21 November 2012

A Parable for the Meantime

Presentation of the BVM
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

What is the Church to do with herself after Jesus is gone and before he returns? No one knows exactly how long he'll be gone, and it seems that his long-term plans for the Church are a bit murky. As he gets closer to Jerusalem, many begin to believe that he intends to establish his reign as a Davidic king upon arrival in the holy city. They expect him to declare his kingship, call for popular support, raise an army, and expel their foreign enemies. This is why he's hailed with cheers and palm branches when he finally enters Jerusalem. . .just one week before his execution in the city's garbage dump. Our Lord knows full well that most of those following him around do not understand his divine mission. They've failed again and again to grasp the purpose of his ministry and the consequences of following his teachings. So, he tells them a parable, a parable intended to accomplish two related tasks: 1) to clarify the nature of his inheritance as an heir to David's kingdom; and 2) to shape the nature and mission of his Church while he's gone, until his return. We might call this the Meantime Parable. What are we to do in the meantime? Invest the gold of the faith and grow our Lord's kingdom. 

The Meantime Parable is pretty straightforward; basically, Jesus is putting into parable terms what he wants his disciples to do while he is with the Father, what he wants them to accomplish before his return. Jesus gives his disciples the wisdom of his teachings (the gold coins) and instructs them to spread these teachings for the profit of souls. Some of their fellow Jews object to the Lord's future reign as king and try to undermine their efforts. Upon his return, the Lord calls his disciples and asks for an accounting of their ministry. The first two disciples have had great success and are rewarded with more responsibilities. The third disciple, however, did not invest the Lord's teachings b/c he felt that Jesus had not earned his kingship. He accuses Jesus of profiting from the hard work of generations of God-fearing believers. Our Lord calls this man “wicked servant.” Why? Because as a disciple he took God's gifts and then refused to live as a disciple. Our Lord takes back this man's gold and gives it to another disciple, saying, “. . .to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” At the Final Accounting, which disciple will you be? 

How are you tempted by the Enemy to be the Wicked Servant? Let's first remember why the Lord calls the unsuccessful disciple “wicked.” Note well: it's not b/c the man is a horrible, unrepentant sinner. He's “wicked” b/c he knows that living as a disciple means growing the wealth of the kingdom, investing all that he's been given by God. It's the only task the Lord gives his servants while he's gone. Despite knowing the Lord's will, the Wicked Servant hides his faith b/c he doubts its value in the marketplace. Are you tempted to hide your faith, to squander Christ's investment in you? The Enemy will whisper to you: All that faith stuff is just primitive superstition. It makes people uncomfortable. Sounds weird to modern ears. You're going to look like an idiot and people will think you're hateful. Wrap it up and keep it behind the walls of the chapel. Live like a normal person when folks are watching. Besides, everyone has their own equally valuable ideas about God so why is yours special? The Wicked Servant listens to the Enemy and all he has is given to another. Christ invested his life for ours. When he comes again to account for his investments, we will be given more or what we have will be taken away. What kind of servant are you? 

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1 comment:

  1. I really liked this. A little about what was going on "then" and how we should apply it to our lives today...reminders of the Enemy and what his "whisperings" sound like...and what is meant by "wicked servant". There was so much contained in that final paragraph - much that is relevant to me and my life right now.

    Your homily has left me pensive and somewhat on the somber side. For what kind of servant am I? The hopelessly flawed kind, I'm afraid - well, maybe not hopeless...but certainly incredibly flawed :-).

    Thank you for this.