Master, here is your mina. I hid it in a handkerchief out of fear of you, for you are a severe man. You withdraw what you have not deposited. You reap what you have not sown.
Luke 19: 20-21
Today’s parable from Luke 19 offers a teaching that is present in each of the synoptic gospels and twice in the gospel of Luke. It asks of us to reflect on the nature of our relationship to the One whose servant we are called to be. The very fact of the repetition of the teaching suggests that to become that servant we must be able to discover within ourselves a willingness to risk that is stronger than our fear of failure.
To know ourselves as a slave or servant to the Lord is to realize that our life has but one source and one end. There is nothing else that truly matters but the life of Jesus in us. As St. Paul writes: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-9)
In today’s first reading from Maccabees we hear of the willingness and the fearlessness of the mother and her seven sons, who die rather than deny the bond with God that is the Law. It is not physical death, at least usually, that threatens our fidelity and service to God but rather our pride of place in our society and world. The God we fear is really a God of our own making, a God whom we don’t really love and so desire to be with and for at every moment, but rather a God who continually threatens to abandon us to the arbitrariness and hostility of a world that we fear. To be God’s servant in the world requires of us that we love, not only God, but also the world. Our distorted sense of “love” of the world, however, is really a disguised fear and resentment. We cannot serve the world as it comes to us in our momentary situation because we are always, to a significant degree, suspicious of it. If “perfect love casts out all fear,” then it may well be true, despite the flawed logic, that often fear casts out love.
Is this perhaps the reason that in prayer we experience a withholding of a sincere willingness to ask the Lord to make us a servant? Are we suspicious that what that will ask of us will somehow threaten our very sense of ourselves? So, far too often, do we opt to live our lives and to relate to God in the way of the third servant in today’s gospel. Instead of daring to invest all we have in God’s way for us, we hide what is deepest in us “in a handkerchief” and settle for comporting ourselves respectfully.
To pray that God show us how to give all that we are and have today means to face the smallness of what we have. Strangely enough, we need not seek out extraordinary ways to serve God, for what the day will ask of us will seem often enough to be far more than we have to give. In each encounter, we shall experience that it is a true act of faith to believe that what we can give to the other is “enough” from God’s point of view. To give all we have to the daily work before us will require us to lovingly trust in the value of what we offer, despite the fact that most of our tasks will always remain unfinished.
The true servant disappears into the work she or he has been given. The third servant in today’s parable hides what he has been given because he, and not the master’s work, is at the center of his consciousness. To plead with God to make us good servants is to ask that God’s work be constantly before us throughout the day. It is to ask God’s grace to give all we have and all that we are and to know the presence and love that comes to us only through such giving.
We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never allow the haphazard in anything less than God’s appointed order, and be ready to discover the Divine designs anywhere.
Beware of making a fetish of consistency to your convictions instead of being devoted to God. I shall never do that—in all probability you will have to, if you are a saint. There never was a more inconsistent Being on this earth than Our Lord, but He was never inconsistent to HIs Father. The one consistency of the saint is not to a principle, but to the Divine life. It is the Divine life which continually makes more and more discoveries about the Divine mind. It is easier to be a fanatic than a faithful soul, because there is something amazingly humbling, particularly to our religious conceit, in being loyal to God.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 14