Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I had a very pleasant time at the Department of Motor Vehicles this week.
Given all that 2020 has been, and the many things that seem plausibly to indicate the coming of Armageddon, a sentence such as the above is, in the best case scenario, an indication that I have had the opportunity to visit bizarro-world, or, in the worst case scenario, a confirmation that the end is, indeed, nigh. While I adhere to the Biblical truth that I can know neither the day nor the hour of our Lord’s second coming, the fact that a visit to the DMV was a perfectly fine experience did give me pause to think about my eternal end.
In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus uses a parable of servants given a varying amount of money each. All but one servant use what has been given to them to increase the size of the gift. The one who does nothing simply buries the single coin he is given. Those who used their allotted funds to invest and earn more are commended for their good stewardship and are entrusted with greater responsibility. They have earned not only material wealth, but also the esteem and trust of their master. The servant who buries his coin does so out of fear. He knows that his master is tough and demands a return. Even with a small amount, a small responsibility, the servant freezes and is unable to do anything productive. The parable is meant to remind us of our responsibilities, especially as believers. We who have been given the gift of faith have received a treasure. This treasure is not meant to be buried, hidden away, and forgotten. Rather, we are meant to invest, to use the faith to our full spiritual advantage and so grow in the grace of God. The talents entrusted to each servant have, in an analogous way, been entrusted to us. We have the gift of faith, which is a gift that can grow if properly cared for, properly invested. We have the sacraments, which when used regularly and appropriately help us to experience the ever-increasing grace of God in our hearts and lives. We have the moral law, which instructs us on how we are to behave. To know the rules is a tremendous advantage while also a great responsibility. To one who knows the rules, to one who has received the faith, a great spiritual responsibility is also given. And so this parable challenges us to fulfill that great responsibility well and with confidence. Unlike the servant entrusted with little, we have been given much, and so we must act accordingly.
This parable reminds us also of our ultimate destiny. We will stand before the judgment seat of God one day and give an account of our lives. We will review the treasure that was given to us and how well we stewarded that gift. Did we invest well? Did we live in the grace of the sacraments? Did we share the faith with others and so multiply the profits that Jesus, our master, would receive? Did we bring others to share in the master’s joy or did we keep it hidden away, buried in a field, just for ourselves? Am I ready to give this account?
I had a very pleasant time at the DMV. This was because the service I needed was fairly simple, insofar as an interaction with the DMV can be simple. I checked the website ahead of time to make sure I knew what forms needed to be filed, what ID would be required, and that it was possible to set an appointment. Having reserved a time, brought the necessary documents, and prepared myself for the possibility that a mysterious form that can only be obtained in person after free climbing a rock wall while being pelted with eggs might be required, I put my mask on and went inside. They confirmed my appointment, checked my temperature, asked what my appointment was about and ensured that I had all the necessary paperwork. Let me highlight that part…before I was even sent to wait for an available window, a DMV worker checked to ensure that I had everything necessary and was ready to give me any forms I lacked. I had time to pray a rosary before being called to a window, and my transaction was completed quickly, efficiently, and courteously. While I waited, though, I could hear some people being turned away at the door because they did not have an appointment. Some others scrambled to fill out forms that they should have brought already completed or were simply missing necessary paperwork. When much is required – and the DMV requires much – we must prepare well. But everything that would be required of me was provided, I had only to make us of it. The availability of appointments and the paperwork needed were all available online. Had I forgotten a form, someone was ready to provide for me. All I had to do was use what had been given.
So in our faith. Everything we need for salvation is provided. Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death for us on the Cross. God has fully revealed everything and we encounter this revelation in the Catholic Church. We have been given much, and all we have to do is use what has been given. If we won’t use the resources provided, or won’t make the appointment or fill out the paperwork ahead of time, we find ourselves turned away, held responsible for something we could have done but failed to do.
I had a pleasant experience of the DMV. That is not a sign of the apocalypse. But it is a reminder of the end. It is a reminder that I have been given much, that Jesus Christ, through the Catholic faith gives me the means for salvation. And I desire to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, share your Master’s joy.”