To…

His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’

We have spent several weeks focusing on Jesus’ teaching on the last things, the end times. These teachings all point to what we are called to… to liveto beto use, and to grow.

We can see the pattern that developed over these weeks. The central message is about the ‘obligation to’ that comes from our baptism, our acceptance in faith of Jesus as Lord.

October 25th – we are called to live the great commandment – committed love of God and for each other.

November 1st – we are reminded of our call to be the saints of God in the world.

November 8th – we are told to use the oil, constantly provided by God, to build His kingdom and to be ready to enter eternity carrying the light we have provided to the world.

Today, Jesus reminds us of the treasure we have been given. Having faith is the receipt of treasure and the obligation to take that treasure and to grow it.

The talent given, in Jesus’ day, was worth about fifteen years of wages. It was a lot. Even the person who received only one talent received a massive treasure.

Being given treasure like that is a great thing. It is like finding big sacks of money. Rejoicing, we would perhaps throw the treasure in the air, roll around in it, but then – What’s next? The treasure of faith is a call to rejoice in what we have been given and an obligation to work investing it for growth.

The gospel shows us three people who received treasure. Two spend a second saying: ‘Wow, I have treasure!’ and then got to work with it. The other person gets treasure but doesn’t even rejoice in it. The treasure is an instant turn-off to them. Factually, this person doesn’t throw it in the air, or roll around in it, or rejoice at all. They don’t want to see it, so they bury it; get it out of sight.

The massive amount we are given calls us to live God’s treasure – attracting others to it, to be God’s treasure in the world, to use His treasure to call others by the light burning in us, and finally to grow His treasure by our work so we may return to Him with results.

The wicked and lazy find no joy in the gift, so they bury it. It is not because they are risk averse – like someone who prefers certificates of deposit in a bank to playing the stock market or starting a business – it is because they reject the gift completely. For us, how we rejoice in the gift, and whether we do all we are called to, quietly and slowly, or quick and dynamic, let us live the gospel, be Jesus to the world, and use His gifts to grow His kingdom returning to Him, on the last day, with what we have done.

I brought dinner.

But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 

Yesterday, after Holy Mass for the Dormition, I had the opportunity to spend time with our friend, Bishop Judy Murphy-Jack, Miss Adrienne from Team Esteem, and the Hon. Owusu Anane, a member of Albany’s Common Council. We sat on Bishop’s porch in a beautiful neighborhood on a great day and strategized ideas to address the serious matters pressing on the people of our region and the city. While weighty matter, just spending time on a porch in an old school way and talking with people of faith uplifted us and gave us renewed hope.

The Canaanite woman had serious weighty matter to discuss with Jesus. She wanted to sit on his porch and tell Him about her daughter and her needs. In hope, she sounded the age-old cry of people of faith, “Lord, help me.”

Jesus’ response was not welcoming. He basically said, Look, I brought dinner, but it is not for you. He referred to her as a dog, a Jewish term of contempt for Gentiles. Yet, He would not concede to the disciples request to send her away. He left the door open as He had in prior encounters with the Gentiles. Jesus leaves the door open to all who want to come onto His porch, to talk with Him, and to eat at His table, but we must take action.

In Jesus’ day, Canaanite was an ancient term for a people who did not know God, worshiped false gods, and were God’s enemies. This Canaanite woman, at face value a false god worshipper, needed to show the truth of her faith; Jesus could not just snap His fingers and make her a believer. She does and hangs on through Jesus ignoring her and telling her that the dinner was not for her. She does not take silence or “no” for an answer. She takes the action necessary to show herself as God’s faithful daughter, not an enemy of God. Jesus then grants her request.

Sophia comes here today as an outsider and will leave as one who will now have the opportunity to fully grow into a person of faith, a believer. It won’t just happen, no magic finger snapping here. To help her grow and enjoy porch time with Jesus and the dinner Jesus brought will take work. Sophia, those who brought her, and we commit to taking on the work of building her into a faithful daughter. Let us all commit to helping her become that woman of wisdom who hears Jesus say: “O woman, great is your faith!” and whose hope is constantly renewed.

Leave the weeds.

His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest

My mom had a great bookshelf in her room. I used to sit in front of that bookshelf just pondering the titles – classics of literature, a book on the adopted family, and a set of books in a series about homes and gardens. These books had to date from the late 1950s or early 1960s. I can imagine my parents amassing this encyclopedia of home and garden just after they purchased their house.

These books were beautifully illustrated. They had architectural drawings, garden layouts, and idealized drawings and photos of beautifully manicured and cultured lawns and gardens. I wanted that! I would look out the windows of our home, holding the books, and imagined creating that look in our small back yard; its existing look not perfect enough. Oh, and there were weeds. Weeds were the enemy of perfection.

You can imagine my surprise on one of those idyllic summer Sundays as Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds was read. We had to leave the weeds. My little structured world of perfect lawns and raised flower beds had to take a back seat to Jesus’ command. Some in our congregation live this today. They allow nature to take its course, not disturbing the wheat or the weeds. I think they understand better than I did.

In its essence, Jesus’ parable is about conflict and destruction. The Jewish people would have understood that enemies sowed choking weeds in crops, a war tactic aimed at destruction. Jesus likened the sowing of weeds to the work of the enemy, Satan, who in all respects seeks to destroy us. The slaves, we who follow Jesus, have an initial reaction to destruction that itself focuses on destruction. Let’s go out and destroy the weeds. Abigail Van Buren once said, “People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.” Destruction of the weeds only leads to the destruction of the good. The result of the sinful tendency in us is our giving in to destruction.

As Jesus’ people, we are called to plant, nurture, feed, grow, and also bear the weeds. We are not called to the position of harvester. That is Jesus’ job. By our action, perhaps in the weeds, we will find a new crop for the Lord. We will give all the chance and opportunity to grow. In the midst of conflict we are to reject destruction and leaven the world for growth.