jesus called St. Mother Teresa to greatness through “small acts done with great love.” Before her, St. Therese of Lisieux the Little Flower, from whom Mother Teresa chose her name, learned the “Little Way” from Jesus and Mary. Though a cloistered Carmelite nun who died at a young age, Jesus inspired millions through the love He poured into her and through her, so much so that Pope St. John Paull II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church on October 19th, 1997.
In his homily, he described her missionary aspirations, which Christ asked her to fulfill not by travel (as she wished) but through contemplative prayer and sacrifice. Though not the martyr’s glorious death she desired, she came to understand that each is called to a different service, but all are called to the same purpose – love. In fact, she concluded and exclaimed, “O Jesus, my Love … at last I have found my vocation; my vocation is Love!'” (Ms B, 3vº). She understood that Christ simply wanted us to love with faithfulness wherever we were and that fidelity contributed to Christ’s larger mission (she is in fact the patron saint of missions). Pope St. John Paul II described her insight in his homily saying,
|“Thérèse of Lisieux did not only grasp and describe the profound truth of Love as the centre and heart of the Church, but in her short life she lived it intensely. It is precisely this convergence of doctrine and concrete experience, of truth and life, of teaching and practice, which shines with particular brightness in this saint, and which makes her an attractive model especially for young people and for those who are seeking true meaning for their life.”|
John Paul II followed the Little Way and Christ called him to love in astounding and public ways, travelling around the world, encountering millions of people, and fighting deathly philosophies becoming a saint through love too. At the same time, St. Therese’s parents, who lived a simple Catholic family life, were canonized saints by Pope Francis in October of 2015. Whether a pope or a parent, all are called to love and through that love be saints. It’s love that God gives to us, and love that He wants returned – not buried and barren, but fruitfully multiplied. Love gives love, and in giving it receives. As St. John exclaimed in his first letter:
|“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19|
- Who is someone who loves you faithfully in both times of crisis and the ordinary, yet repetitive, needs of everyday?
- What makes you feel the most loved?
- Where has God placed you to love? Who are the people in your family, neighborhood, friendships, and work? How might you show them love? What practical help might they need? What encouragement, time, or conversation may they need? How might you brighten their day or help carry their burden?
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to see opportunities to love, even in the difficult ways like disciplining or meeting deadlines.
- Consider if envy or sloth ever undermine your vocation to love. To you ever undervalue your vocation or your work? Does it ever feel like it’s not enough? Do you feel overwhelmed or tempted by distraction?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Choose one person each day to love – with intention, patience, perseverance, and generosity.
- Read John Paul II’s homily about St. Therese of Lisieux when he proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church.
- Read about Mother Teresa or some of her writings.
- Spend time with someone loving and learn from their example.
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017
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