Gives all his possessions, then leaves
Have you ever lent your car to someone? You know that apprehensive feeling when he or she drives off into city traffic with your baby? In the Gospel parable today, a “man going on a journey” gives all his possessions to three of his servants. Who is that man going on a journey, and was gone a Long Time? It is Jesus Christ, who left us in charge of his Church—the salvation of the human race—and went back to heaven, promising to return someday. It sure seems like he has been gone a long time. God trusts us with all his possessions, and in particular his most precious possession: love.
He gives the first servant five “talents:” a talent was not a unit of money but a weight, around 100lbs. A talent of gold today is worth $1.9 million. But as much money as that is, the money is worthless if you don’t spend it. The first two servants spend it, and spend it wisely—they invest it, and I’ll bet they had a really good time doing so. Let’s say the owner was gone thirty years. In 30 years $10 million can become $30 million, and done lots of good along the way. Jesus has been gone 2000 years….that’s about $300 trillion worth of grace and salvation we should have been able to build up for him. But Jesus didn’t just leave us cash. He left us grace and mercy, the capacity to love one another. That’s worth a lot more than money—money can’t buy love. But note that this kind of “talent” increases only to the extent that we give it away. Let’s say God gives me a talent for building people up, for loving the loveless. If I keep it to myself, the talent dies. If I spend it on others, it grows. $10 million, with a little patience and application, becomes $30 million.
The Law of the Gift
We call this the law of the gift: “We grow in wealth to the extent that we give it away.” You can only “have” the greatest gifts—like love, beauty, gracefulness, and friendship--by giving them away. The moment we try to keep these things to ourselves rather than freely sharing them, they melt through our fingers. Christmas is only a few weeks away, and have you ever wondered why a post-Christian world still finds the Birth of Christ the happiest time of the year? I think it’s because Christmas is all about giving gifts. Christmas is the one great hope left to us lonely people that we can still give something to someone that they will treasure. God made us to love and be loved, but we seem to receive so little love. And that, I think, is because we don’t take the time and trouble to give love. Everybody seems to be either working or surfing the net or texting or busy with something else. We don’t take the time to listen to each other, to smile at each other.
Life is not about getting; it’s about giving. If I feel like no one is giving me love, like no one understands me, I can fix the problem immediately by giving love to another, by seeking to understand someone else. In the Gospel, the master gives the first servant five talents ($10 million), the second two talents, and the third one talent. The first two give it away. In business terms, they invest it, and get a return on their investment. But in spiritual terms, they give it away. And because they give it away, they get it back. They get back more than they gave away. And this is what “sharing your master’s joy” means: recognizing the law of the gift. It is the joy of knowing that our Father will always provide for us, and we need not fear to exercise the joy of giving.
Give and it will be given to you
Do you want to receive love? Then give love. In giving love, you will be filled with love. You will undoubtedly receive more than you give. Do you want to be beautiful? Then see the beauty in another person. You will radiate beauty in yourself. Do you want to be joyful? Then seek to bring joy to another person. Then you will be filled with an imperishable joy.
As in all virtues, Our Lady leads the way. She said “yes” to God’s will once, and she never stopped saying yes, no matter how much he seemed to take from her. “Give what he takes, and take what he gives, with a big smile,” said Mother Teresa. Our Lady trusted God enough to give without limits, and so with all the saints. “Give, and it will be given to you, packed down, flowing over….” May we prepare for the beautiful feast of Christmas in this way, by giving without caring if we receive a return.