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Matthew 6:17-29 The Death of John the Baptist

Herod the tetrarch is also known as Herod Antipas. The same Herod as appears later in the account of the Passion (cf. Lk 23:7ff). A son of Herod the Great. Antipas governed Galilee and Perea in the name of the Roman emperor; according to Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian (“Jewish Antiquities”, XVIII, 5, 4). He was originally married to the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. However, while on an excursion to Rome, he stayed with his half-brother Philip and Herodias, his wife. Impetuously, he fell in love with his brother’s wife. Rather than suppress his inappropriate infatuation, he approached Herodias and convinced her to leave Philip. She agreed as long as he divorced his Arabian wife, which he did (See Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chap. V, v. 1-2).

John’s accusation was that Herod Antipas was a wife-stealer. And worse than that, he had stolen the wife of his own brother! His act was immoral and unlawful, for ‘if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing’ (Lev. 20:21).

Herod, who divorced the daughter of Aretas without sufficient cause consummated an illegal and immoral marriage with Herodias, ignored the direct counsel of John the Baptist; held lascivious parties; made an oath to give Salome whatever she wanted, up to half of your kingdom, because he liked the way she danced…Well that one puts him in a bind. Though he was  left with an option of breaking an ill-advised oath or executing a prophet of God and he could have broken the oath Herod, pursuant to this grant (Mt 14:10); He sent and beheaded John in the prison.

Towards the end of the first century Flavius Josephus wrote of these same events. He gives additional information–specifying that it was in the fortress of Makeronte that John was imprisoned (this fortress was on the eastern bank of the Dead Sea, and was the scene of the banquet in question) and that Herodias’ daughter was called Salome.

There are three great lessons to learn from the life of Herod:

First, no man can rid himself of a sin by ridding himself off the man who confronts him with it. There is such a thing as conscience, where he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (cf. Gaudium et Spet, 16), and even if a man’s accuser is eliminated his guilty conscience is still not silenced.

Herod’s mind has been tortured by guilt from murdering a prophet of God. Herod’s actions were obviously haunting him. He knew it was wrong to kill John. He had been plagued with his own conscience and knew that he would be punished for his actions, ‘For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly’ (Mark 6:20).

“’Herod Antipas, to whom, on the death of Herod the Great, had fallen the tetrarchy of Galilee, was about as weak and miserable a prince as ever disgraced the throne of an afflicted country. Cruel, crafty, voluptuous, like his father, he was also, unlike him, weak in war and vacillating in peace. In him, as in so many characters which stand conspicuous on the stage of history, infidelity and superstition went hand in hand. But the morbid terrors of a guilty conscience did not save him from the criminal extravagances of a violent will.’” (Farrar, p. 295.)” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 2: 331.)

Vatican II reminds us: “For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God…His conscience is man’s most secret core and sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (Gaudium et Spet, 16).

“Moral conscience (cf. Rom 2:14-16), present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges a particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil (cf. Rom 1:32) …When a man listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking” (cf. CCC 1777).

 “Return to your conscience, question it…Turn inward, brethren and in everything you do, see God as your witness “ (St. Augustine, In ep Jo. 8, 9: PL 35 2041.

Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

In order that conscience can make right judgment, “some rules apply in every case: (1) One may never do evil so that good may result from it; (2) the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do, do so to them” (Mt 7:12; cf. Lk 6:31; Tob 4:15); (3) charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience…you sin against Christ” (1 Cor 8:12).Therefore “it is right not to…do anything that makes your brother stumble” (Rom 14:21) (CCC 1789).

You are guilty of sin when you do anything against your right and informed conscience. Your conscience will always be in state of guilt and fear and will keep on pestering you for the evil deeds done. What a troubled and a restless mind. Strive for a clear conscience. “There’s no pillow so soft as a clear conscience,” says the French proverb.

Second, pledging oneself by oath to commit an evil deed is contrary to the holiness of the divine name although a person commits perjury when he makes a promise under oath with no intention of keeping it, or when after promising on oath he does not keep it (see cf. 2152).

Bruce R. McConkie  comments: 

“Herod is stunned [at the request for John’s head]; he is plunged into sudden grief; his fawning friends are appalled…Antipas…feared to lose face with his nobles should he break his intemperate oath.

“’If a single touch of manliness had been left in him he would have repudiated the request as one which did not fall either under the letter or spirit of his oath, since the life of one cannot be made the gift to another; or he would have boldly declared that if such was her choice, his oath was more honoured by being broken than by being kept. But a despicable pride and fear of man prevailed over his better impulses. More afraid of the criticisms of his guests than of the future torment of such conscience as was left him, he immediately sent an executioner to the prison, and so at the bidding of a dissolute coward, and to please the loathly fancies of a shameless girl, the axe fell, and the head of the noblest of the prophets was shorn away.’ (Farrar)” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 2: 334-5.)

St Augustine further comments: “Amid the excesses and sensuality of the guests, oaths are rashly made, which then are unjustly kept” (“Sermon 10”).

The rash and foolish promise confirmed with an oath,  (see Mt 14:7)  which Herod made to this wanton girl, to give her whatsoever she would ask and this promise was a very extravagant obligation that neither a prudent man that is afraid of being snared in the words of his mouth (Prove 6:2) nor a good man that fears an oath, Eccl 9:2 would dare. Oaths or promises are ensnaring things, and, when made rashly can be an occasion of many temptations and sins. Therefore, swear not so at all, lest thou have occasion to say, It was an erro, (Eccl. 5:6).  That’s just the reason the Savior said, Swear not at all; neither by heaven…Nor by the earth (Matt 5:34

It is a sin against the second commandment of God’s Law to make an oath to do something unjust; any such oath has no binding force. In fact, if one keeps it–as Herod did–one commits an additional sin. The Catechism also teaches that one offends against this precept if one swears something untrue, or swears needlessly (cf. “St Pius V
Catechism”, III, 3, 24). Cf. note on Mt 5:33-37.

Third, sin engenders other sins and vices, destruction and death. This results in perverse inclination which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil. Thus sin tends to reproduce itself and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root  (see cf. CCC 1865, 1866, 1868, 1869).

Herod’s action started first with a seduction of Herodias then followed by a divorce of his own wife Areta. Next, John was imprisoned and beheaded. Bitterly resented the insult perpetrated against his daughter, King Areta of Arabia Petrea, Aretas’ father who was the ruler of Nabateans made war against Herod that heavily defeated him.

Some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God as punishment for what he had done to John. What happened then and that what followed after simply proved that sin brings its own punishment. It was an omen when Herod first seduced Herodias. From that act of infidelity came the murder of John, and in the end disaster, in which he lost everything except Herodias who stayed with him to the end.

Lord, anticipate our needs and prevent us from falling. Help us to choose what is good and to reject what is contrary to your will.  And help us to strive for holiness that we may please you in all things (Hebrews 12:14).”

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Matthew 22:34-40 The Greatest Commandment

There is a bible scholar who said, “The message of the Scripture from the first page to the very last is love”. Indeed love is the main message of Christianity, others are just commentaries. Apart from it no sacrifice, no offering, no worship, no conduct are holy, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. Hence, the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. “The commandment of love encompass all of the commandments of the Decalogue and fulfill them. All are contained in them, all follows from them, all strive toward them” (OR, June 1991). “Love is the greatest and the first of all the commandments and in it all the others are included and made one” (JP II Address to Youth). It is a resume and condensation of the fullness of the Law (Rm. 13:8, 10) that suffices. So it is that charity expresses all, contains all, crowns all.

Alan Watts writes, “One may master all the rules of conduct but fail to be a Christian for lack of love. Mere obedience to a law will never of itself produce love, because love is the very life of God and there is no system or set of rules whereby one can become its possessor” (Behold the Spirit). Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (LG 42).

I therefore, exhort you “love one another in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it” (see 1 Jn 3:18).  because when man is loved, St. Thomas says, God is loved, for man is the image of God (cf. “Commentary on St. Matthew”, 22:4) and an object of His love (cf. St. Vincent de Paul). Let us, therefore, renew our commitment to love God and one another not only with our words, not only with our promises, not only with our good intention but in truth and in deeds.

Do you want to go to hell? If you want to go to hell, just refuse to love, just neglect to love, just take love for granted and you will go to hell the easiest, the fastest and the surest way. Please don’t go the hell.

 

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Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Feast

According to Jewish tradition, the resurrection of the just, and the subsequent setting up of the kingdom of God, was to be ushered in by a great festival in which all of the chosen people would participate. Hence their saying: ‘Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.’

What does it mean to “eat bread in the kingdom of heaven”? In the ancient world the most notable sign of favor and intimate friendship was the invitation to “share bread” at the dinner table or the table fellowship. Who you ate with showed who you valued and trusted as your friends.  One of the most beautiful images of heaven in the scriptures is the royal  wedding celebration and banquet given by the King for his son and close friends.

The gospel parable that we just heard is commonly known as the Parable of the Great Feast. Let us be reminded that in the Gospel Jesus usually uses parables to describe and explain the characteristics and mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. Through this Parable the Lord remind us of God the Father’s invitation to the greatest banquet in heaven. Included and implied in this invitation are the following:

First, God wants all men and women to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and come to the fullness of knowledge of Jesus who is the Way, Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).

Second, God wants His people to be happy with him in the kingdom of heaven.  This is also reiterated to us by the Church when she teaches, “To be in blessed and intimate communion with God is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human, a state of supreme and definitive happiness.”

Third, God wants His people to value and prioritize heaven over corporal, material and earthly things which may pass away.

It is frightening to note, however, that those who were not able to attend the great feast were not those who refused to come; they merely had other important things to do. They were simply more concerned and pre-occupied with corporal, material and temporal problems—for example, a piece of ground, a yoke of oxen, or a wife. As we look at the part possessions and relations play in this parable, we can see that there is great risk in them—risk that concern for temporal things may cloud our view of what is eternally important.

Do we see heaven as our ultimate goal? Are we really serious with our ultimate destiny? If yes, Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is a matter of urgency and top priority.  Mere words are not enough. Good intentions are not enough. Action is needed.  It demands our positive and concrete response here and now. It demands that we give everything to it. Else we would be shut out  forever from the Kingdom of heaven.

How many times does God call us to repentance, conversion, and new life only to be ignored because there are more pressing things to attend to?  How many times God continues to teach, sanctify and lead us through the Bible or through Church,  her ministers and sacraments only to be taken for granted because there are more important things to do?

In today’s Mass, let us once gain focus our attention to heaven which is our ultimate destiny and goal. As we journey towards our ultimate home, let us hate evil, hold on to what is good, true and pleasing to the Lord, then help building up and spreading the kingdom of God here on earth until it is perfected in heaven. As the Lord said: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).

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Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 ALMSGIVING, PRAYER AND FASTING

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the great season of Lent, when we are invited to “return sincerely to the Lord our God with fasting prayer and mourning” (Jl  2:12) and to offer to God a sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.  It is the time of the year when we are reminded again that we are dust, and to dust we will return. On a more positive note, we are reminded “to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” 

Today is universal day of fasting and abstinence. Catholics all over the world are encouraged to pray, to fast and abstain, and to share to the poor and the needy. Simply put, to do penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18), which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others (CCC 1434).  

What is penance? What does it mean to do penance? “Penance is concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace to lose his/her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; it is a continual effort to rise from the thing of here below to things above, where Christ is. Penance is ,therefore, a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds to the Christian whole life” (JP, PR) 

Penance such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving prepare us for the liturgical feast; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart (Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO. Can. 882) 

How do we make our penance fruitful and meaningful? 

  • Let us do our penance out of personal conviction and in freedom. Let us guard ourselves of legal formalism and superficiality which the prophets had already denounced, pride and ostentations if one fasts “in order to be seen by men. It must be done in secret, with sincerity and voluntarily.  
  • Let us fast, pray and share to the needy as our penance out of our love for God and neighbor. This is the greatest commandment. This is the summary of the all the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.  
  • “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread to the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own” (Is 58:6-8).  
  • Penance finds its fulfillment, meaning and relevance only in the context of “Jesus call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes”, fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance (Cf. 2:12-13; Is. 1:16-17; Mt. 6;1-6; 16-18).

Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4). 

Fasting, prayers and almsgiving are interconnected and complimentary. Fasting is the soul of prayer. Mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So when you pray, fast; when you fast, show mercy. 

Starting this Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of lent, strive to be humble and “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts not your garments, and return to the Lord  your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13). 

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Luke 21:12-19 The Coming Persecution

Thomas Edison, a famous inventor, known for his extraordinary diligence, observes: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

The theme of today’s Gospel narrative is perseverance. Jesus warns his disciples of the coming sufferings, persecutions and divisions as a result of their choice to follow Jesus as their teacher, lord and savior and promises salvation if and when they persevere in the face of trials to the very end: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).

Persecution for righteousness sake is a permanent feature of Christianity. It is indispensable consequence for following the Lord. The call to follow Jesus is the call to take up and carry the cross daily. This is understandable because the more we follow Jesus the more we become like Jesus. And the more we become Jesus, the more the world will hate us. As the Lord was persecuted and suffered in the hands of the Jews, so will his followers be. No disciple is greater than his Master.

Yes, suffering, trials and persecution cannot be avoided but “whoever perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22). Somebody once said that Christianity is not for starter but for finisher. Hence, James assures anyone who perseveres to the end of happiness and eternal life: “Happy is the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promise to those who love him” (Jas 3:12).

What are some of the qualities of a persevering person or a person willing to persevere to the end for the faith he professed? Persevering person possesses a combination of three traits: energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trials.

“The call to discipleship is a call to continue. To carry on. To persist. To endure. To finish. The Lord needs finishers, those who make the commitment and then walk the road—no matter the difficulty or challenge—to the very end” (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship). Hence, never
give up, nor give in. Don’t quit. Take this similar reminder from General Douglas MacArthur: “Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.”

Faithful to the mission received, the Church today needs disciples who are ready and willing to persevere to the end even to the point of sacrifice and death. Be ready, therefore, to suffer and to die for the sake of Christ and his Gospel. Remember, “Christianity is not for the cowards”, said St. Athanasius.  In doing so, you will receive the crown of eternal life promised by the Lord at the same time proclaimed, built up and spread the Kingdom of God here on earth.  As St. Irenaeus beautifully puts it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”

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Lk 19:41-44 The Lament of Jerusalem

Jesus’ earthly ministry centers and culminates in Jerusalem, the holy city, dwelling and throne of God (Jeremiah 3:17ff.); the place which God chose for his name to dwell there (1Kings 11:13); and the holy mountain upon which God has set his king (Psalm 2).  Jerusalem derives its name from the word “salem” which mean “peace”.  The temple in Jerusalem was a constant reminder to the people of God’s presence with them. Why does Jesus weep and lament for this city?  

All this moved Jesus to tears because he saw something which others did not see. He saw the coming destruction of the city. He knew that all of his efforts to avert the tragedy had been repulsed and rejected (Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 588). As prophesied by Jesus, it did happen. William Barclay describes the tragic event: 

“Jerusalem fell to the Roman armies in A.D. 70 after a desperate siege in which the inhabitants were actually reduced to cannibalism and in which the city had to be taken literally stone by stone. Josephus says that an incredible number of 1,100,000 people perished in the siege and 97,000 were carried away into captivity. The Jewish nation was obliterated; and the Temple was fired and became a desolation.” 

It was indeed a tragic moments of destruction, loss, and shame to the chosen people and nation of God. Only Jewish Christians who remembered and heeded God’s warning were spared on that unforgettable event in the life of the Jews and Israel. As James E. Talmage vividly writes: 

“The warning to all to flee from Jerusalem and Judea to the mountains when the armies would begin to surround the city was so generally heeded by members of the Church, that according to the early Church writers not one Christian perished in the awful siege (see Eusebius, Eccles. Hist., book iii, ch. 5)…As to the unprecedented horrors of the siege, which culminated in the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, see Josephus, Wars vi, chaps. 3 and 4. That historian estimates the number slain in Jerusalem alone as 1,100,000 and in other cities and rural parts a third as many more. For details see Josephus, Wars ii, chaps. 18, 20; iii, 2, 7, 8, 9; iv, 1, 2, 7, 8, 9; vii, 6, 9, 11. Many tens of thousands were taken captive, to be afterward sold into slavery, or to be slain by wild beasts, or in gladiatorial combat in the arena for the amusement of Roman spectators. 

“In the course of the siege, a wall was constructed about the entire city, thus fulfilling the Lord’s prediction (Luke 19:43), ‘thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee,’ in which, by the admittedly better translation, ‘bank,’ or ‘palisade’ should appear instead of ‘trench.’ In September A.D. 70 the city fell into the hands of the Romans; and its destruction was afterward made so thorough that its site was plowed up. Jerusalem was ‘trodden down of the Gentiles,’ and ever since has been under Gentile dominion, and so shall continue to be ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled’ (Luke 21:24) (Jesus the Christ, 545).

Why did this tragedy happen to the chosen people of God even in Jerusalem considered to be a holy city, a dwelling and throne of God? Because the Jews remain in their stubbornness of heart and in their unbelief. These great destruction, misery and humiliation would have been avoided if, and only if, the Jews had received the Son of God, hailed him as Lord and Savior of mankind, and led the campaign for all nations to accept his authority. If, and only if, the Jews had recognized the time and the visitation of your God in Christ Jesus they would have been converted, believed and followed Jesus who is Prince of peace and  the source and model of that renewed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity, and a peaceful spirit…” (Vatican II). 

What is the main message for all of us? If and when we also persist in our stubbornness of heart, arrogance, unbelief, sinfulness and wickedness we will also suffer the same fate. Let us, therefore, heed God’s call to repentance, conversion, and new life in Christ. Today, if we hear the voice of God harden not our hearts. Let us repent and believe in Jesus and his Gospel while it is not too late! Ask God for a new heart and a new mind. Ask God that He will take away our stubborn heart of stone and give us an obedient heart (see Ez 36:26).

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Lk 19:11-28 The Parable of the Ten Gold Coins

In this parable the main theme is stewardship.  It answers question on how to handle all the gifts of nature and grace which God has given us. To be a true steward, they should be handled wisely, responsibly and productively. They should yield a profit or bear fruit. It does not matter how many gifts we have received; what matters is our generosity in putting them to good use. We will be judged by God based on our stewardship at the end of time.

This parable gives us five points to be considered in pursuing the virtue of stewardship:

First, God gives to every man according to his several ability (see Matthew 25:15). Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Lk 12:48). The true standard for distribution of wealth is not, as expressed by the Marxist view, “to each according to his need,” but rather to each “according to his ability.” The reason lies in the fact that without ability, even that which a man receives shall be wasted, neglected, or diminished, and in the law of economic progress there can never be, in the final analysis, any substitute for ability.

“Some of us are too quick to assume that we are the second- and third-string players or that we are spiritual klutzes. We forget that God, in his perfect judgment, adjusts credit and blame to allow for the circumstances of the individual in question. The gospel is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ arrangement in that regard. God puts us all in different circumstances in this life and judges us accordingly. In the Parable of the Talents, it didn’t matter that one servant had been given five talents and the other only two. What mattered most was what both servants did with what God gave them. The Master said to each of them, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ (“Matt. 25:21Matthew 25:21). It is better to be a faithful second-string player with limited talents (pun intended) than to be an unfaithful superstar” (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, 34.).

Second, gifts and graces are not only to be preserved but to be develop to make it productive for the common good of all. 

 “Now we come to the one-talent servant (see “Mt 25:26-30). We are saddened and disappointed in this part of the drama because first there was an excuse, then a display of the fear that caused him to hide the talent. He had been afraid to assume the responsibility. His attitude was one of resentment and faultfinding, saying he found the master to be a hard man, even harvesting where he had not sown. There are many in the world like this servant, idle and unwilling to work for their master—interested only in themselves. There are those who become so involved in the things of the world and their own selfish interests that they will not make the attempt or put forth the effort to magnify one little talent entrusted to them by the Lord.” (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 262.)  

 “Likewise the Church member who has the attitude of leaving it to others will have much to answer for. There are many who say: ‘My wife does the Church work!’ Others say: ‘I’m just not the religious kind,’ as though it does not take effort for most people to serve and do their duty. But God has endowed us with talents and time, with latent abilities and with opportunities to use and develop them in his service. He therefore expects much of us, his privileged children. The parable of the talents is a brilliant summary of the many scriptural passages outlining promises for the diligent and penalties for the slothful. (see “Mt. 25:14-30.) From this we see that those who refuse to use their talents in God’s cause can expect their potential to be removed and given to someone more worthy. Like the unproductive fig tree (see Mt. 21:18-20) their barren lives will be cursed. To them on judgment day will come the equivalent of these devastating words:

’. . . Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers—. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents—. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Mt. 25:26-29, 30.)” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 100)

Third, gifts and graces are entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away;  not for our own gain, but for the Lords’ purposes here upon earth. The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service.

“The special talents with which we have been blessed—our intelligence, physical abilities, time, money, and the many opportunities given to us—have come from the Lord. They have been entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away. These were given to us according to our ability to use—not for our own gain, but for the Lord’s purposes here upon earth. We are like tenant farmers, who, given the use of the land, make their own selection as to the crop they will raise, and they work according to their own skill and desire to work. Some have the ability to sow, cultivate, and raise a bounteous crop, but others are less successful. There are some persons who will work hard and produce, while others, lacking initiative and desire, will fail. The day comes, however, when an accounting must be made” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 271.).

Fourth,“to every one that has shall be given…but from him that has not shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29)

Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have. There is an important lesson here for us. No one can stand still for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you earnestly seek to serve God with the gifts, talents, and graces he has given to you?

“The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service.Those who use their talents find they will grow. One who exercises his strength finds it will increase. If we sow a seed, it will grow; if we fail to plant, it will be lost. One who possesses some insight and is attentive to his teacher will gain more knowledge and insight and will have growth in mind and spiritual understanding. Understanding increases as it is used. As we learn, we acquire greater capacity to learn. As we use our opportunities for knowledge, more opportunities come to us. How sad it is when the opposite course is followed, and talent and capacity are wasted and not used. ‘From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath’ (Matthew 25:29).

“ServiceTalentsa-Hunter, Howard W.TPTalents are not given to us to be put on display or to be hidden away, but to be used. The Master expects us to make use of them. He expects us to venture forth and increase what we have been given according to our capacities and abilities (see Matthew 25:26-30). As servants of the Lord, we should use every opportunity to employ our talents in his service. To fail to do so means to lose them. If we do not increase, we decrease. Our quest is to seek out the talents the Lord has given us and to develop and multiply them, whether they be five, two, or one. We need not attempt to imitate the talents given to other persons.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 70.) 

Fifth, God rewards those who are faithful, responsible and productive stewards and he punishes those irresponsible, unwise and non-productive stewards. God is not going to judge us by the way we use what we do not possess, but by the use we make of the gifts that are actually our own. When he (Christ) comes, the slothful and unprofitable will be cast out, not because they did not believe, or because they had rebelled, but because they had neglected the opportunities which he had committed to them.  

In connection with the theme of stewardship, the return of the lord in the parable is symbolic of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time there will be an accounting, and those that are found wanting will be cast into outer darkness while the saints enter into the peace and joy of the Lord.

“Imagine what the Judgment will be like for us individually. Suppose that when we meet the Master there is a frown, and He turned and shook His head and turned sadly away. Can you imagine anything that would be quite so discouraging or quite so heartbreaking? There will be nothing so terrifying to the human soul as to be told on resurrection morning that they will have to wait a thousand years before they shall come forth from the grave in resurrection. But imagine instead of that, He smiles, He opens his arms, and says, ‘Come into my presence. You have been faithful in a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.’” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 68.)

All things such as created things, gifts, talents and blessings are God’s, and we must watch over and care for them in honor of Him and in the sanctification of man. Jesus warns us in a parable to be faithful, responsible, and productive stewards , because when he comes again, we will be judged for our stewardship (Lk 12:41-48).  Let us, therefore, make good use of the gifts, talents, time, and resources He gives us for his glory and for every one’s sanctification.  “Be fruitful!” (Gn 1:28)

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