Aug 28 – Memorial for St. Augustine, bishop, doctor
After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”
Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother, he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.
1 Ths 4:9-11
…but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
Having celebrated the Feast of Saint Monica yesterday, we now turn our attention to her son, the great Bishop St Augustine of Hippo. Many of us would already have known of his miraculous 180-degree change from wayward son to faithful servant of God. Like me, many of us would have marvelled at this transformation and found some modicum of hope, that even the most sinful among us can find favour with God.
It is slightly strange then that today’s Gospel readings present to us a Master who would punish the servant who merely wanted to hide the talent that has been given to him, out of fear that he would lose it. In order to understand Jesus’s parable, it is important for us to first consider what He meant by ‘talents’.
At first glance, these talents appear to be some form of currency that could be traded and invested. Given that Jesus often uses His parables to elucidate a deeper spiritual reality for His disciples, it is more likely that He was referring to something less tangible. According to Bishop Robert Baron, it is very likely that Jesus was referring to the Kabod Yahweh, or the ‘weighty glory of God’, which is in turn expressed through God’s ‘inexhaustible mercy’.
In other words, the parable is speaking of the master handing his servants the gift of mercy. Seen in this light, it is no wonder that the servant who went out to ‘invest’ that mercy was rewarded while the one who chose to bury his master’s mercy rather than use it in the world was punished. To take this one step further, we are asked to spread the Lord’s mercy and to multiply it in the world, rather than hide it away. And we are asked to do this for His greater glory. For Kabod Yahweh.
Each and every one of us has already been given mercies aplenty. Even the very fact that we are alive and breathing is testimony to the mercy of life. That we are reading this on the internet reminds us of the many mercies that have been granted us in our comfortable, modern lives. Mercies that many do not enjoy, especially the poor, the unborn and the persecuted. We are now called to share this mercy, and not to bury them.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as You deserve. To give and not to count the cost. To toil and not to seek for rest. To labour and not to seek for reward. Save that of knowing I do Your most Holy Will.
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the gifts and mercies that He has showered upon us, for allowing us to participate in His love and mercy through discipleship.