The servants in the Parable of the talents were all graciously gifted by their master, “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.” But the last one began as a gifted and commissioned servant but ended as a worthless and discarded servant. Here are some steps that led him down that path to becoming useless to his master.
Firstly, he received the master’s possession without a sense of appreciation for its value. The talent was a huge amount of money, sometimes estimated to about 15 years’ wages of a laborer at that time. Such an amount should have evoked gratitude and generosity on the part of the servant in appreciation of such a huge endowment. But he took it all for granted.
Secondly, he never believed in the goodness of the master towards him. He had avery negative view of the master despite the master’s graciousness towards him. He failed to realize the great trust that the master had in his ability to make much out of one talent, “He gave them talents according to their ability.” He also did not see anything good in his master and actually blamed him for his laziness and inaction, “I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter.”
Thirdly, he succumbed to baseless fear. His said, “Out of fear, I went off and buried your talent in the ground.” Fear of what? Fear of whom? Fear of the one who graciously endowed you with such a huge amount of money? His imagination surely got the better of him.
Fourthly, he made silly excuses for burying his master’s money instead of trading with it. The master pointed out the unreasonableness of his excuse. If he was really afraid of the “demanding” and “greedy” master as he had indicated, he should have just secured the money by placing it in the bank and letting it yield interest, “Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?”
Fifthly, he wasted time. He was idle all the time that the master was away and his companions were busy trading with their own talents and making profit. Lastly, he stopped making effort. The only thing he did was to dig a hole and bury his master’s money.
How would someone so gifted with so much take such steps and become a useless servant? We find the answer in the words of the master to him, “You wicked, lazy servant!” Wickedness and zealous love cannot coexist in a soul as Jesus once warned us, “Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” (Mt 24:13) Wickedness had entered and spread into the nooks and crannies of his heart and had killed any love that he should have had for the master or the master’s interests.
Before wickedness kills love, it first destroys any gratitude towards God for His gifts. Wickedness then gives us a warped image of God based on our evil deeds. It also allows our fears to dominate us and prevents us from taking responsibility for our actions while we blame others, even God Himself. This eventually leads to that laziness that wastes precious time and fails to express love in action.
The worthy wife described in Proverbs 31 shows us what happens when love prevails over wickedness. Once she receives the love of her husband, “she brings him good, not evil, all the days of her life.” She also “works with loving hands” and she is praised by all because “she fears the Lord.” Her reverential fear of the Lord moves her to labor in love for her family and the needy without making excuses, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.” She rightly earns her praise from God and humanity.
The recently released Vatican report on the now laicized Theodore McCarrick shows us how the Church, institutionally and in her members, particularly the hierarchy, is fast becoming a worthless servant before God. It is painful and shameful to read of then archbishop McCarrick sharing his bed with seminarians and other prelates seeing nothing wrong with that but having the guts to still recommend him to be installed as Cardinal-archbishop in Washington DC.
Make no mistake about this: wickedness is fast spreading unabated in the Church and consequently, love is dying in our hearts. We no longer value and appreciate the gift and dignity of the ministerial priesthood that Christ bequeathed to His Church. The report does not lay a single blame on any living cleric but took great pain to blame previous pontiffs and discredit the whistleblower who exposed the scandals. There is clearly a lack of sincere and sustained effort in the spiritual and moral life of many of us in the ministerial priesthood. There are so many grave abuses of the sacred office and trust of the faithful that wickedness reigns rampant.
How wouldn’t wickedness spread when there is clearly a fear of everything and anything except the appropriate reverential fear of God? Those charged with safeguarding and handing on the Catholic faith and morals stood by idle as evil ravaged the Body of Christ and they promoted and celebrated themselves. Souls were defiled in unnatural sex, consciences were violated, priestly vocations were ruined and scarred, many young men are initiated into homosexual predatory activities, the faithful were gravely scandalized and alienated from the Church, while thousands of dollars are changing hands as “gifts” from one ecclesiastical prelate to another.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is so easy for every one of us to slide into becoming useless servants too despite our being gifted by God. We can become faithful servants only by reclaiming our identity as children of the kingdom of light, “For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness.” As children of the kingdom of light, we are to share in the attitude of Jesus towards all forms of evil by virtue of the gifts that we receive from God. Because His Father never ceased communicating His gifts to Him, Jesus used all that He had received to labor relentlessly to advance the glory of the Father in the face of human evil, “My Father is at work until now, and so I am at work.”(Jn 5:17)
Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are not just called to belong to God in His kingdom of life. We are also called to become willing instruments of His light in our dark and hurting world. This means that we too must echo Mary’s unconditional fiat so that we allow God to use us and all that we have and all that we are. This is how we are to labor for the glory of the Father with all that God has given to us till Christ returns in glory.
We have seen the steps to becoming worthless servants despite our immense gifts from God. We have seen how easy it is for us too to slide into uselessness and make it impossible for God to use us as His instruments of spreading His kingdom. We have seen how this slide to uselessness is sadly taking place right before us in the Church.
Let us now reclaim our identity as children of light and begin to choose the exact opposite of these steps to uselessness. This way we avoid the slide to uselessness but begin the climb to usefulness before God by embracing our vocation to resist wickedness in all its forms and dispel darkness by the grace of that Christ offers us. That is the reason we are gifted by God in the first place.
The Eucharist is God’s greatest gift to us because, in addition to the Real Presence, it contains all the other gifts as found in Christ. Jesus chooses to communicate graces to us through His sacred humanity. He is laboring for us even now in our infidelities. Are we laboring for Him too with His grace? Or are we busy thinking of silly excuses not to do so?
It is not for us to return God’s gifts to Him without maturing in fidelity to Him through our use of those gifts. God can keep His gifts safe without us. He does not need us to safeguard His gifts for Him but to use them all generously till our last breath for His glory. This is how we eventually become gifted, eternally affirmed and accepted worthy servants of God and not gifted, but worthless servants discarded by God at the end of time.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!