THE SLAVE TRADE?

“He called in his servants and handed his funds over to them according to each man’s abilities.” —Matthew 25:14

Today’s Gospel reading is often used to bring up the theme of stewardship, which is supposedly giving our “time, treasures, and talents” to the Lord and His Church. This is a rather tame idea of stewardship compared to the Biblical concept.
First of all, today’s Gospel reading is about three slaves, not servants. (“Servants” is a watered-down translation.) Slaves don’t just give their time, treasure, and talents to their owners; they give their whole lives and give up their freedom as well.
Moreover, if you don’t participate in your parish’s stewardship program, should you be thrown into the darkness outside where you can wail and grind your teeth? (Mt 25:30) That would seem excessive, but it makes more sense in the Biblical context of slavery, total commitment, and abandonment of our wills to God.
Maybe we should have “Slavery Sunday” instead of “Stewardship Sunday.” “You are the slaves of the one you obey, whether yours is the slavery of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to justice” (Rm 6:16). “Be slaves of Christ the Lord” (Col 3:24).

Prayer: Father, I will serve You with abandon and not be duped into slavery to the world.
Promise: “We exhort you to even greater progress.” —1 Thes 4:10
Praise: St. John the Baptizer was such a powerful preacher that King Herod feared him even when he was in prison (Mk 6:20).

Precursor of Christ in birth and death

From a homily by
St. Bede the Venerable, priest
[ 672 – 735 A.D.]

As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendour of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.
There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.
Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptized in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

YOU’RE FIRED

“The foolish ones said to the sensible, ‘Give us some of your oil. Our torches are going out.’ But the sensible ones replied, ‘No.’ ” —Matthew 25:8-9

Some things cannot be shared, no matter how much we might wish to share them. If a man has worked for years to reach peak physical condition, he cannot bestow his strength and endurance on someone else who asks for it. He can share his exercise regimen and dietary plan with another, but he cannot pass on his discipline and commitment to get in shape. That prime physical condition can only be attained through time and effort.

Jesus refers to this situation in the parable of the ten virgins. The wise virgins used their time to grow in faith and develop their spiritual gifts. They were “set aflame and burning bright” (Jn 5:35). The foolish ones squandered their time and did not mature sufficiently to keep their flame of faith burning brightly.

You must develop your own relationship with Jesus. You must cultivate it through an investment in prayer, Bible study, frequent Mass attendance, etc. If you haven’t developed your relationship with Jesus, start today. “Now is the acceptable time” (2 Cor 6:2). Jesus never rejects anyone who comes to Him (Jn 6:37). He can bring you a long way spiritually in a short time if you’re sincere in seeking Him (see Jn 6:21; Lk 19:1-10; 23:40-43). Nonetheless, God loves to work with you on a daily basis (see Acts 17:11; Mt 6:11; Ex 16:4). Seek Jesus daily in sincerity of heart. He will give you a solid faith that won’t burn out.

Prayer: Father, You are the God Who answers by fire (1 Kgs 18:24). Send Your Holy Spirit to keep me aflame for You daily.
Promise: “It is God’s will that you grow in holiness.” —1 Thes 4:3
Praise: St. Augustine vigorously preached and wrote against the errors that had nearly led him to hell.