“The Beatitudes”, Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstall Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube (Voice From The Cloud)” (1996)
“You who are Truth, reside everywhere to answer all who ask counsel of You, and in one act reply to all though all seek counsel upon different matters. And You answer clearly, but all do not hear clearly. All ask what they wish, but do not hear the answer that they wish. That man is Your best servant who is not so much concerned to hear from You what he wills as to will what he hears from You.” — St Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. F.J. Sheed, 10.26, 192.
Honor, Faith, loyalty, competence, pride, selflessness, integrity, courage, discipline, sacrifice, tradition, virtues to live by. The virtues we strive to live by, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, onto death or the end of the world in spite of everything the world throws at us in it’s effort to deny life.
The thing that all of these virtues or qualities have in common at their root is they are all about “Giving” to others. Giving away what we have and are for the benefit of others, even unto death.
1And entering in, he walked through Jericho. 2And behold, there was a man named Zacheus, who was the chief of the publicans, and he was rich. 3And he sought to see Jesus who he was, and he could not for the crowd, because he was low of stature. 4And running before, he climbed up into a sycamore tree, that he might see him; for he was to pass that way. 5And when Jesus was come to the place, looking up, he saw him, and said to him: Zacheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thy house. 6And he made haste and came down; and received him with joy.
7And when all saw it, they murmured, saying, that he was gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner. 8But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold. 9Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
11As they were hearing these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately be manifested. 12He said therefore: A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13And calling his ten servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them: Trade till I come. 14But his citizens hated him: and they sent an embassage after him, saying: We will not have this man to reign over us.
15And it came to pass, that he returned, having received the kingdom: and he commanded his servants to be called, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16And the first came, saying: Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17And he said to him: Well done, thou good servant, because thou hast been faithful in a little, thou shalt have power over ten cities.
18And the second came, saying: Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19And he said to him: Be thou also over five cities.
20And another came, saying: Lord, behold here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin; 21For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up what thou didst not lay down, and thou reapest that which thou didst not sow.
22He saith to him: Out of thy own mouth I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up what I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow: 23And why then didst thou not give my money into the bank, that at my coming, I might have exacted it with usury?
24And he said to them that stood by: Take the pound away from him, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25And they said to him: Lord, he hath ten pounds.
26But I say to you, that to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: and from him that hath not, even that which he hath, shall be taken from him. 27But as for those my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, bring them hither, and execute them before me.
Jesus, always patient and understanding, explains to his misconstruing followers yet again the Kingdom that they continue to confuse. Since it is a Kingdom of hearts, they themselves will be primary players in it. Jesus will give them three tools they will need to perform their role in the Kingdom.
First, Jesus will give them the grace of redemption, an interior renewal of their souls, a fresh start in their relationship with God and their fellowmen — This is the sanctifying grace that comes to us from his passion, death, and resurrection through the sacraments of His Church. The “pound” that the king in the parable gives his servants represents this grace, the same gift received by all.
Second, Jesus gives them an unspecified period of time in which to make this grace grow by living out his teachings and his commandments — most especially the commandments of love and evangelization. This corresponds to the time in the parable during which the new king is traveling to be invested with his kingship, the period after Christ’s ascension.
Third, Jesus gives his disciples the knowledge that he will come again at the end of history in order to reward his faithful followers, but those who have been selfish and wicked, sticking to their old way of life in spite of the gift of grace, will have forfeited their membership in his kingdom.
This parable should be one of the most highly prized treasures of every Christian. It brings all the human condition into sharp, refreshing, unmistakable focus. We are here to receive God’s gifts and make them bear fruit for his Kingdom, to invest our lives in giving witness to Christ in our thoughts, words, deeds, and manner.
This life is brief and only has meaning in relation to the life to come. How clear our Lord makes it for us! How eager he is for us to use our freedom wisely, so that he can reward us richly when the time comes!
The above paragraphs (after the 5 stars *’s) are quoted from “The Better Part” by Father Bartuneck. This book should be declared a national treasure! We lead tremendously busy lives, with 1,001 things to do. Even so, every saint and renowned spiritual director through the ages has said the same thing: If we desire to become saints, we must spend time daily in meditation.
The Better Part enables us to read, meditate, absorb, and apply the Gospels to our lives. It serves as a catalyst to personalize times of prayer, enabling us to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead along the path of holiness. The portable resource has a ribbon to mark your place and contains detailed indices to help you meditate either on the liturgical seasons or the virtues you feel most in need of developing. As in the Visa advert, this book comes under the heading “Priceless”.
Thinking about this life in the context of eternity is a sobering exercise. I have in mind a graphic I once saw relating to Pascal’s Wager. As so often, we are invited to believe and accept, but in this case we are being invited by the creator of the universe. But whether we believe and accept or not is left up to us.
|God exists (G)||God does not exist (¬G)|
|Belief (B)||+∞ (infinite gain)||−1 (finite loss)|
|Disbelief (¬B)||−∞ (infinite loss)||+1 (finite gain)|
Given these values, the option of living as if God exists (B) dominates the option of living as if God does not exist (¬B), as long as one assumes a positive probability that God exists. In other words, the expected value gained by choosing B is greater than or equal to that of choosing ¬B.
In fact, according to decision theory, the only value that matters in the above matrix is the +∞ (infinitely positive). Any matrix of the following type (where f1, f2, and f3 are all negative or finite positive numbers) results in (B) as being the only rational decision.
Humans have exceeding difficulty seeing beyond the moment and the appetites thereof. People simply are not reasonable, nor are they, by and large, even remotely close to “reasonable”. They (humans) appear for the most part to be all sound and fury, all emotion and feelings. Reason is only appealed to (appeal to authority) in an attempt to “rationalize” what we “feel” we want to do at that moment.
So the parable about the pounds and God’s gifts and how we use those gifts should be one of the most highly prized treasures of every Christian. It brings all the human condition into sharp, refreshing, unmistakable focus. We are here to receive God’s gifts and make them bear fruit for his Kingdom, to invest our lives in giving witness to Christ in our thoughts, words, deeds, and manner… but only if you Believe. If you choose to not believe and to indulge every desire and passion as you see fit then you are betting against the only house that matters. This life is brief and only has meaning in relation to the life to come. How clear our Lord makes it for us!