One morning in fourth grade, I arrived at the bus stop to find that everybody in my year was carrying a social studies project that must have been due that day: balloons covered in papier-mâché and painted with the scene of a globe. Perhaps I had been in another world: either I stuffed the assignment into my subconscious because I didn't know how to make the globe, or I must have forgotten about it altogether.
We've all had the embarrassing experience of forgetting something or of showing up inadequately prepared. Such harrowing experiences moved us to pay more attention in the future, to become willing to ask for help when we needed it, or worst of all, to recoil from further action in fear of making another mistake.
The very last line from the recent weekend's Gospel was the most salient point to register in my mind from the Scripture readings: "Much will be demanded of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” It sounds like the scenario diocesan priests are facing!
Jesus' words resonate with the Church's recent celebration of World Youth Day, in which Pope Francis challenged the young people of the world not to be "couch potatoes," a term that originated with an older generation that needs to hear that exhortation just as much. He said our God is a God of risk. If there is to be any goodness in the world, God has often orchestrated it to depend on our initiative and follow-through.
As the first reading from Wisdom richly recounted, the people of the First Covenant knew well what it was like to profit from the Lord's saving initiative on their behalf. Ten plagues convinced Pharaoh finally to liberate them from Egypt; "and if that wasn't enough," He parted the waters of the Red Sea so they could pass through safely.
Even though Israel would go through cycles of remembering and forgetting what God had done for them, one after another saving intervention and ungrateful amnesia, Israel still counted those interventions as mercies from the Lord, without which they would not continue it to exist. Even so, our interventions on others' behalf can be the very expressions of divine mercy they need.
We just can't rest on our laurels to expect those expressions of mercy as if we deserved them, yet we certainly can be grateful for them when they occur.
What do we need in order to initiate those acts of mercy? Trust. Jesus issues an astounding assignment: "Sell everything." Don't cling frenetically to your time, talent, or treasure, else it will elude your grasp and be of no good to anyone.
The ultimate due date for our life's assignment is the day of our death, and we cannot place it on our calendar ahead of time. Therefore it will behoove us to pay attention, ask for help, and not be afraid to extend ourselves in love--in a word, to die along the way to death. That way, it won't be such a cause for alarm and disappointment.