24 November OS 2018 – The Nativity Fast; Afterfeast of the Entry of the Theotokos; Friday of the 10th Week of St. Luke; St. Clement of Rome and St. Peter of Alexandria (Slavonic Menaion: St. Catherine and St. Mercurius)
Today’s daily Gospel reading is Luke 19: 12 -28.
The Lord said, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.
This parable of the Lord summarizes all history between the First and Second Coming of Christ. The nobleman who goes into a far country to receive a kingdom is Christ, Who ascends to His Father, and Who will return at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. By sending the Holy Spirit and beginning the economy of the New Testament Church, He gives “pounds,” that is, all the gifts of grace which constitute the life of the Church, to His faithful followers, who are expected to multiply what they have received through faith and good works. The enemies of the returning king are those who oppose Christ and the Church, who will be dreadfully punished at the time of the Second Coming.
We are among the faithful followers, who have received our “pounds,” our gifts of grace. These gifts are indescribably great, coming from the Infinite God by means of His uncreated energies. Having received them, we are supposed to put them to work for the Lord, to bring ourselves and other souls into His Kingdom, as any good workman is expected to use the assets his employer gives him – tools, training, materials – to enrich his employer. How can we go about this?
One chief reason that we do not multiply our “pounds” is that we forget that we have them. Therefore a good first step is to take inventory of our “assets,” and to thank God for them. If we were conscious always of the gifts of nature and of grace that He has lavished on us, we would be constantly grateful as well as hopeful, and with both courage and humility we would set out each day to do His holy will. We should periodically sit down and enumerate all of these gifts, perhaps even writing them down to make this point to ourselves, and glorify and thank God for them.
It is very easy, indeed the “default position” of our fallen nature, for us unconsciously to ascribe both our good qualities and our good works to ourselves. This is another chief reason we do not grow in grace, do not multiply the “pounds.” Therefore, a second necessary step is to acknowledge that without the Lord we would have nothing, indeed be nothing, and without His help we can do nothing. We must immerse ourselves in humility.
A third step is to seek to know and to do His holy will each day. Yes, we have these “assets,” but we need the wisdom to know how to use them, for a third obstacle we have to using our gifts is lack of discretion. Each day, let us set out saying, “O Lord, enable me to know and to do Thy holy will. I am blinded both by my own lack of understanding and by the distractions of the world. Enlighten my mind and my heart at every moment, so that in all that I do, I act in accordance with Thy holy will and for Thy glory.”
A cautionary word: The Lord does indeed work in us and through us, but most often He does not let us see it, lest we would lose our salvation because of pride. We must be content to trust that He is doing His work in us and through us, and wait in hope to be revealed on the Day of Judgment as His good and faithful servants.
Let us, then, set out this day and every day to multiply the gifts that our gracious Lord has given us! Let us be grateful, immerse ourselves in humility, and pray for enlightenment. Let us live in hope and trust in His mercy, desiring fervently to hear His blessed words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord.”