Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Monday, November 17, 2014


This week's gospel reading from the common lectionary reminds me, as it does every three years, why I share with people how I feel about my spiritual direction. I may not be giving direct instructions or sermons, but I do like to discuss my journey, my growth, and my offerings as a way to see how I'm slowly grasping greater meaning and purpose in life.

The reading involves the parable in Matthew 25:14-30. It's the one about the master giving his servants sacks of talents (money). The ones who used those talents to create more were rewarded. The servant who buried his talents was cast out.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This passage is often used by the wealthy to justify their wealth and the preservation of their wealth. I think, as all good parables do, that the money is just a way to help us understand the story better. I don't see it as a justification for the 1% hoarding 22% of the country's wealth (up from 10% in 1970, and that's according to Fortune Magazine). Whatever our gifts might be and in whatever quantities, it's important that we create more from those gifts. We can't just sit on them. It's why I think the preservation of wealth argument fails. If you're creating wealth that only you can enjoy, you really aren't creating wealth for the master. You're making the wealth and hiding the benefits from everyone. In other words, you're doing it for yourself and not the glory of God.

I was born into a middle class immigrant family, where my parents worked 2 or 3 jobs to get us educated. I didn't understand what a gift this was until I got older, but now appreciate with enormous gratitude their sacrifice. I also know I was granted some skills that can be useful to others. Though I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes waste these gifts, it doesn't take long for me to remember how important it is to share back in whatever way possible. I feel responsible to use these gifts as granted to me.

One point that I didn't realize until this year was that a bag of talents isn't chump change. It was 6000 dinari. A dinari was equal to a day's labor. In other words, even the third individual received a bag of money equal to 20 years of labor. That's like winning the lottery. We all are winners of the lottery then. We've been given enormous, unbelievable gifts, like my parents gave to me when they brought me to this country to be educated. These gifts are almost inconceivable and we are all the fools for not using them. Worse, we're cast out as lazy and worthy of tears for wasting them.

As Thanksgiving comes, I recognize that I have much to be thankful for and much to share. May we share our joys and gifts, whatever they might be, with others so that these gifts may grow, be fruitful, and multiply. It might be re-gifting, but anything less would be squandering our inheritance.

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