27 Aug – Memorial for St Monica
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.
- Patron Saint Index
1 Thessalonians 4:9-11
As for loving our brothers, there is no need for anyone to write to you about that, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another, and in fact this is what you are doing with all the brothers throughout the whole of Macedonia. However, we do urge you, brothers, to go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to your own business and earning your living, just as we told you to.
Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.
‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”
‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’
You have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater
In all my life, I have read only one Catholic book on the topic of money. It’s called “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Guide to Managing Your Money”, written by Phil Lenehan. It’s one of the first books I read when I learnt that I knew next to nothing about managing my personal finances. Over time, I’ve realised that the Catholic Church does very little to prepare its flock for handling money. It’s as though Catholics draw a line between what is spiritual and what is material, and then focus only on developing the spiritual. But is this Christian?
Although Catholics don’t talk a lot about money, Jesus does. In many places in the gospels, Jesus talks about money. In today’s reading, for example, Jesus talks about investment. Make no mistake, the word ‘talent’ in the gospel reading today, does not refer to gifts or abilities. It refers to a unit (a large unit) of money. It is a mistake to pretend that this parable is not about money, because if you take the parable and talk about gifts and abilities, how are you going to explain the part where the master says the servant should have left the talent with the bankers to gain interest?
In the gospel passage, Jesus is talking about investment. He’s talking about the important principle of being stewards of money. Each time Jesus talks about money, He also mentions stewardship. Money itself is neither good nor bad. It is a tool and it is a fact of life. Anyone who lives in the world needs to have money and needs to use it. Why then does the Catholic Church not pay more attention to helping its flock to become better stewards? Could it be that the Church itself is not such a good steward of money in the first place?
So what do today’s readings tell us about money and investments? Jesus tells us to grow our money. In essence, the good servants in the parable doubled the money given to them, while the bad servant didn’t do anything with it. Is it possible then that what Jesus is telling us in this parable is that it is imperative for each of us to do our best to try to grow our money?
It sounds difficult to accept, doesn’t it? But that’s only because Catholics don’t usually like to talk about money in the first place. It’s a taboo subject in church, apparently, which is odd when 95% of Catholics are supposed to be living in the world. How do you live in the world without handling or managing money? And yet, how does the Church prepare its flock to manage money?
Anyone who lives in the world can clearly say that the more money you have, the more you can do with it. And this is where it gets tricky because the more good you can do with your money, the more potential bad you can do with it as well. And this is why the principle of stewardship comes in – what do you do with the money you have?
Principle number one in today’s gospel reading tells us to invest our money, to grow it, for our master’s sake. That is the first thing we have to do with our money. And, as we grow more deeply in our faith, as we read the gospels more thoroughly and reflect on them, as we grow closer to God, we will see how God intends us to use our money to serve Him in the world.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
Prayer: We pray that more Catholics may take seriously the principles of stewardship in handling their money.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for all who are in the financial services industry, and help people to better manage their personal finances.
Sun, 28 Aug – Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27; Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time