DO NOT BE AFRAID

Wise sayings, or proverbs, are usually written on the back of experience. ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Proverbs. In a nutshell, if we are looking for a perfect wife, husband, friend or partner – we will never find them. But if we are lucky enough to find someone who is wise, we will probably be as close as we’re going to be to the dream. So, while Wisdom is praised, and praised again as more precious than money, so too is reverence for Sacred Things. The Psalmist declares that those who move with reverence in the world, in their homes and communities rarely lack anything, and are never lonely. We can find many examples of this through all Sacred Scripture. Then, just when we thought that we were beginning to understand the spiritual laws that govern our lives, Jesus comes along and stands them on their head. The format of this weeks’ Parable is tried and tested. Usually, after the Master has given his gifts and instructions and then departs, the first two get it wrong and the last one gets it right. When it is told in this way, everyone loves the comedy and are delighted to see the underdog winning for a change. But Jesus’ version turns the story into a tragedy. Worst still, the one who has the least going for him, gets it wrong and loses even that! What is going on here? Notice that the servants are not in a competition with each other. But they are in a competition with themselves. What will they do with what has been given two them? Well, first they have to understand the spiritual laws that govern their lives. God gives everything to them freely. They are then invited to give away what they have received. According to physical laws, when we give something away, we no longer have it. But according to spiritual laws, when we give it away, we are astonished to see that it doubles! Now comes a new understanding of how Spirit grows and a greater responsibility to make that happen. This is what the Parable calls, ‘entering into the joy of your Master.’ The Master who knows spiritual laws, calls these servants ‘good and faithful’. They have been faithful to goodness by imitating it. It was given to them, they gave it to others, and now they watch it grow and unfold. But alas, the same law of the spirit proposes a ‘use it or lose it’ adventure. If Spirit is given away, it increases exponentially. If it is buried, it is lost. The Master, who knows the flip side of the law of happiness, takes the talent away from the one he calls, ‘wicked and lazy’. And, since it cannot stand alone, it is given to the one who has ten. The Master calls this servant, wicked and lazy but the servant rejects this description claiming that his whole life was diminished by being afraid of everything – especially the Master! Notice, the Master does not disagree. In fact, he repeats what this servant has said. But then he draws a different conclusion. Either way, he should have acted to double the gift he had been given. His failure to understand puts him into deeper darkness with only tears of regret for company. So, here’s the thing. We should not take God for granted and instead, nurture in our lives a healthy reverence for what we do not yet know. At the same time, we must never, ever, ever, turn God into a terrorist. Our own experience in prayer should give us a clearer view of the tenderness which enfolds us. If fear immobilises us, we need to find a new strength with the support and presence of good and faithful servants of the Lord. They have much to teach us. But perhaps the most shocking aspect of what Jesus does with this Parable is to remind us that when we lose the Icon of Gods’ Face from our hearts, we can talk ourselves into spectacular loss.

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