Matthew 25:14-30
Paradise Lost 
by Rev. Stanley Krempa
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

"It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one - to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.  Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five.  Likewise, the one who received two made another two.  But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money. 

"After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.  The one who had received five talents came forward bring the additional five.  He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.  See, I have made five more.  His master said to him, 'Well done my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities,  Come, share your master's joy.'  Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents.  See, I have made two more.'  His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master's joy.'  Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.  Here it is back.  His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?  Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? 

"Now then!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"

In his recent reflection on marriage, entitled “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis mentions one factor that is always damaging to a marriage — the expectation of perfection (No. 92, 122).  No marriage is perfect. We can expand that to say that no assignment or position is perfect and no family is perfect. We are called to live our vocation on a dynamic planet, in an imperfect world with limited human beings as our companions. One could say that Pope Francis' entire document is a commentary on that truth.

Our life is like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with a whole host of unusual characters travelling through life with us. Our readings today give us three examples of life in imperfect situations. 

First, the Book of Proverbs describes the virtuous wife (and in our culture we could say the same about the “virtuous husband”). Even though she is presented as an ideal, we can ask several questions. Was her spouse perfect? Was her family perfect? Was her health perfect? Were her neighbors perfect? Probably not, yet within those limitations, she provides for her family, creates a home and meets the various needs they have.

In the second reading today, St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians about the return of Christ. We do not know when that last moment of human history will occur. In a world where terrorism is unpredictable and violent, the Lord may come for us sooner than we think and at a place we least expect. But that should not paralyze us. Until then, we are called to come to a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ. Until then, we are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit people in prisons even in the prisons of their own making. 

Finally, we come to the Gospel parable of the talents. Our attention is drawn to the servant who did nothing with his talent. Was he angry that he received only one talent? Was he jealous of the others? Did he harbor secret desires that they would squander and lose the talents they had been given? We don't know. What we do know is that he (or she) did nothing with it. No lives were bettered, no grief was relieved, no need was met, no suffering was lessened. It just lay there. 

The point is that in an imperfect world, we still can show forth Christ to others as best we can. Even in a darkened world, we can still be a guiding light to others. In a world of “fake news” we can still be carriers of truth. In a world that is growing cold, we can still show the warmth of Christ to others. 

Whatever the circumstances of our life, we can be the virtuous man or woman who brings order and creates a place of peace in a difficult world. Whether the Lord will come for us unexpectedly or at the natural end of a long life, we can use the time we have to help others on their journey of life. Whether our talents are many or few, they have been given to us to use.

As Pope Francis wisely said, the greatest threat to any life or vocation is the expectation of a perfection that we will never find in this world, but are assured of it in the next. Then, and only then, will we have what John Milton called "Paradise Regained."

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