Psalm 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21 “…Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD.”
Matthew 25: 14-30 “…Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy...”
Memorial of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the church (354-430) – though he lived a long time ago, St. Augustine of Hippo is a popular saint in our day and most people know that his Mother, St. Monica, whose feast day was celebrated yesterday prayed tirelessly seeking her son’s conversion to Christianity. Monica and Augustine’s lives were so inter-linked, as she followed him from Africa to Rome to Milan that you cannot talk about one without speaking of the other. Augustine’s early life, fraught with confusion and miss firings as he sought out life’s meaning and purpose, is part of the reason for his popularity. Many of us can relate to his wanderings in search of the living God, as well as some of the mistakes he made along the way, siring a child with a woman whom he never married. St. Augustine pursues a rival to Christianity’s belief system called Manichaeism with its belief in dual powers of light and darkness, good and evil. But, eventually he turns to the bible and surrenders himself to Christ in the manner of the Eastern monks he saw in Milan. Archbishop Ambrose in Milan was also a positive influence in Augustine’s decision to pursue the Truth under Christianity. Back in Thagaste in Roman North Africa, where St. Augustine was born, he later became a priest, and then Bishop of Hippo. His priestly life is marked with his care of the impoverished and those who were marred by the spoils of wars and disasters, where he used his own inheritance and then the church’s money to care for them. He became a great teacher, writing in support of the Church’s teachings on Grace and free will. St. Augustine argued that human beings could not choose salvation without God’s grace. He was named a Doctor of the Church; in fact referred to as the Doctor of Grace. Also, still used today, is his linking of the three powers of the soul-memory, understanding and will to the three Persons of the Trinity (Butler’s Lives of the Saints 2003). You can see the messages from today’s readings worked out in the life of St. Augustine.
In our first reading from Paul to the Corinthians we find Paul instructing the Corinthians in a letter he wrote from Ephesus. From Luke’s remark in Acts 18:11 it appears Paul stayed in Corinth about 18 months; therefore his familiarity of these people comes from having spent time with them. Paul’s main emphasis in the front of this letter is to redirect the people back to the message of the Cross. He’s heard of their division over who taught them and he’s reminding them that this concern will not serve the community and spread Christ’s message to non-believers. What is it about our human nature that always tries to complicate things?
In today’s reading Paul is reminding them that God has called them, and that even though they are impressed with intellect and wisdom, these are gifts that many of them (and many of us too) do not have in abundance. But, regardless of that fact, God has called us anyway. We can easily apply this message to our own lives. There will always be people who are more gifted in one way or another than ourselves, but, God really asks us to not be too impressed with the gifts, so as to become distracted in our walk to imitate Christ. It would be good to take this to prayer, and with full humility ask the Lord to help us stomp out the many distractions that keep our focus in the wrong direction. We can certainly see how St. Augustine was distracted throughout his life, but the Lord pursued him and through certain periods won over his focus.
In the Gospel reading in Matthew, we find the familiar parable of the talents, where three people are given different amounts of talents but only two of them double their value, the third person buries the talent. The story is about different sums of money from the Greek work, but the English word would have us understand this as a description of a personal ability that is either developed or allowed to lay dormant and not produce any more good. Related to our first reading, God invites us to use the gifts or talents we’ve been given. To understand what they are, take your question to prayer, and watch how the Lord works through the doors that open. Some of them will be in difficulties, and some of them will be in blessings. And remember with God’s Grace and Faith we can move mountains. Help stay focused with prayer. Stay faithful to asking the Lord what He wants you to do at every given turn.
And the third great lesson for today comes from our Psalm reading (Psalm 33:13, 18&19), “From heaven the Lord looks down and observes the whole human race…But the Lords’ eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help, delivering them from death, keeping them alive in times of famine.” No matter how many gifts or talents we have we really shouldn’t try to do this (live life) without Him; it could be futile. Thanks St. Augustine for showing us the way back from futility, to a life of Grace.
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