today's readings are Proverbs 31; Psalm 128; 1 Thess. 5: 1-6 and Mt. 25: 14-30
It’s your call. It’s always been your call.
When God created us, He gave us something we call “free will”. The ability to make choices that determine the course of our lives.
Sometimes we use our free will well, other times, not. But in the end, the choices you make are your call.
Today’s parable of the talents is one of the 3 parables in Chapter 25 of St. Matthew’s gospel. The first we heard last week – the parable of the bridesmaids. Next week is the third – the parable of the sheep and the goats. In all three parables, we hear of the ramifications, both good and bad, that result from the free choices people make.
Today we hear of a rich man who entrusts 5 talents to one slave, 2 talents to another slave, and one to a third, before he goes on a long journey. While their master is away, the first and second take what they have been given and are very fruitful with it. The third, unfortunately, chooses to do nothing. He literally buries his talent.
When the master, who represents God, comes back, he asks for a settling of accounts from each of them. The first 2 slaves have much to show him. He commends them and then invites them into the joy of their master – in heaven. As for the third, for doing nothing, he gets quite the tongue lashing and is thrown into the “outer darkness”, literally, into hell.
So, what does this parable have to do with us? Plenty.
When we were made by God, God did give each one of us much. Like the gift of our life. The gift of our faith. The gift our time. And the gift of our talents. Now these talents are not the monetary talents in our parable, but talents of various types and in different amounts. And as a Christian, as your life unfolds, you are expected to do something good with those talents. Discover them, nurture them, develop them, and share them. And there will be many benefits if you do so. For starters, for yourself. You will become a child of God who understands how you have been blessed. You will see God’s purpose for your life, as you become the person wants you to be. Others will benefit too when we share those gifts. They will also be inspired by your example as well. And when you develop and share your gifts you also give glory to God, which then illuminates His goodness and love for all of us.
There’s another part of our lives that is reflected in today’s parable. One day our Eternal Master, God, will demand an accounting from us. God will want to see the good we did, the faith we lived, how, with faith, we gratefully and fully shared with others all the talents that he gave to us, and how we reached out to the poor and disadvantaged.
When will this accounting take place? At the time of our death. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that an immediate and personal judgment takes place when we die (see The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition, Article 12, paragraphs 1021-1037). Each person will be judged based on that account of their earthly life. The result of that judgment, as the Church teaches, is one of 3 possibilities: 1) an immediate entrance into heaven, where we will share in the joy of our Divine Master; or 2) a later entrance into heaven after we undergo a process of purification that we call Purgatory; or 3) an everlasting damnation in hell.
Let me share some Church teachings about these 3 outcomes. Those who immediately go into heaven are those who lived their faith freely and fully, are perfectly purified and thus died in God’s grace and friendship.
I dare say that the vast majority of us, myself included, will go to heaven. But we will need some Purgatory first. Purgatory is not a place, but a process – a process of purification that takes away the results and the stains of sin that accumulated in our lives. The Church describes the Purgatory process using the image of the refiner’s fire. As a former Metallurgical Engineer, I saw and worked with Refiner’s fire. And it is a powerful and effective process. But most people haven’t. To use a modern-day example, we can think of the process of Purgatory like going through God’s car wash. What happens in a car wash – a whole lot of soap and water and scrubbing and buffing and drying, and voila – the result? Squeaky clean – and you’re good to go - into heaven.
By the way, this is also the reason that the Church teaches us to pray for all those in Purgatory.
Next, hell. The Church tells us that Hell is the condition of everlasting separation from God, and everyone else in heaven. Hell is the absolute absence of love.
I have had people ask how can God send people to hell? The answer is simple - God doesn’t – people choose to send themselves to hell.
How? By using their free will to constantly live their life in extreme selfishness and sin, with no concern for God and ignoring the needs of others. The choices they made show that the only thing they believed in was the Unholy Trinity of Me, Myself, and I. Those people, perhaps unwittingly, definitely tragically, by the terrible and evil choices they made, determined where they would end up. Again, God doesn’t send people to hell. People send themselves to hell.
One last thought. Virtually everyone here has been saved. When? When you were baptized. Our job then is to live lives that reflect the fact that we have been saved. Remember, God saved you not because you did good. God saved you so that you could do good!!
So, be like the first two slaves in our parable. Like them, take the gifts of life and faith and time and talents your received from God and then live fully and properly. Do good. Don’t be like the 3rd slave who chose to do nothing. Do good.
But as I said at the start, it’s up to you. It’s your call.