Bet you think this parable isn't about you.
You wicked and lazy servant!
Well, that is just uncomfortable to hear. Not because these harsh words are so foreign to us (sadly we are used to living in a rough and hostile world), but because we do not like to hear them coming from Jesus’ lips. We like to think of Jesus as loving and merciful, which He certainly is, but it is easy to ignore the challenging things He says, especially if there might be a chance that He’s talking to us!
In some of the other parables when Christ speaks harshly, it is often easy to distance ourselves from the wicked guys because they are often quite obviously wicked or in the wrong (unlike us, of course). This does not seem to be the case here. This servant doesn’t seem wicked to us. Cautious or weak perhaps, but not wicked. It is not like he squandered or lost any of the master’s money. In fact, he desired to protect what his master had given him. One might call him in most circumstances rather prudent. Sure, he was not quite the go-getter that the other servants were, but he knew enough to not want to disappoint the master. This guy played it safe, and for this he was called wicked and lazy.
The wake-up call to be gleaned from this whole exchange is the realization that our relationship with God is far different than many people think or wish it to be. The wicked servant’s mistake is not knowing what the master wanted of him. Many Christians think of God (if at all) as somebody “up there” who created me, who vaguely might just have something to say about my life, but as long as I’m a “nice” person, that is all that matters. In other words, God is something that happens to me, and it is good enough that I let it happen and do not get in His way too much. This parable seems to saying something very different.
Like the silver talents given to the servants, God has given each of us wealth from His wealth and life from His very Life. To steal a phrase from "Spiderman," with great power comes great responsibility. God has not given us these great gifts with the hope that we might not squander them or even just keep them safe. He wants us to take responsibility and multiply them. A life of faith is not one of passive obedience, but of active cooperation with the Father.
The hard part is figuring out just what an active life of faith looks like. There is, of course, no one template for how we actively live out our faith, because we all have different talents (pun kind of intended) and circumstances of our lives, but that does not mean we are left to make it up as we go along.
In Her wisdom, the Church has given us many examples of holiness by giving us the saints. The saints and their lives probably have more differences than similarities. They lived in different ages, spoke different languages, performed different works, had different families, and so on. Still, what they all had in common, every one of them, was the sure and certain faith that salvation comes through Jesus Christ, and that once that faith is found, it demands to be actively lived out. We, who also are called to be saints, must not play it safe!
Prepared for Aleteia by the Canonry of Saint Leopold. Click here to learn more about the Canons Regular of St. Augustine.
Oh, but it is too hard, one might say, the bar is just set too high. Just look at St Albert the Great whom we celebrated on November 15th. Are we to emulate him? He was a bishop, a scholar, and the teacher of one of the greatest theologians of all time, St Thomas Aquinas. Let us be honest, most people are not called to nor capable of such great heights, and it might seem daunting to try and emulate such a great man, but it is wise to remember that St Albert was not holy because he was and did all these things, but that he was and did all these things because he was holy, and holiness is available to all.