19 - The Talents Given to Us, Jan 27, 2019

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Colossians 3:12-16

Matthew 25:14-30

Who is this man going to a far country? What is the far country? What are these talents He gives to His servants? The answer to these questions is given in: “He gave (paradidomi) to His servants.” This takes us to St Paul (1 Cor 11:24): “For, I received from the LORD what I gave (same word) to you, that on the night He was betrayed (the same verb).” It takes us to our reading from Ephesians yesterday: “Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us” (Eph 5:2).

The setting of the parable, then, is Pascha, the Upper Room of the Mystical Supper. The man going off to a far country is therefore the LORD Jesus. The Talents are His Body and Blood He gives to us in Holy Eucharist; they are the love of God, Christ Himself. It says He gave them to His servants according to their ability. He gives Himself to us according to our desire to love Him.

It says He called His own servants and gave them Talents from out of His “goods”, or “possessions” in preparation for His going to a “far country”. What this “far country” is, is given in the parable’s Paschal setting in the Upper Room, when the LORD called His disciples to Himself, and took the bread and the cup and gave them as His Body and Blood to His disciples before going to His voluntary suffering on the Cross.  The “far country”, then, is the heavenly “city” we read about this last week from the epistle to the Hebrews: the city whose foundation and builder is God (Heb 11: 10). The LORD Jesus Christ is going there by way of His voluntary death on the Cross and through the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest.

Are not we the LORD’s own servants? Were we not united to Him in Holy Baptism? The parable is calling out to us to start getting ready for Great Lent that leads, mystically, in the Holy Spirit “out of Egypt” (Hos 11:1, Mat 2:15) through the wilderness of our soul, into the tomb of our heart, that we may follow the crucified and risen LORD to the “Heavenly City” whose entrance was opened when the stone was rolled away from His empty Tomb.

Now, if we are being called to follow the LORD out of Egypt and into the heavens that were opened at His Baptism in the Jordan, then His call to us, His own servants if we have received Him (Jn 1:12), is to work the Talent of His Body and Blood He gives to us in Holy Eucharist by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him, losing our life for His sake that we might find our life in His Tomb, the Fountain of our Resurrection.

But, giving the Talent of His own Body and Blood to us, He gives to us the power of His Holy Spirit, the power of love and life. By this power we are able to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, to follow Him and to lose our life in the mystery of His Holy Pascha; that is, we are given power from on high to work the Talent of His Body and Blood He gives to us in the Holy Eucharist of His Holy Church. We walk the Path of the Lenten Exodus that leads out of Egypt, out of the city of this world, through the wilderness of our soul and into the tomb of our heart in the mystery of Pentecost. This is why the LORD gives us the Talent of His Heavenly Spirit, His love: to give us power from God Himself so that, in love, we are made strong enough to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow Christ into His empty Tomb, the Fountain of our Resurrection.

See, then, how differently from the world’s stock market this divine “stock market” of Great Lent works. In this stock market of Great Lent, we gain interest and dividends only as we lose our wealth. What is the “interest” we earn from losing our wealth? God Himself, the love of God, is our interest! We gain God to the degree that we lose our selves. We gain the very uncreated, divine life of God to the degree that we put to death our earthly members. Or, should we say that to the degree we deny ourselves and lose our life out of love for Christ, our heart is created anew, transformed from a heart of stone, or a dead heart to a fleshy heart, a living heart; a heart that is enlarged and made stronger, able to hold more of God, so that the interest we earn in working the Talent Christ gives to us in Holy Eucharist is a stronger, softer heart that is able to love God more and more, and one’s neighbor, even one’s enemy as oneself?

So, how do we work this Talent of Christ’s own Body and Blood, the power of His Life-giving Holy Spirit Christ gives to us in His Holy Church? Listen to what St Paul tells us this morning. He says two things. First, “Let the peace of God, the Talent, rule in your heart.” That is, turn in your inner man to the Spirit of Christ who has been sown in your heart through Holy Baptism and in Holy Eucharist. And, be governed by Him, not by the spirit of this age in all its works of disobedience—anger, lust, fornication, sexual uncleanness, envy, conceit. How do you do that?

This takes us to St Paul’s second word: “Let the WORD of Christ dwell in you richly.” Dear faithful, whatever word you dwell on is the word that dwells in you.

What word, then, do you dwell on, what talent are you trading in your everyday life? How can the WORD of Christ possibly dwell in you if you are not dwelling in the WORD of Christ? How can the Talent given us in Holy Eucharist possibly grow if we are not working it? How can the WORD of Christ possibly clothe your inner man if you are clothing yourself in the clothes of the world? How can you possibly become a burning bush that is not consumed if you don’t draw near and immerse yourself in the Fire!

And so, let the Fire of God that is the WORD of Christ dwell in you richly, says St Paul; and he tells us what those words are that burn with the Fire of Christ’s Holy Spirit: they are the teachings and doctrines of the Church, the hymns and prayers of the Church’s liturgical worship, themselves centered on the Psalms and the prophets, the Gospels and the epistles of the holy apostles. These are what we dwell on if we want Christ to dwell in us.

Let me say a final word about the first dividend that working this Talent of Christ’s Body and Blood will yield to us. What that dividend is, which we are now working for, is given in the destination to which our preparation for Great Lent is leading us. That destination is the very gates of Eden, which we will discover, when we reach them on the first day of Great Lent, on Sunday afternoon at the Vespers of Forgiveness, are closed tight to us! The first dividend that comes from working this Talent of Christ’s Body and Blood given to us in His Church is the sobering realization that we are shut out from our heavenly home, we are separated from our LORD who created us in His own Image and Likeness. We do not live in the Heavenly City whose builder is God; we live in the city of the world whose builder is man in the proud darkness of his own empty and deceptive reasonings (cf. Eph 5:5-9).

If we do not turn away and choose to remain at those closed gates, and let the full weight of our separation from God sink in, that dividend will yield another, also revealed to us in the Church. It is a “torrent of tears”, as we heard at Vigil last Wednesday. These are the tears of contrition, a grief that pierces all the way to the heart—where we are supposed to open onto God but where, instead, we find ourselves before the closed doors of Eden.

That dividend, dear faithful, yields a third: a conscious sense of a soft light shining in our grief and cleansing us of all our impurities, washing away the stench of our conceit, even dissolving the fig leaves of our anger, our blame-shifting, our vain-glorious self-righteousness, our hardened indifference to the Only Lover of Mankind, Jesus Christ our LORD, and purging us of our desire to be loved by the world.

That dividend yields a fourth: the birth of a longing to be made clean, to be made pure, to be made holy, a longing to be forever in the presence of Our Savior and His Most Beloved Mother, even a yearning to deny ourselves and take up our cross that we may lose our life and find ourselves with Him in His Tomb, the fountain of our resurrection.

Dear faithful, we’ve been given a Talent, the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of God not in a sentimental feeling, or lofty ideal but in the very Body and Blood of Christ Himself, concretely, as our food and drink. Let the peace of Christ be what we listen to and obey; let the WORD of Christ dwell in us that the power of His Spirit may begin to work in us, generating in us the dividend of longing for the Cross, for the Fast of Great Lent, a longing for the clean heart, the new and right spirit that His Holy Spirit creates in us by the power of His Holy Cross and death-destroying and life-giving death and Burial and to become “prisoners” to the love of Christ. Amen!