Categories
Antonia Goddard Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers

In Defence of the Man with One Talent

In Defence of the Man with One Talent

The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1637), oil on panel, The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

I have always had a particular dislike for the parable of the talents. This is mostly because however much I try to twist my brain around it, I fail to understand it, and usually end up sympathising greatly with the Man with One Talent.

It is hard not to feel sorry for him. After all, the Master has entrusted a slave with a talent (a vast sum of money, especially to give to a man with little to no experience in banking) and instructed him to look after it. The slave solemnly promises to do so, and keeps the talent in the safest place he knows, hidden from thieves and looters and prying eyes. When the Master returns he joyfully presents the talent back to him, presumably delighted that he has succeeded in his duties, perhaps even expecting a reward or word of thanks for his prudence. And yet the Master responds by punishing him.

(Don’t even get me started on giving his talent to the man who has ten. That’s just blatantly unfair.)

Of what happened in the years while the Master was away, the Gospels are curiously (irritatingly) silent. Perhaps the slave – a poor man of economics but a kind husband and father – spent the years with his family, bringing up his children in love and respect. And yet the Master focusses only on the slave’s failure to earn him more money, comparing him unfavourably to the two successful slaves.

I have always felt a certain affinity for the Man with One Talent. I am fortunate to have been blessed with decent brains and a gift for writing; at school and university I worked hard and achieved good grades. I had to work hard for them, of course, but I had hoped – and indeed, was led to believe – that my hard work combined with the God-given talents for which I was exceptionally grateful, would be rewarded with success and employment, and an opportunity to serve God.

Of course, things are never so simple. Try as I might, I seem to be failing at every opportunity to achieve what I have worked towards for so many years. Every day I feel more like the Man with One Talent, letting the gifts that God has given me rot because I have failed to achieve what He wants of me.

*

The most common takeaway from the talents parable is the idea that success is the product of hard work and talent. It reminds me of a quote that used to hang in my ballet studio, famously attributed to Anna Pavlova:

God gives talent. Work transforms talent into genius.

Yet sometimes it doesn’t pay off. Sometimes we can work really hard with every talent God has given us, and it doesn’t work out. My failure to land a career as a ballerina was not, as I have believed for so many years, because I didn’t work hard enough. My failure to find a career where I can use my talents to make a difference in the world is not because I don’t want it enough, or because I didn’t try hard enough.

If we teach that success is a combination of hard work and God-given talent, it runs a real risk that when we fail, we are tempted to either blame God or ourselves. Neither is a helpful or healthy viewpoint.

Turning back to the talents parable, I wonder if English’s clunky double-meaning of the word talent has led us to tie it too literally to the idea of our own abilities and success. Perhaps instead of success, we owe God a return on His investment, giving him back everything that He has given us, and more. A couple of chapters before this, Jesus tells us to render unto God what belongs to God. Maybe that’s all God is asking of us: our devotion and our love.

I still don’t quite understand the parable. But devotion and love, that’s manageable for today.

 

Categories
Conversion Discipleship Faith Formation Ink Slingers Jesus Is Lord Jesus Is Lord course Martina Series

Jesus Is Lord of My Time {Week Seven}

TIMEchrist-king3Welcome to the Jesus Is Lord series, a course offered for adults at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, Texas.

If this is your first time visiting this series, I encourage you to take a few moments and read through the series introduction that will give a clear picture of the purpose and content of the Jesus Is Lord course. The introduction post not only outlines the course, but goes over the motivation to share in this class on the internet. 

Last week’s class was the Jesus Is Lord of My Talent. If you would prefer to watch this class, please scroll to the bottom. Keep in mind the recorded classes are not from our current semester and contain testimonies from different people than what’s presented in the text below. Check back next week which will cover Jesus Is Lord of My Treasure. 

 

RECAP FROM LAST WEEK

MORE ON TALENT???

This evening Noe spent the first ten minutes connecting the theme of Talent to Time.

In reading Acts 2:37-42, we see that the Apostles ask

What are we supposed to do?

Verse 38Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you…

Verse 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. – In addition to the 120 in the upper room, the Catholic Church began with some 3120 people.

 

Verse 42: They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. 

Once they made Jesus Lord, their time was now spent in a different way.

They started to do things they didn’t do before …and probably stopped doing things they were doing before in order to follow Christ more closely.

 

Type A Catholics {visit link to review graphics} are submissive to Jesus when they get off the throne and allow Jesus to sit there.

The first thing Jesus does is to have us turn in our calendars so He can tell us what to put in our calendar.

 

Going to Mass isn’t the end of what’s asked of us. We’re always working on our relationship with Christ – we want to adopt the come early, stay late mentality.

 

HOW: There are several ways you can connect continually beyond Mass – Sunday readings done Saturday night, come early to Mass, wear proper attire, go to confession each month. You recommit to the Lord through confession, so it’s important to form that spiritually healing habit of going to confession.

Some read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about confession in paragraph 1457 and stop reading…

1457    According to the Church’s command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year. Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time. (2042,1385)

…after they read “once a year” – BUT, what they fail to do is continue reading…don’t be the person who stops reading.

1458    Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful: (17832468)

Pope John Paul II expanded on this, emphasizing the need for the faithful to make confession a regular, monthly habit because it can only serve to help

  • Form our conscience
  • Fight against evil tendencies
  • Let ourselves be healed by Christ
  • And progress in the life of the Spirit
  • We are spurred to be merciful

Our spiritual antennae are prepared to hear what the Holy Spirit wants to tell us.

Now we will learn how to make private personal prayer time each day…and look forward to our date with the Lord.

TEACHING

FATHER UCHE gave the talk on Jesus is Lord of My Time, which covers a brief overview of Lectio Divina.

To start, Father Uche mentions that in seminary, he had an altar with Mary…everywhere.

These days he still has his special place for prayer, in his bedroom. He has his Jesus space, which includes his chair that faces the crucifix.

He says, create a space, no matter how small or decorated. Put items in your space that remind you that this is your secret meeting place with Jesus – where you come and meet with Him in private.

Tonight we will be covering prayer, specifically Lectio Divina. All this big word means  is “praying with the Words of God.” Praying with Scripture.

There are certain things that are important when it comes to praying with God. As children, we learned how to pray, but sometimes we take that approach into our adult years. Our attention tonight will call us to pray more maturely.

Whose initiates prayer?

God calls man first.

2567    God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation. (30142)

When it comes to prayer, God is always at our meeting spot before us because we come at His invitation. All we have to do when we enter prayer is say “I am here.

If your prayer life is off, there is a tug there. Never forget that God is always waiting for us. We don’t have to wait to grab His attention.

Relational Prayer

A-R-R-R

St. Teresa of Avila said, “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” The A-R-R-R prayer is a simple method of coming to the Lord as you are. It can be used almost any time of the day and in just about any circumstance. It can also be used within any other method of prayer such as Lectio Divina or Ignatian Contemplation as a way of conversing with the Lord. The A-R-R-R stands for different movements within the prayer: Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, Respond.

Acknowledge: Openly and honestly without prejudice acknowledge how you are before God. What are you experiencing? What is moving in your heart? Be completely honest with how you are – had a bad day? Say so – don’t mince words. Joyful? Acknowledge where you are first…exactly where you are in that moment. God wants to know.

Marian exampleAt the Annunciation Mary was “troubled” and pondered what the words of the Angel meant.

Relate:  Bring yourself as you are into relationship with God by relating your experience to Him. Speak to him from your heart. This can be hard for Catholics because we are taught from an early age to say rote prayers, structured prayers. And rote prayers are good…but it shouldn’t take away our ability to speak to God from our heart. To just let our heart speak to Him and not treat God like we treat other people – being false. Let Him know the good or the bad.

Marian example: At the Annunciation Mary asked, “How can this be?”

Receive: Listen to what God is doing with the movements of your heart. Receive his presence and the constancy of his love. When you truly enter into prayer, God is there. And you will know that He is there. When you speak to Him from your heart, He will speak to you with the movements of your heart, with the constancy of His love. His love is not on a scale, affected by emotions. It’s always there, it will never be taken away. The only condition that changes it is if you intentionally reject it. Even then, His love is still there. Sometimes we rattle off what we want – and that does not allow God to speak to you. Yes, He will listen to our laundry list of wants, but we should not be so rude as to not let Him have input on our list…or even just say hello!

Let God communicate with you the way that He chooses to – don’t put parameters and expectations on how you think He should communicate with you. If you talk to Him the way you want to, let Him talk to you the way He wants, too.

Marian example: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”

Respond: What we receive impels us to respond in gratitude and with renewed heart. Pour yourself out in thanksgiving. It is a very important part of our prayer life. Thank Him for the simple things…like good, hot coffee. Thank you for giving me the privilege of knowing You and experiencing you in prayer. Simple. Little things. Pour out yourself in prayer to Him.

Marian example: Mary’s fiat, “May it be done unto me…”

A-R-R-R is the basic structure of how we pray. Follow this structure and it will give foundation to your prayer.

LECTIO DIVINA

Lectio – reading: LECTIO DIVINA begins with a prayerful reading of Scripture. This prayerful reading differs greatly from the fast and cursory reading of novels or magazines. It is different from the information-gathering task of reading textbooks or instruction manuals. There is a reverential and prayerful listening; that accompanies the reading. With a spirit of silence and hopeful anticipation, I listen for the words that speak to me personally and intimately. In lectio I read slowly and attentively, honing in on the word or phrase that attracts me, draws me; the words with which God is inviting me to rest.  

The approach is not I have to finish this chapter in two minutes, but instead it’s I have to read these nine chapters and I can spend 10 minutes on chapter one if I want.

The Fathers of the Church have an analogy – so a cow chews on cud, we, too, ruminate…or chew on the words we read. Let the readings strike at your heart as they will. Listen for the words that speak to you personally and intimately. Listen.

Meditatio – meditationONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speak to us in a personal way, we must take it in and ruminate on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ {Luke 2:19}. For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word – that is memorize it – and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina – meditate. Through meditate we allow God’s word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels. 

Think of Scripture that causes you to listen and ruminate. You went to Mass and heard the readings. One line stood out. Use that to reflect and listen

Oratio – prayerTHE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio – prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace, and an offering to God our very selves including our thoughts, feelings, desires, fears and weaknesses. We allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.

When we have chewed on it for a while – we let those words lead us in prayer, and we take our real selves to God. God can’t take our bad habits away if we don’t bring them to Him. We have to give them up.

Contemplatio – contemplationFINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition – contemplate, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our words – simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.

There are moments in relationships when words aren’t necessary. Simply enjoy being in the presence of God. Come to a place where you can enjoy this level of prayer. This is intimacy that allows you to simply enjoy each other’s company. Rest in His lap and go to sleep if you want. Just. Be.

This is what we are going to practice.

You’ll need your Bible and the passage is John 4:4-26 – take 20 minutes. You don’t have to read through verse 26.

Read, chew, and see what the Lord wants to say to you. 

Feel free to utilize your 20 minutes in any place that is quiet – attendees scattered throughout the campus to find quiet places, from in front of the tabernacle in the main church to the Adoration chapel, the small chapel, outside on the stone benches…anywhere you can find a nice, quiet place. Do not rush through this step or skip over it.

SMALL GROUP

  • PRAYER
  • QUESTIONS
    1. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE DAY OF THE HOMEWORK? {read and share why}
    2. ANY COMMENTS ON PRAYING FOR YOUR PARTNER?
    3. WHAT STRUCK YOU ABOUT THE PRESENTATION?
  • HOMEWORK – Each day from here on out through the rest of the class you will read and reflect on the daily readings or the reflections from One Bread, One Body. You can access them by going to the USCCB’s website OR you can download the Laudate app {available on iPhones and Android}. The One Bread, One Body reflections can be accessed through the Laudate app by going through Daily Readings => Reflections.

For more reflection, click to download Praying with Scripture.

SUMMARY

Homework is to be done daily – reflect on Scripture and Jesus Is Lord of My Time through the week. If you are in a group, pair up two or three and commit to pray daily for your prayer partner. Small groups come together for a few minutes of question and answer in the large group. If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the combox below so that we can help in any way possible.

CONCLUSION

Prayer of Abandonment

Father,
I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into Your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.

Charles de Foucauld

OPTIONS: To view the class from a previously recorded semester, click here

 

 

Categories
Conversion Discipleship Faith Formation Ink Slingers Jesus Is Lord Jesus Is Lord course Martina Series

Jesus Is Lord of My Talent {Week Six}

TALENTchrist-king3

Welcome to the Jesus Is Lord series, a course offered for adults at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, Texas.

If this is your first time visiting this series, I encourage you to take a few moments and read through the series introduction that will give a clear picture of the purpose and content of the Jesus Is Lord course. The introduction post not only outlines the course, but goes over the motivation to share in this class on the internet. 

Last week’s class was the Prayer Session: GrowthIf you would prefer to watch this class, please scroll to the bottom. Keep in mind the recorded classes are not from our current class and can contain testimonies from different people than presented in the text below. Check back next week for the sixth installment which will cover Jesus is Lord of my Time. 

TEACHING & SCRIPTURE

With the Year of Faith coming to a close, we at St. William are moving into an era of the New Evangelization. What does that mean and what does that look like for our parish?

The class , Jesus is Lord of My Talent has been revised to fit the New Evangelization.

Noe asked

What is talent?

 Attendees responded with

  • gifts,
  • skill,
  • abilities,
  • charisms,
  • how we share with others what has been given to us.

A Catholic dictionary says talent is currency that we have to build the Kingdom.

When we serve the poor, we are serving the Kingdom. Many people at St. William are already serving the Kingdom. We will focus on allowing Jesus to be the Lord of how {we use our talent when} we serve the Kingdom.

1Cor10:31-33

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the church of God,

just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved.

If I’m giving, the objective is to someway, somehow bring the Lord into how I serve. I can help others have an encounter with Jesus even while I am serving them.

Tonight, we’re going to help each one of us to learn how to serve – or serve better – become a better tool for Jesus Christ.

Matthew 13:45-46

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.

When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

Two weeks ago {at the prayer session}, we asked the Spirit to stir our souls and we bought the pearl. And the pearl is Jesus. We don’t want to give God good stuff…we want to give Him our best.

What is our best?

Jesus.

We don’t just want to help give someone groceries…we want to give them Jesus, too.

EXAMPLE. The laity can use everyday situations to bring Jesus to others. That’s how we go from Maintenance to Mission. That’s how we go from the Year of Faith to the New Evangelization.

Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We now have the power to talk about Jesus. Noe mentions an example of giving people homework. They were asked to talk about Jesus to three people. This did not come easy for some. A large percentage of people had a hard time doing this homework. However, whenever we proclaim the Kerygma to others, we have to have a plan for prayer. At this point in the class, we have all the tools necessary to talk to others.

EXAMPLE. A young man came to Noe – he was a drug dealer and worn down by his life. Instead of sharing Jesus with the man, Noe simply told him to go to Mass. Even though there was nothing wrong with what he said, the point is that he misread what the man needed to hear at that moment.  From that moment, Noe decided to share who Jesus is with others by witnessing. Just witness, no teaching.

Next we will look at Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1975

22 – There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.

25 – In the message which the Church proclaims there are certainly many secondary elements. Their presentation depends greatly on changing circumstances. They themselves also change. But there is the essential content, the living substance, which cannot be modified or ignored without seriously diluting the nature of evangelization itself.

24 – Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.

41 – “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

75 – Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit…It is the Holy Spirit who, today just as at the beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by Him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the kingdom being proclaimed.

You don’t need convincing or persuasive arguments to bring others to Jesus. You just need to witness and the best way to witness is to share your testimony. People can’t argue with your testimony. Doctrine, people can argue. Testimony, they can’t argue. And it’s personal. You aren’t telling people to do things…you are telling people what Jesus has done for you.

 TESTIMONY

Different emphasis:

  1. “How the Jesus Is Lord course helped me.”
  2. “My experience of the Love of God” or “How experiencing the Love of God started a change in my life”
  3. “How Jesus changed my life”
  4. The difference the Prayer Session made in my life.”
  5. “A moment of repentance in my life.”
  6. “How the community helped me to grow spiritually.”

EXAMPLES

Before

1) Before Jesus Is Lord  

How was your life:

your relationship with God

-Family life      

What happened  

How did you end up at JIL?

How did you feel?

What did the Lord do?

How did you respond?

Changes:

your relationship with God

your personal life

in your family

2) Before I experienced the Love of God:

I viewed God with fear

I didn’t trust God

I was depressed

 

What happened?

Where?

What did God do?

 

How did you feel?

Changes:

Do you still fear God?

Has your relationship with God changed?

Are you still depressed?

 

3) Before I surrendered to Jesus:

religion was a drag  

I was confused about my faith with others?

                                                            

What happened?

How did you feel?

What did the Lord do?

How did you respond?

 

Changes: 

Is religion still a drag?

Are you still confused?

Has it helped your relationship?

 

4) Before I experienced the  stirring of the Holy Spirit:

embarrassed about my faith

I lacked power in my spiritual

life

 

What happened?

What did you think?

What did the Lord do?

How did you respond?

 

Changes:

Prayer life

Do you find it easier to witness?

I can do things for the Lord that I couldn’t do before

 

5) What was going on in your life before the moment of repentance?

Did you go to confession?

What happened to help you get to that moment?

Changes:

Experience the mercy of God 

More peaceful

 

6) Simply tell of an incident in which the community helped you to persevere or grow in your spiritual life.

SMALL GROUP

QUESTIONS

1. Please share your experience of the prayer session. {take time for members to remember}

2. Is there anything about tonight’s talk that you would like to discuss?

3. How do you feel about sharing your testimony?

  • HOMEWORK 

Topical Bible Study_Testimony homework

SUMMARY

Homework is to be done daily – reflect on Scripture and Jesus Is Lord of My Time through the week. If you are in a group, pair up two or three and commit to pray daily for your prayer partner. Small groups come together for a few minutes of question and answer in the large group. If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the combox below so that we can help in any way possible.

CONCLUSION

Prayer of Abandonment

Father,
I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into Your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.

Charles de Foucauld

OPTIONS: To view the class from a previously recorded semester, click on the video below.