There is a subtlety to Scripture, a way in which its stories capture all the vagaries, faults and flaws of what it means to be human. Then there is the juxtaposition with the stories of courage and heroism, quality and strength, and the delicate truth that each of us, in being human, is made up of both. All that is explored in the most ordinary of circumstances, the lives we live everyday in relationships, families, work places and in each of the choices we make. Even when those ordinary lives are caught in quite extraodinary circumstances, choosing the Light makes all the difference.
The pandemic, the social unrest, the election, the weight of economic uncertainty and the unremitting force of technological change has rendered 2020 one of those “extraordinary circumstances”. It would be easy to bury ourselves in the misery of it, bemoan each new turn, and embrace a frustration and anger that might buffet the next blow. But that would mirror the actions of the man in the today’s Gospel reading. It was the Parable of the Talents, Mt. 25: 14-30. Jesus narrates the story with a steady hand: a departing master leaves his servants with a prescribed number of coins, talents, and directions to care for the property until he returns. The first two invest and double the take; the third buries his and can only return what he had been given. The Master rewards the first two, but the third is punished. To bury ourselves in the messiness of 2020 is to bury what we have been given. The call is to be like the first two servants who utilize the gift given, the time allotted, and invest with confidence and certitude. That Gospel speaks of commitment, of attentiveness to the master’s purpose, of action. Keeping that in mind means looking at the texture and layers of reality that surround us.
In the horror of this epidemic, the sun still rises and washes away the night. New babies are born everyday; new homes and jobs are found. Kindness is practiced in a thousand different forms: sharing food resources, watching out for neighbors, organizing drive bys and Zoom calls. There are heartwarming stories of elderly couples reunited, and young families bolstered by the return of first responder parents. Adapatations occur everyday: masks and social distancing are standard fare now; grocery stores have runway patterns and clerks are behind protective plexiglass. There is a palpable sense of possibility even as the numbers of hospitalizations and positivity tests rise. People struggle to use what we have for the benefit of another.
Every moment of history is emblazoned with meaning in someone’s life; each moment Choosinghas a hand in shaping destinies for individuals and nations. The 21st centruy world is not an exception. In the search for understanding, the centuries old Gospel can become, if allowed, a timeless companion. Jesus, imparting simple stories in a world so different than our own, transcends the centuries to provoke thought and challenge conventional thinking. Entrusted with the stories, it is left to each of us to decide how to grasp the meaning and how to apply the message in 21st century life. In other words, it is about how to live and love and be the very ordinary human beings we actually are. Even in this time, the mission is being offered, the chances taken, and the world is a better place for it.