What do the Parable of the Talents, modesty, the Spank/No-Spank Debate, literature and concern for one’s reputation have to do with one another? If I’m successful with this post, more than you’d ever guess. Perhaps I should have thrown irony into the mix, because there seems to be more than enough of that to go around.
Let’s break this down, one item at a time:
1. The Parable of the Talents: Today’s Gospel reading was from Matthew, chapter 25, in which Jesus relates the Parable of the Talents. Know what I’m talking about? The one that goes like this: a landowner goes away, but before doing so, he gives 5 talents to one servant, 2 to another, and one to the last. When the landowner returns, he’s happy to learn that the first two servants invested their shares and doubled the owner’s money, but the owner is irate when he finds out the final servant did nothing but bury the money given him. It’s one of those readings people tend to misunderstand. They think Jesus is talking about skills/talents/gifts given by God, but the talents (which were coins) actually represent Jesus, a gift (the ultimate one) from the Father to us. The question is: “What do we do with this gift of Jesus?” Do we bury Him in the ground and never think about Him again, or do we make Him part of our life, letting Him, in turn, enrich our life?
Today’s Meditation of the Day in Magnificat was written by Father Simon Tugwell, O.P., and he reflects on this parable: “One sure way to lose friendship, whether in family relationships or anywhere else, is to try to hang on to it too tightly. It can be possessed only in so far as it is constantly received as a gift which is ever new. There is something radically insecure about real having, something that should not be regarded as a ‘pity’; it is one of the real beauties of God’s ordering of things. But fallen man has lost the taste for that kind of insecurity. He likes things he can hang on to — or thinks he can, because, in fact, of course, as we have seen, this is a vain hope. … The Lord calls us to the poverty of being always ready to relinquish everything that is given to us, so that it can be given back to us enhanced and multiplied. Unless we are prepared to play the game of time like this, and risk losing everything, even what we thought we had will be taken away from us sooner or later. To try to ‘possess’ in that way is in fact to possess nothing.”
2. Modesty: Calah Alexander is a young Catholic mother of three-soon-to-be-four, who writes very funny and often erudite posts about subjects ranging from abortion to baby-butt-sniffing. Yesterday, she wrote about modesty. This excerpt is a pretty good summation of her essay: “It’s the rare, rare, super-rare occasion that I catch a man eyeing my accidental cleavage. But other women? Forget about it. They are like vultures, ready to pounce at the slightest sign of immodesty. Sometimes it’s verbal, sometimes it’s body language, sometimes it’s ‘if I could sentence you to 20 extra years in Purgatory with just the power of my angry stare, I would’. It seems to me that in this whole debate about modesty, the fact that the women’s voices are the loudest and the most frequently raised in condemnation of their sisters in Christ is something that should not be ignored.” Indeed.
Now, I am sick to death of Catholics/Christians whining about how other Catholics/Christians are being unCatholic/unChristian, but the truth is that we are often our own worst enemy. We are absolutely vilified (dare I say, crucified?) by the mainstream media and the Culture of Death that pervades every nook and cranny of America, but is it really such a stretch to figure out why, when the Christians who open their mouths and draw attention to themselves are using their time in the spotlight (no matter how tiny) to tell everyone else what they’re doing wrong? I wrote a previous post about judging others, because it’s something I constantly struggle with and daily pray about. St. Augustine wrote, “Love the sinner. Hate the sin,” and he was spot on, but that’s more easily said than done. In fact, I’d say that it’s impossible to accomplish without help from God. I wonder if the time of some Christians might be better spent praying for help in this department.
3. The Spank/No-Spank Debate: Recently, a woman in one of my online Catholic home education groups asked for advice about dealing with her defiant son. Of course, this somehow sparked the Spank/No-Spank Debate, even though most members of the group tried to avoid it. In fact, I was impressed that many members encouraged the at-wits-end mom to investigate the possibility that allergies/sensitivities are causing the behavior problems. This morning, though, things came to a head when the most verbose member (the one advocating spanking) took offense, felt attacked, and lashed out, claiming, of course, that she always gets attacked and that it is very unCatholic/unChristian of other members to do this to her. Yes, I rolled my eyes when I read today’s I’m-so-offended email, but I can honestly say that I feel no pity for this woman. She’s gotten herself into this situation over and over, because she’s gotten herself into this situation over and over. She seems to be unable to just “let it lie.” Instead of keeping her fingers off the keyboard, she responds to every message that seems to contradict hers, that she fears might cast aspersions upon her, that seems to prove her words were misconstrued.
4. Literature: This is perhaps my all-time favorite quote, spoken by one of my favorite English professors at St. Anselm College, Bernard Schopen: “Literature leaves you with questions; fiction gives you all the answers.”
5. Concern for One’s Reputation: Dorian Speed is another Catholic blogger who writes insightful, entertaining posts. While attending this week’s Catholic New Media Conference, she sent out some great tweets, including this one: “Turn your reputation over to God and be at peace with people disagreeing with your message.”
OK. Here’s the big finish, where I tie it all together. Ready? When we hold on too tightly to the things we think are important, we lose them. And perhaps more than anything else, we hold on too tightly to our reputations. The reason for this might very well be that we think others are judging us as harshly as we’re judging everybody else. But here’s the irony: the more we explain what we really meant, the harder we struggle to defend ourselves and the more we try to prove how pure our intentions were, the more likely we are to come across as petty and unChristian ourselves. So, do what you know is right and leave everyone else with questions. Sure, their judgments about you may be wrong, but how important are their judgments?