Life as “On Loan”

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The master had pity on that servant
and released him and forgave him the loan.
But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,
and he took hold of him and choked him, saying: “Pay back whatever you owe.”

Matthew 18: 27-8

Verse 27 of Matthew’s gospel contains the only New Testament use of the word “daneion”, which is translated “loan.” With this word the “master” of the parable transforms the huge debt of “ten thousand talents” to a “loan.” On the other hand, the servant holds rigidly and without mercy or “forgiveness” the fellow servant who has borrowed much less.

What does it mean to live in such a way that we realize that all that surrounds us and is given to us in “on loan” to us? It means it does not “belong” to us. That we have a responsibility to the One from whom our life and world are on loan. In this sense, the parable Jesus tells speaks to the very core disposition of the life of faith. The child of God never loses sight of the sovereignty of God. As aspect of the evangelical counsel of poverty is the developing of a habit of mind and of living that receives all as gift and that takes responsibility for what is loaned to us for our time on earth. This, at once, deepens our sense of responsibility but also our sense of detachment. Nothing is mine to do with as I like; it is only to be revered and treasured as the loan from God that it is.

It is the nature of our pre-transcendent life to focus on individuality rather than participation and communality. We mistakenly think that it is what sets us apart that constitutes our identity and “selfhood”. It is from this sense of separateness that competition and comparison, the need to be above and distinct from others, and so our lack of mercy, ensues. So, the call of the spiritual traditions is to ever-increasing poverty of spirit.

For it it not God’s intention in his works that man should have in himself a place for God to work in. Poverty of spirit is for a man to keep so free of God and of all his works that if God wishes to work in the soul, he himself is the place in which he wants to work; and the he will gladly do. For if he finds a man so poor as this, then God performs his own work, and the man is in this way suffering God to work, and God is his own place to work in, and so God is his own worker in himself. Thus in this poverty man pursues that everlasting being which he was and which he is now and which he will evermore remain.

Meister Eckhart, Sermon 52

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One Comment

  1. Brother Louis Calmel, CFX says:

    Talk about living on “borrowed time”. We have never “owned ourselves” everything we have we owe to God. That is why we, in the context of community, where we find God through the Mass and the Eucharist have the moral imperative from Micah “….to live justly, love kindly and walk humbly…” – the secret of being a good community man!

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