Saturday, August 30, 2014

Consider Your Own Calling

Saturday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.  Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  Matthew 24:29

The Lord is great because His character embodies humility and grace.  Rather than rule from a position of power and might, he started as the weakest of all creatures: a baby borne into a poor family.  Mary reminds us, in her prayer that “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”  The two servants who understood and accepted the talents with respect did something for the master with those gifts.    

“He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”  Luke 1:50-53

More will be given.  Because the parable is told using “talents” in this instance and retold using “debts” in another, we have to be careful NOT to continue to interpret what it means in economic terms.  The talent was a unit of coinage in ancient Palestine.  The notes to Matthew point out that a talent had a high but varying value depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin. It is mentioned in the New Testament only two times. 

Leave it to Matthew the former tax collector to confuse us with financial terms.  Sometimes, we can go down the wrong path of understanding if we try to interpret this to mean anything like riches or possessions.  Maybe the penultimate line in today’s Good News is purposely vague on the object of the expression.  “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.”

What is really meant here is wisdom or understanding.  The first two servants understood that the master gave them something so they could put it to good use.  The notes in the New American Bible point out that “God gives further understanding to one who accepts the revealed mystery; from the one who does not, he will take it [understanding or wisdom] away.” 

Consider your own calling.  If any of us consider ourselves rich, strong or wise, God will send the poor, weak and foolish to teach us a lesson.   We start off in life like the bread on the altar: broken.  We end up like the bread on the altar: blessed and transformed into something new.

Some years back, a popular little book in stores was an interpretation of the Prayer of Jabez from the Hebrew Bible.  Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: “Oh, that you may truly bless me and extend my boundaries! May your hand be with me and make me free of misfortune, without pain!” And God granted his prayer. (1 Chronicles 4:10)

Care is needed when figuring out the modern meaning of such prayers so that we do not expect material wealth but rather blessings to bring us closer to the Lord.  We should approach these prayers with the care that Mary approached the angel rather than how Matthew might have approached a debtor when he was the tax collector.

Remember, Peter walked away from his boats to follow Jesus.  What are we to walk away from in order to walk with the Lord?

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