Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Share More, Gain More

November 17, 2010
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious

By Colleen O’Sullivan

He said to him, 'With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.' And to those standing by he said, 'Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.' But they said to him, 'Sir, he has ten gold coins.' 'I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 19:22-26

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come…Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.” (Revelation 4:8b, 11)

As the days grow shorter and our liturgical year draws to a close, we find ourselves having almost completed the journey toward Jerusalem with Jesus as depicted in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus knows that his disciples are expecting great things in Jerusalem. They are expecting immediate, full realization of the Kingdom of God in the holy city. The reign or Kingdom of God is, in fact, about to appear, but it won’t be what they expect. No great military feats, no restoration of the political kingdom of Israel await them. Instead, a God who willing dies a painful and humiliating death for them on a cross. Because Jesus knows that he will have to leave the disciples and that some amount of time will elapse before he returns as King in glory to redeem all of his creation, he wants to prepare his friends. He wants to leave them an instruction book, so to speak, on how to conduct themselves while they wait for his final return.

So, Jesus tells this parable about the gold coins. He tells the disciples a story about a nobleman who is going to travel to a far off country to seek a kingship. Since he will be gone quite a while, he calls the servants together and entrusts each of them with ten gold coins. The nobleman tells them to use the coins in trading during his absence. Time goes by and eventually he does return. He calls each servant to give account for what he has done with his coins. The first servant shows the new king that he has doubled the sum, for which he is rewarded with oversight of 10 cities. The second servant shows that he has made a 50% profit with the coins. Again, the king rewards his servant, this time with oversight of 5 cities. The next servant called forward, however, has held on to his coins, safeguarding them, but not earning anything with them. His coins are taken from him and given to the first servant. The new king says, “I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

The Lord has entrusted each and every one of us with proverbial gold coins or gifts in some shape or form. Today, we honor St. Elizabeth of Hungary, an early 13th century woman who was the daughter of the king of Hungary, for the ways in which she shared her gifts. She married the ruler of Thuringia in Germany. From the start she had in-law problems. They didn’t approve of her because she didn’t conform to their idea of what a queen should be like. She wouldn’t wear her jeweled crown, because Christ only had a crown of thorns. She spent her time caring for the poor, the sick and orphans. When her husband died of the plague on a Crusade, her in-laws cast her out and refused to allow anyone in the kingdom to take her in. She could have gone back to her father’s house in Hungary, but chose to live an ascetic life in Marburg, Germany, where she continued to care for the sick and the poor. Even after her in-laws took her back because they wanted her son to inherit the crown, she continued to spend much of her time in prayer and charitable works. She was canonized only 4 years after her death. (To learn more about St. Elizabeth of Hungary, see http://sacredspace.ie/livingspace/F1117S/ or http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1202)

We, too, await Jesus’ final coming in glory. In the meantime, we are also asked to share the gifts God has given us. In my own life I have come to see how true it is that the more we share, the more we gain, often much more than we give in the first place. My housemate and I have next door neighbors from El Salvador. A couple of years ago, it came to our attention that the oldest child in the family, a second grader, could barely read. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that if we didn’t help him, he would probably end up as just another high school drop-out. No one in his family knows English well enough to help him much with his homework. And we know they came to this country so they and their children could have better lives. So, we decided to help them by tutoring the little boy. By the end of second grade, he was reading at grade level. Just last week he had an assignment to write a letter to someone he admires. He chose a favorite soccer player on a Colombian team. The letter came from his heart. All I had to do was show him where to add a comma in one sentence. The teacher said his was the best letter in his fourth-grade class and framed it. My housemate is translating it into Spanish and sending both a copy of the original and the translation to the soccer player. I can’t speak for my housemate, but I know I have received far more from working with this enthusiastic little boy than I have given. Share even just a little of what God has given you and you will gain so much more in return.

Find a quiet time to reflect on the gifts God has entrusted to you. What have you done with your proverbial gold coins? When you see instances where you have shared and received even more in return, give thanks to the Lord, for these are his gifts to you as well.