September Lectio Divina and Oblate Discussion

SourcesLectio Divina, Matthew 25: 14-30 The Parable of the Talents; Always We Begin Again-The Benedictine Way of Living, Stewardship, pages 49-51, John McQuiston II

Our Lectio Divina discussion focused on The Parable of the Talents viewed through the lens of stewardship. In the reading, three people are given talents of varying amounts.

The two servants who had received five and two talents had increased their talents two-fold. They were praised, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Mt. 25:21)

The one who buried his talent was scolded, judged as wicked and lazy, and his one talent was taken away. “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

We assume wealth has to do with money. Often, we see talent and gifts as economic gains or monetary contributions. Advertisements encourage us to buy more, of course, but we seem not to know when what we have is enough. In the Rule of St. Benedict, everyone should get what they need, but this requires understanding the difference between needs and wants (RB:34). Sadly, our culture says the more we have, the better off we are. We desire what another has—in possessions, money, time, relationships, almost anything, afraid that someone is getting something more than us—but the talents in this story were not equally given—two, five, one.

Such is life! It is not how much we receive, but the care, intent, and the risks we take to share that are the true measure of wealth. The “prosperity gospel” that proclaims that we are more “blessed” by God if we have done well economically, is a false narrative. Wealth—true richness—can only come from the joy of sharing what we have been given. As McQuistan writes in his paraphrase of the Rule, “At all times let us recall that every thing we use in this life was here before us and will be here after we are gone. This world and everything in it is on loan, entrusted to our care for our time.” (Always We Begin Again, John McQuiston II)

The Parable of the Talents, read in context with the parable preceding and following it, is a message for us about our mission in this world. We have been given gifts or talents and will be judged on whether we are good stewards of our gifts—if we have used those gifts wisely and whether we share those gifts when they are most needed. Our gifts should be given for the good of Christ in the other.

The parable before our lectio reading is the Parable of the Ten Virgins—half of the young women did not bring enough oil for their lamps to burn as long as needed; the other half, the wise ones, came prepared. The parable that follows our lectio reading, The Judgement of the Nations, suggests that we are responsible for a wise use of resources, to be good stewards, and to treat others as Christ. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ (Mt. 25:3 5-36)

People who won’t admit their talents for fear they’ll be asked to use them are not simply being selfish, they are refusing to serve God. Laziness and irresponsibility are forms of injustice and thievery. They take from the people of the earth. We are not put on earth to be cared for. We were put on earth to care for it.”

Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, Joan Chittister, OSB

We must consider: What have we done with the gifts we were given? Do we live with a heart of generosity or selfishness? Do we just bury our gifts?  Perhaps an issue of generosity, but even more so, we must ask ourselves if we have a fear of sharing. We must ask: What am I doing for others? How do I contribute to the good of my family, my school, my workplace, my neighborhood, my world? Am I a good steward?

There is a risk in sharing, perhaps it is easier to bury the talent, but we must bring our gifts forward, entrusted to us from the Creator. In this way, we co-create. If we are given something to share and do not share, the judgement is as if you are stealing.

Everything belongs to God; we are simply entrusted with the care of all we have been given. Adam and Eve were the first stewards. They were given dominion over all that was created and were entrusted to take care of it. We have not earned our original gifts; they have been given. We must receive them, share, and not bury them. We must care for what we have been given as good stewards. “Everything we have is on loan. Our homes, businesses, rivers, closest relationships, bodies, and experiences, everything we have is ours in trust, and must be returned at the end of our use of it.” (Always We Begin Again, John McQuiston II)

Our calling is to use wisely all that God has given us. We must accept this responsibility as caretakers of our environment, our families, our countries, our bodies. Spiritual stewardship is an expression of gratitude for the gifts that God has given us.

As Benedictines with a history of over 1500 years, we understand there have been generations before us and generations that will follow. We have a responsibility to maintain the planet, buildings, relationships, and so on for the long haul, not just for our own use. We must be stewards of our gifts. We must think beyond our own selves and our own moment.

How are we to be stewards to our own bodies, our very breath a gift? We do not know how many days we have. “Let no one presume that we are more than passing shadows, created from we know not what, for a purpose we cannot understand. (Always We Begin Again, John McQuiston II)

We take for granted what we have been entrusted with. We use up natural resources like there will always be more. We use up our bodies thinking there will be another day. Stewardship is about humility—it is remembering that we are dust, “humus”, coming from and connected to the earth. We must be good stewards from whence we came and will return. Humility is the foundation of good decisions—we have been entrusted with all we have been given, and with humility we can make decisions that are for the collective good, for future generations not just ourselves.

You can be unsatisfied with a little and unsatisfied with a lot, but it is only when you are satisfied, feeling grateful for what you have and that it is enough, that you are truly wealthy. What do you have if you don’t have your life? We are a passing shadow. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The only genuinely wealthy are those who are satisfied with what they have.

Always We Begin Again, John McQuiston II

Questions our small groups used for discussion:

  1. In what ways do you struggle with the concept of stewardship in your life as described by McQuiston?
  2. How is humility related to stewardship as a Benedictine Oblate?
  3. Discuss the author’s quote, “This world and everything in it is on loan, entrusted to our care for our time.”
  4. How have you found the acts of stewardship in “depriving oneself” as an avenue to God?
  5. How would you describe your “wealth”, based on the statement that “only the genuinely wealthy are satisfied with what they have”.

Feel free to share in the comments any insights or reflections you have on our Lectio Divina readings.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

1 Peter 4:10