To Be Or Not To Be
Saturday: Twenty-First Week of the Year: August 27, 2016
Year II: 1Corinthians 1:26-31; Psalm 33:12-21; Matthew 25:14-30
The Responsorial pinpoints true happiness: “Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.”
In 1Corinthians 1:26-31 Paul says we are nothing and everything. We find it hard to believe him on both counts.
Of the Corinthians he says, “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” But even if they had been, he continues, they would still be nothing: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” Nothing that we are in and of this world, whether by birth, education, talents or extraordinary achievement, really makes us anything at all. In itself it all counts for nothing. If you draw on a blackboard a face that is going to be erased in five minutes, does it really make any difference whether it is a pretty face or an ugly one? It is just chalk dust awaiting the eraser. And that is true of us if God’s last word is: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” He said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” but only “until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken” (Genesis 3:19). No matter what our sweat gains us, it doesn’t mean very much. A pre-Christian Greek epitaph reads:
Naked at my birth;
Naked back to earth;
What’s it worth?
I strove in vain, my foolish friend,
For a naked end.
This is “existential despair.” But the revealed truth is, we are everything, because we have become Christ: “God has made you members of Christ Jesus, and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom…. If anyone wants to boast, boast about the Lord.” That is what we need to keep in mind. Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells us God has invested in us. It matters little what we were or had to begin with: having “died in Christ” at Baptism, we have given up everything. But God has chosen to put everything we had — and more — back into our hands to be managed by us for him, and for his interests. The only thing that ultimately counts is what we do with the gifts God has entrusted to us. As his ministers and as his stewards we have a job to do on earth, and when Jesus comes at the end, he will ask us for an accounting.
This may frighten us. If we feel we don’t have much to work with, or won’t succeed in managing it well, we may freeze up and just try to “keep out of sin.” Like a basketball player who is afraid to take a shot and never scores. But in Jesus’ story, the master didn’t praise achievement; just effort and fidelity. He said exactly the same thing to the one with two talents and to the one with five. How much they gained was not important; just the fact that they tried: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater. Come and join in your master’s happiness.” What counts is not “success” but fidelity. Fidelity is success.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Let Christ express himself through your words and actions.