27 August, Saturday — Becoming a wise servant

Aug 27 – Memorial for St. Monica, married woman

St. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

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1 Cor 1:26-31
Mt 25:14-30

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I must confess to struggling with the Gospel reading of today. In particular, the master seemed to equate the financial performance of his servants with ‘faithfulness’. It appeared (at least to me) that he did not question how the servants made their returns. What if the last servant had not hidden that one talent in the ground? What if he had gone to a gambling den, bet everything he had, and ended up with fifty talents instead? Would he be given recognition for being a ‘faithful servant’?

The clue, to me, comes from the master’s criticism of the actions of the last servant. He tells the servant that he could have at least deposited the talent with the bank and earned some interest in the process. To me, this shows that the master expected the servants to be prudent in their decisions on how to manage the master’s funds.

I recently came across readings concerning the virtue of prudence. What does it mean to be prudent? St Thomas Aquinas, one of the Fathers of the Church, says it best in his Summa Theologica, describing prudence as “right reason in action”. Essentially, it means doing the right thing at the right time. Thus, had the last servant returned with the fifty talents through his gambling exploits, he would have made a good return on the investment of one talent, but he would certainly not have been prudent; he did not take the right approach in managing his master’s funds.

Since being exposed to St Thomas’ writings, I have been reading more. As a Christian, the concept of prudence has better clarified what it means to be a good steward. With the resources given to me by God, I need to do my best to cultivate them. In every decision that I am considering, it is prudent that all possibilities, approaches and outcomes are considered. If we take actions without due consideration on the possible outcomes and consequences, we are on the way to becoming like the last servant.

I believe there is a deeper meaning to this parable of the three servants, and I thank the Lord for pointing me the way to what it means to be prudent, both as a Christian, and in my ways of working in the world.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will be able to understand and live the virtue of Prudence. Help us to do better each and every day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the gift of the writings and works of the early Fathers of the Church. Thank You for inspiring all of them to convey your divine words to us!

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