Sunday, September 1, 2013
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
“Celebrate Life with Jesus!” This is a wonderful theme of your conference this weekend. For to be a Christian is not a burden but a gift – and to know Jesus is our joy and the greatest thing that has ever happened to us.
Too often, too many of us may think like that third and unfaithful servant in the Gospel parable we have just heard (Matt 25:14-30): that being Christian is something that has to be endured rather than something to be shared. And thinking like that, we risk missing the invitation that the Master makes: “Come,” he wants to say to each one of us, “Come, share your master’s joy.”
This parable, for many, is hard to understand; and sometimes preachers have not interpreted it very well. Actually, some have interpreted it very poorly – like, for example, those preachers of what is sometimes called the “prosperity gospel,” who sometimes use this parable as a justification of small venture capitalism, since it seems that in the parable “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” That’s not what Jesus is trying to teach us here. Nor is he just telling us to develop our natural abilities. Now many times preachers will say just that – especially if they’re trying to start a stewardship campaign. While this interpretation might be a whole lot better that that offered by proponents of the “prosperity gospel,” it really doesn’t get us to the real meaning of the parable – which is the invitation to share the Master’s joy, to embrace the gift of his life that is given to us even now – as the faithful servants did – and not to see it as a burden and thus bury it – like the unfaithful servant did. In other words, we must “celebrate life with Jesus.”
In the time of Jesus, a “talent” represented a whole lot of money – something like 70 pounds of gold. Now I’m not sure what 70 pounds of gold is worth today but at the time of Jesus it was more money than most people could hope to earn in a lifetime. So, each of the servants receives a superabundance of gifts from the Master, as have each one of us. After all, what do we have that we haven’t received from the Lord? Everything we have comes from God. The only things we can claim as our own are our sins, right?
This superabundance of gifts is our life with Jesus – and Jesus does give us a superabundance of gifts. He might distribute them among us in different amounts – but each of us are beneficiaries of the incredible generosity of Christ – a generosity we experience in so many ways, a generosity we experience in a very real and special way when he gives himself to us in the Holy Eucharist.
The man in the parable who goes on the journey represents Christ – and those servants represent each one of us who believe in him. We are called to discipleship – even as we await his return in glory at the end of time.
If we are disciples, we are to be faithful disciples. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to remind us, “God does not ask us to be successful; only to be faithful.” But, as the parable suggests, to the extent that we are faithful, we will be fruitful to some degree.
The parable illustrates the tragedy of wasted opportunity: the lazy or useless servant who is thrown out into the darkness outside. Now, of course, we should be careful in understanding what he says about the Master – and since he was a useless servant we shouldn’t take what he says about the Master as the “gospel truth.”
“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.” And even if the Master repeats what the servant said, he is not saying that it is true. He’s just letting the servant’s own words condemn him – for if he believes the Master to be the kind of person he said he was, that was all the more reason for him not to be lazy.
How we use God’s gifts depends on how we see God, how we understand or don’t understand God. The unfaithful servant didn’t really know the Master – he never grew to appreciate the riches of God’s goodness but rather by burying it in the ground chose to cling to the transient and paltry goods of the world – and ended up losing everything.
So, to celebrate life with Christ is not to think of Jesus as some hard slave driver; rather it is to recognize him as the one Lord who invites each of us into fullness, a superabundance of grace that he continually offers us. To celebrate life with Christ is to share in his joy even now, the joy of discipleship – a joy that will increase even more when he comes again in glory.