Joy and Hope
November 22, 2008
We are stewards of the Lord’s gifts
Recently, we heard the Gospel parable from the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel about the servants who were each given a portion of their master’s wealth. The parable recounted how each of them invested their portion.
Such a scenario seems to contradict much of the common wisdom today. Who would risk making any investment today given the instability of the markets? Many of us would assume that the one who buried his master’s riches was the smart one since he did not risk anything at all. He simply buried it. Given today’s financial market he would probably be ahead.
That may be the prevailing world opinion today. Tomorrow the market may think differently and the other two who invested their allotted portions might be judged as the smarter ones. Given today’s world one might think that getting ahead is more a matter of luck not skill.
If we think only about the gain made by each of the master’s servants, then we are thinking too much the way the world does. We would be paying too much attention to the servants and ignoring the master. Let’s take a closer look at this Gospel passage (Mt. 25: 24-30).
What the servants were given was not their own. It belonged to the master. They invested mindful of the master’s return. Even the one who hides his treasure does so out of fear of the master when he returned. The master overshadowed everything his servants did. He was the reason for their investment decisions and the anticipation of their meeting with him was foremost in their minds.
This parable as well as others in these remaining Sundays in the liturgical year all point to the apocalyptic sense of history. When we hear the word “apocalyptic” our thoughts usually jump quickly to cataclysmic visions of the end of time. We recall the more fantastic images of the Book of Revelation and its reference to Armageddon.
While it is true that there is much fodder for the imagination in the Book of Revelation, the common interpretation that tries to calculate when and how the consummation of world will occur is rather superficial. The Book of Revelation is not about the future. It is about the present. It is concerned with now. A true “apocalyptic” view of history does not cast its gaze into the future. It looks at the present mindful of the master’s return. The Lord Jesus, the alpha and omega of history overshadows everything we do now.
The apocalyptic language of this and other parables in Matthew’s Gospel brings a new spiritual perspective to our sense of time and what we do with our time. For the disciple of Jesus, time is not measured by how productive, profitable or pleasurable it is. Time as well as all other treasures is given to us by the Lord and master of history.
To invest any of the treasures given to us, including time, takes on greater significance because these treasures have already been invested in us by the one who created and redeemed us. We are only the stewards of these gifts. We are the servants of the one who loved us and waits for us to return with love the treasures he has entrusted to us.
The follower of Jesus makes investments so that kingdom may come, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Making investments in the kingdom does come with some personal risk. Faith tells us that these risks are worth taking. Like the example of the servant who buried his treasure, we may choose not to risk. We make our faith private as well as the other treasures given to us. We bury them rather than risk them.
The martyrs of the church present to us an example of those servants of the Gospel who were willing to take risks. They invested everything, including themselves, for the sake of the kingdom. We may not be called upon to make that kind of investment, but we can take their example as sound, prudent advice about how to make worthwhile investments of our time, talent and treasure.
Recently, many of us made significant investments for the sake of restoring the traditional definition of marriage through the passage of Proposition 8. There has been quite a bit of criticism about these investment decisions.
Some want to label these decisions as a religious imposition, a “ban” against a recently-contrived notion of marriage. The support for Proposition 8 was a sound, prudent investment in the traditional understanding of marriage as the covenant between a man and a woman to share love and create life. As this debate continues, we keep in mind the kindness of the Master who trusted us with the gift of marriage and waits for its fruitful return.
The “apocalyptic” sense of time should also keep us vigilant to meet the Master. The works of charity are timely gestures by which we continue to invest in the kingdom to come. They are the manner by which we prepare to meet the Lord of all history by seeing him and serving him in our brothers and sisters in need.
The practice of charity is always a sound investment decision. It is a prudent practice while also being an apocalyptic act. Through charity we are developing the good habit of meeting the Lord Jesus so that we might truly recognize him when he comes.