Gift and Task by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
"Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master's return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."
Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?" And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master's will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."
When God bestows a gift, he always gives a certain task along with it. The gift and the task can never be separated. We find this principle throughout Scripture, even from the beginning. God gave Adam the gifts of sanctifying grace, immortality, and above all, intimacy with Him. He also gave him the task of cultivating and caring for the garden. Likewise God bestowed upon ancient Israel the gift of His covenant, of being His chosen people entrusted with the Law, the prophets and true worship. And these gifts carried with them the task of bearing witness to His truth before all nations, to be holy as He is holy.
Our Lord summarizes this principle in simple and sobering terms: "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will demanded of the person entrusted with more" (Lk 12:48). The responsibility described here flows from the concept of stewardship. The talents and gifts we possess are not, in the end, our own. We are merely stewards who hold the master's goods - and not just for safekeeping, but for development and cultivation. When the master returns He will of course expect to find His wealth safe and sound. But even more will He desire to see some increase of His wealth (cf. Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:12-27). How shameful it would be to stand before Him holding His wasted and neglected gifts.
When we consider the gifts entrusted to us, we typically think first of natural goods: our time, wealth, talent, etc. And these are indeed gifts to be cultivated. To the extent we have been given them, we are expected to invest them for the glory of God. We know well, for example, just what a gift time is. In fact, we never seem to have enough of it. God entrusts us with time, however, not just for our enjoyment, nor only for getting a lot of work done and making more money. Ultimately, He entrusts us with time (and we never know how much that will be) for the cultivation of His life within us. Time affords us the opportunity to repent and to grow in grace. We ought to be, as St. Paul says, "redeeming the time" (Eph 5:16).
"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." We should hear these words not only as regards natural gifts, but also and even more so in reference to supernatural gifts. God's gifts of the faith, the sacraments and the Church far surpass any natural gifts we may enjoy. And they also bring with them a greater task.
He has entrusted the Church to us as our mother. So we should bear in our hearts the corresponding love for and fidelity to the Church, and desire to defend her from her foes. He has entrusted to us the Catholic faith as a bulwark against error and uncertainty, so that we can travel the road to salvation securely and confidently. As good stewards of this gift, we ought to deepen our knowledge of that faith, and make it known to others.
By baptism, He at once entrusts Himself to us and gives the task of cultivating a constant awareness of His presence within. In confession, He bestows the gift of forgiveness and the grace to overcome sin - and with it He confers the task of avoiding sin and seeking freedom from sinful inclinations. Most of all, in Holy Communion, He gives us His body, blood, soul and divinity - to nourish us and mold us evermore into His likeness. The proper response to this sublime gift is not to race out of Mass immediately, nor to return to the pew and daydream or watch others go to Communion. Rather, this is gift to be cultivated - to be planted deep within us and nourished with prayer and devotion, that it may bear fruit worthy of the giver.
Every gift imparts a task. This principle works in reverse as well: every task is indeed a gift. The task of cooperating with God's grace is a privilege granted to no other creature in the world. We alone have received the gift of participating in God's work of salvation. May we thank God for the gift of the task, and the task of the gift - and pray that His grace render us faithful stewards of what we have received.
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