Risks of Love


The parable of the talents, which we read at Holy Mass tomorrow. Two points. [Spanish]

1. The investment strategy of the first two servants: risky or conservative?

A “talent” was the annual salary of a skilled worker, $50,000 in today’s money. The master gave the first servant $250,000 to invest; the second got $100,000.

How much time did they have to work with? How long did it take for them to double their money? The parable says that the master took a “long trip abroad.” Maybe a couple years. Probably not seventy years.

I bring up seventy years because: At today’s interest rates, and adjusting for inflation, it would take seventy years to double your money by putting it into a safe savings account. The first and second servants doubled their money much more quickly than that. They took big risks. They could have lost everything their master gave them. He could have returned from his trip to find those first two servants penniless. But he didn’t. Their risks paid off.

Meanwhile the third servant got intimidated by all the big numbers and risk taking. He thought to himself, “I don’t belong with these high rollers.” The master had given him $50,000. Not as much as the first two, but still a lot of money. He played it safe. He protected himself from potential catastrophe. He hid everything he had, in a secret place, away from prying eyes.

In sports, if you have a lead and then just play defense and try to run out the clock, what happens? You almost always lose.

sacredheartPoint 2. At the beginning of the parable, the Lord Jesus said that it explains the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, He was not talking Wall Street in this parable; it’s not really about money. The talents in the parable represent something else. What do they represent?

What chapter of the Bible is this? Matthew 25. What comes at the end of that chapter? We will read it next Sunday. The separation of the sheep from the goats. The king tells the sheep, “Come inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, because you loved Me when I needed it. You welcomed, fed, clothed, comforted, and healed Me.” They say, “When did we see you, Lord?” He answers: “When you did it for these least brethren of Mine, you did it for Me.”

The cash in the Parable of the Talents represents love and kindness, openness and understanding, patience and gentleness. The first two servants received a lot of “money”—that is, the Lord gave them big, devout hearts. They proceeded to love dangerously with them. They loved without holding back. They risked everything—they risked themselves. They gave themselves over completely to the work of loving God and neighbor. They had faith; they trusted in God. They feared nothing.

Meanwhile, the third servant received a pretty big heart also. He could have used it to love God and his neighbor, but he didn’t bother. He feared potential dire consequences. He did not consider himself an adventuresome person, when it came to caring about anything. “That’s for heroes, and people like that, not me,” he thought to himself. “I just need to make sure that no one gets mad at me. I don’t want to get hurt.”

We cannot serve both God and mammon. We have to choose one. We have to choose God and despise all the pomp and circumstance of this passing world. But we serve God well in the same way that worldly people make a lot of money: by risking everything. By fearlessness. By jumping out into some unknown situation because I believe I have something good to offer that no one else does.

The point of the Parable of the Talents is: No one ever made it to heaven by loving God and neighbor timidly. Half-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ never did anyone any good. God gave us everything, and, as the parable has it, He is a “demanding man.” He expects us to risk ourselves completely for His glory. We owe Him nothing less than that.

What do we imagine the master in the parable did during his long journey abroad? Did he play it safe? Did he go somewhere comfortable, some place he had visited before? Where do we figure he got the $400,000 he gave his servants in the first place?

He obtained his fortune by going on adventures. He traveled in dangerous places, in order to give the world something new and good. His creativity, confidence, and energy provided the servants with something to work with themselves.

We do not have to come up with zeal and love out of nothing. God gives us what we need to work with, in order to do something good—namely, ourselves. We just have to risk ourselves fearlessly, so that the good thing He has begun in us can come to fruition.

God is undying, infinite love. That’s what we believe. That’s what Christ crucified teaches us. If we believe that, then we have no excuse for being afraid to love Him back, and love our neighbors, with everything we have.

The Hard Man with Plenty of Money

At Holy Mass this Sunday we read verses 14 to 30 of Matthew 25, the Parable of the Talents. Next Sunday, when we keep the Solemnity of Christ the King, we will hear the rest of the chapter. Matthew 25 enjoys great fame as a chapter. Next week we will hear: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…He will separate the _____ (sheep) from the _____(goat)s.”

When He does, the criteria for judgment will be: “I was hungry, and…(you fed me)” “I was thirty, and…(you gave me drink)” “A stranger, and…(you welcomed me)” “Naked, and…(you clothed me)” “Sick, and you…(cared for me)” “In prison, and you…(visited me)” The sheep will ask incredulously, When did we see you so, Lord? “Amen, whatever you did for…(the least of my brothers), you did for me.”

sheep-goatsIn other words, the divine King has not left us in the dark, when it comes to the Final Judgment.

He has painted a crystal-clear picture for us. Matthew 25. Goats don’t help the poor neighbor. Sheep help, without even thinking about it. Then, the sheep die, and wake up in heaven, and only then do they realize that the Lord Jesus Himself had visited them countless times, in His distressing disguise.

Now, I bring all this up not because I want to skip over our gospel reading for this Sunday. I simply feel that we need to take proper cognizance of this fact: the Parable of the Talents appears in the famous and crucially important chapter about the Final Judgment.

The Lord actually told two slightly different versions of this parable. Matthew’s gospel has a master giving talents to his servants; Luke has a king giving gold coins to his. A “talent” equaled the annual income of a skilled wage-earner. So the master of Matthew’s parable has as much money as the king in Luke’s.

Continue reading “The Hard Man with Plenty of Money”

Leaving the Gold Coin on the Court

Does anyone ever waste their God-given talents on purpose? Does anyone ever say to him- or herself, “Look at this. I can do this or that very well, and I love doing it. God gave me these special powers to serve Him and give Him glory by helping others. So I decide here and now not to do that, but to become a bumbling, incompetent elevator repairman instead. Because I know I will suck at it.”

No. People do not generally engage in such perverse decision-making reflections.

Usually, when someone wastes his or her talents, it is because something else gets in the way. Like paranoia. Or pride. Or stubbornness. Or jealousy. Or laziness. Or substance abuse. Or vanity. Or video games.

“I condemn you out of your own mouth,” the Master said. “You knew I was a hard man.”

A hard man, yes. God relentlessly makes the sun rise and gives us chance after chance after chance to get over ourselves and do something worthwhile. If I can manage to be realistic with myself for even five minutes, I can almost always come up with something good in which to participate today. Then–as Woody Allen so wisely put it–if I show up, I have completed 90% of what I need to do in order to succeed.

Problem is, being reasonable with ourselves is a trick. Because I can so easily convince myself that: What I have to offer isn’t good enough. Or that so-and-so will certainly ruin everything. Or that the whole thing is really just too much to deal with.

It all would be too much to deal with—if we launched ourselves out into the world without trust in God. If we couldn’t be sure that the Lord has a perfect plan to bring the good work begun in me to completion. If we didn’t know that, first and foremost, we are His beloved children, and we please Him best by being ourselves and letting the haters gape.

You knew I was a hard man when you folded up your gold coin in a napkin. You were afraid. Of what? Were you afraid of something more terrible than the wrath of the one who gave you the gold coin in the first place? What could be more terrible?

Did the one who invested and made a ten-fold profit—did he think the Master was a hard man, an unfair man? Maybe he knew the truth, which the napkin-man also knew but was too timorous to meditate on.

Maybe the one who made a ten-fold profit knew that if his own ingenious schemes happened to fail, the scene would unfold like this:

“Master, listen. I think you know that I left it all on the court. [Just like the Georgetown Hoyas did last night!] I gave it my best shot. But your gold coin is gone. I had gained eight, but then I put them into this great plan I had, and, well…I lost them all.”

He knew that if he had had to say this, the Master would have said, “Son, I know what you did. I’m proud of what you tried to accomplish. Here’s ten coins. Go and take another crack at it.”

[Click HERE for a post about the august anniversary celebrated today.]

Wanting Christ to be King

Is it me, or does today’s parable from St. Luke’s gospel sound strangely familiar? On Sunday we heard a slightly different version, which was recorded by St. Matthew.

The version which St. Luke records includes one extra element. Anyone catch it? The master goes to be proclaimed king. Some among his subjects do not want him to be the king.

Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven and has been crowned king of the universe. He will return again in glory when history comes to a close.

When we consider Christ the King–when we perceive His gentleness, His truth, His honor, His compassion, His mercy, His love—when we meditate on the unsurpassable goodness and peace of His reign—we might reasonably wonder: Who on earth would not want this man to be the king? Who could rule better? Christ’s reign comes as the answer to every human hope and prayer.

Perhaps we could imagine some truly hardened sinners who would not want to be subject to Christ. Christ’s realm is honest, chaste, and humble—humble, at least, by the standards of this fallen world. Christ’s subjects do not enjoy great earthly wealth and pleasure.

The poor souls who have all but lost their taste for truth and for heaven, because they live habitually in the throes of vice—maybe we could see why they would reject Christ as a king.

But a person has to fall very far into sensuality before he winds up hating Jesus Christ. We cannot be satisfied with this as the full explanation for this element of the parable. In order to explain why some of our brothers and sisters do not want Jesus Christ to be their king, we have to look at ourselves.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared:

Undeniably, those who willfully shut out God from their hearts and try to dodge religious questions are not following the dictates of their consciences, and hence are not free of blame; yet believers themselves frequently bear some responsibility for this situation…To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.

Our king sits in heaven, inaccessible to earthly eyes. The Church carries the image of Christ to present to the world. When we present Him faithfully, He Himself attracts; people immediately perceive that He is the best king to have.

But if we, His ambassadors, lose sight of Him; if we get wrapped up in ourselves and forget about Him—then it becomes our fault if others don’t want Him to be their king.

We may all be attractive, in our own particular ways–sure enough. Praise God. But Jesus Christ is infinitely more attractive than we are. When He shines out in us, people learn to love and obey Him—maybe sooner, maybe later, but they do.

May the world see Him in us.

Tuesday Morning Napoleon

Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon Dynamite

Our peace is found in God’s will.

He has given us talents to use. “Let your light shine so brightly before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” says the Lord.

People who know and love us help us to become aware of the talents we possess.

For example: anyskills.wav

Napoleon Dynamite is a pretty funny movie.

Here are a couple other good movies, worth checking out on DVD:

“One Night with the King” about Queen Esther

“Juno.” Wonderful pro-life movie, but with some bad words and references to sins. I loved this movie as much as I have loved any movie in a long, long time.

Speaking of bad words…if you don’t mind A LOT of them–and a lot of violence–“The Departed” is a good DVD to watch, assuming you are over 21. (Plus, you have to shield your eyes for one gratuitous impure scene.)

Alec Baldwin, notorious liberal and all-around objectionable individual
Alec Baldwin, notorious liberal and all-around objectionable individual

One of the most spirited spewers of bad words in that movie is Alec Baldwin. No one can curse with as much panache.

Not the most admirable man who ever lived. But one must give credit where it is due.

I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live in YEARS; it comes on WAY past my bedtime. If you are interested in such things as politicians appearing on the show, and Sarah Palin, and celebrity gossip, then I think you will find that Alec Baldwin actually makes a lot of sense in his recent blog-post. He is responding to fellow-lefties who criticized him for giving the time of day to the evil Sarah Palin and treating her like a legitimate human being.