As a dancer, my daughter spends hours each day developing what is called “muscle memory”. Her muscles are being trained to engage together for a specific reactive form that becomes a skill which plays out on a stage as art. Requiring thousands of hours of strengthening particular muscles so they create the perfect ballet form is no easy task, requiring dedication, practice, effort, sweat, and heart. She feels great peace in the work, which only sweetens the results.
Use it or lose it
Praying with the parable of the servant in today’s gospel reading, I recognize this concept of “muscle memory”. The noble man tells his servants to “trade” the gold coins he gives them. The third servant tucks his coin away for “safety” gaining nothing. This angers his master, who gave the servants coins for the purpose of using them. God gives us all gifts to develop and use in order to serve Him and build His Kingdom. For dancers, missing too many days of developing particular muscles leads to loss of training, which means muscle strength will diminish, causing great disruption to progress. Just as a dancer, my own spiritual weakness will set in if I don’t practice my faith every day. Even the space of a day can set me farther back in my progress. Muscle memory for my spiritual life takes a daily commitment to prayer and constant vigilance to making time and space for the sacred silence in my life in which God can speak to my heart and direct my path.
The Mistake of the Third Servant
When I hide the gifts and talents God has given me in the name of “safety” like this unfaithful servant, I am wasting away something of great value that will likely benefit the people around me. Maybe I am afraid of what others may think of me? Maybe I am afraid to fail? The mistake of the third servant was simply this: he wrongly placed the value of the coin as his own, and not his master’s. Is it really a risk if I am not “spending” what really wasn’t mine to begin with? The gift of my life and all I have belongs to God and shall return to God. I must pray to wisely spend my “gold coin” like the first two servants in the parable, who invested and risked out of obedience in order to serve the Master and His Kingdom. It isn’t going to be committed to my memory to react certain ways if I don’t practice. Practicing trust and faith takes daily commitment, otherwise I will default to a human path of fear. I will offer an act of faith each day this week to practice trusting God with all that He has given me, and develop my strengths to serve Him, so that when I meet Him I can hear Him say, “Well done, good servant.”
Gospel LK 19:11-28
he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem
and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately.
So he said,
“A nobleman went off to a distant country
to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.
He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’
His fellow citizens, however, despised him
and sent a delegation after him to announce,
‘We do not want this man to be our king.’
But when he returned after obtaining the kingship,
he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money,
to learn what they had gained by trading.
The first came forward and said,
‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!
You have been faithful in this very small matter;
take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported,
‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said,
‘You, take charge of five cities.’
Then the other servant came and said,
‘Sir, here is your gold coin;
I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,
for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man;
you take up what you did not lay down
and you harvest what you did not plant.’
He said to him,
‘With your own words I shall condemn you,
you wicked servant.
You knew I was a demanding man,
taking up what I did not lay down
and harvesting what I did not plant;
why did you not put my money in a bank?
Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’
And to those standing by he said,
‘Take the gold coin from him
and give it to the servant who has ten.’
But they said to him,
‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’
He replied, ‘I tell you,
to everyone who has, more will be given,
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king,
bring them here and slay them before me.'”After he had said this,
he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.