Friday of Trinity 22 – Matthew 25:14-30

| November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments More

X-MenMatthew 25:14-30

Having paid close attention to the last 3 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, this parable strikes me in a different way today.  Jesus is still talking in that long red-letter passage about when “these things shall be,” of which the disciples inquired.  He’s still talking about what He is about to do: His Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, which entail the coming of the New Covenant and the destruction of theTemple.

Historically speaking, then, to whom is He speaking?  It’s probably a good thing to know first, rather than jumping in and applying it to ourselves out of context.  In the first century, at the end of His earthly life, what might constitute the talents that the master had given, and who might be the good and faithful, and the wicked and lazy servants?

The wicked and lazy servants seem to be Jesus’ favorite whipping boys: the scribes and Pharisees.  They had been given the Law, the very oracles of God, and they had been given the Temple.  They were given the keys to the kingdom.  They were the ones to whom God had entrusted His little lamb.  And what had they done with these great talents?  They had hidden their true nature from the people, where they could not be profitable to them.

The good and faithful servants, then, are all of those, including the tax collectors and prostitutes, who had turned to Jesus in faith and had received the Word from Him.

When we apply this parable to ourselves, the most important thing to consider is which kind of servant are we?  What have we done with the talents or treasure which God has entrusted to us?  Before we apply the word “talent” to what we now call talents, it’s wise to consider that the greatest talent, the greatest treasure, that God has given to us is Himself in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Before I hear about how well you’ve used the intelligence, charm, communication skills, and wisdom God has given you, I want to know what you’ve done with that greatest of treasures: Jesus Christ.

Have you realized His worth?  Have you sold all to seek Him?  Or have you buried Him somewhere in the crevices of your life.  You know right where He is when you need Him, but most of your life He’s hidden?

I think there’s an interesting relationship between what we do with the treasure of Christ and what we do with the gifts and talents God has given us.  This is seen most interestingly in a man BC and a man AC (Before Christ and After Christ in his life).  Most of us have known people who have turned from a life without Christ to a life with Christ.  Is he the same man AC?

Spiritually speaking, we know He is not.  And yet when God has made Him a new creature, does God rearrange his face?  Does He make the man any smarter or dumber (I’m not talking about wisdom here but about raw IQ points), or give him increased physical strength?  We know that these things remain the same.  In the same way, I believe that when God changes a person’s life when he is united to Christ that He doesn’t give that person an entirely new personality with entirely new gifts and talents.

And yet that’s the way we think of spiritual gifts most of the time.  Because we’re used to thinking in terms of speaking in tongues, a gift which was not there at one time in a person’s life and then was, we miss how God uses spiritual gifts in our lives today.  And we undervalue the gifts that don’t seem extraordinary.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus rightly said of Christ’s Incarnation, “What is not assumed is not redeemed.”  By this He meant that Christ had to be human in every way in order to redeem every part of man.  One implication is that Jesus came as God and man to become the perfect man, one whose natural gifts and talents were completely redeemed and made perfect.

When, through, the Holy Spirit, we are given spiritual gifts, therefore, I don’t think that we usually receive new talents or powers but that instead we have been freed and empowered by God’s grace to use our “natural” talents in the way in which they were intended.  Take, for example, the intellect.  A man with a powerful intellect could use that intellect for hateful, despicable purposes towards another, or he could use it for selfish, prodigal purposes, becoming a connoisseur of knowledge but not putting it to any good use.

Or, redeemed by Christ, he might become the next C.S. Lewis who used his natural gift of intellect to defend the honor and glory of God and show Him to a generation (and more than a generation).  C.S. Lewis didn’t suddenly become smart when He became a Christian.  But C.S. Lewis BC didn’t use his intellect for the spiritual gift of edification, teaching, or wisdom until the Holy Spirit had made that “natural” gift a “spiritual” gift.

I’ve been watching the X-Men movies lately.  They naturally appeal to me.  I used to draw all sorts of pictures of freakish monsters of all different sizes and abilities, and I’ve always been fascinated by a comparison of various powers.  Some of the powers that mutants have seem to be pretty dull and wimpy, while others blaze in glory and are godlike.  At one point in one of the movies, Magneto (who has the ability to manipulate anything made of metal: one of the better gifts) turns to a teenage mutant who has the ability to manipulate fire and says to him: “You’re a god among insects.”

St. Paul and others may be a god among insects compared to some of us.  But you have been given the greatest talent and gift of all: Jesus Christ.  And by Him all of the natural abilities you were born with, and all of the experiences you’ve had since then, have been redeemed.

How you treat this greatest of gifts, Christ Himself, will govern how you treat all of the other gifts and talents He’s given you.  Giving these gifts and talents back to the Lord won’t necessarily magnify them in the eyes of the world.  A man with little natural intelligence who becomes a Christian will not suddenly become Albert Einstein.  But he might become the most loving father, the most faithful gardener, or the most fervent worshiper of God.

It may seem as if God has given you only a few small things.  But use those few small things through the Spirit, and you will inherit the greatest thing of all: everlasting life in Christ.

Prayer:  Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.  Amen.  (Ignatius of Loyola, from the Spiritual Exercises). 

Points for Meditation: 

  1. What natural talents has God given you? How might they be used in a more spiritual way, as God intends?
  2. Meditate on what it means to be made a steward of the mysteries of Christ.

Resolution:  I resolve to choose one gift or talent that God has given to me and find one way to direct it to God’s purposes today. 

© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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