Today we have a very sobering and serious passage from the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew’s Gospel, this is the fifth of five major discourses, or speeches, that Jesus gives to his followers. In this specific speech that we only heard a part of leading into Jesus’ Passion and death, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the end times, about Eschatology and this parable is directed specifically at his disciples. And so to us as well as priests and future priests. That means we should pay close attention to it. Jesus uses the parable of two servants in the household of God to illustrate his point about the end times. The first servant is the faithful and prudent servant who is in charge of his Master’s household to distribute food to the people at the proper time. This servant is seen in the clergy, specifically bishops and priests who are in charge of the household of God, the Church, and who provide the sacramental ministry to the people of God, principally in giving the people the bread of life in the Eucharist. The servant: the bishop or the priest, who ministers to the people with and for Jesus, not for himself, will be blessed when the Master, who is Jesus himself, comes at the end of time. This is the servant who will gain eternal life. The second servant, then, is symbolic of those who live life for themselves and not for God. This servant, in seeing the Master not coming, beats his fellow servants and drinks with drunkards all out of his desire to live selfishly. This servant will be severely punished when the Master comes at an unknown hour at the end times, his punishment more severe than the English implies. In Greek the literal translation is that the Master would “cut him in two,” basically the master will dismember him as punishment. It is there in hell where he will spend eternity wailing and grinding his teeth. The seriousness of what is at stake here, eternal life, is obvious due to the seriousness of the punishment inflicted.
So we have these two servants as models for us, and obviously we want to live in accord with the first servant, but how exactly do we go about doing this? How do we live as the faithful and prudent servant? There are many ways that we go about doing this each and every day, but I’m going to offer you one way this morning: prayer. I cannot stress enough the importance of prayer in our journey towards holiness and living a life for God and not for ourselves. Our relationship with God is what will sustain us, it is Him who will give us the grace to live a life of virtue for Him and for our brothers, and it is with His grace that we will gain eternal life like the faithful and prudent servant.
To my SY brothers: you are given an awesome gift in this year. You have the ability to grow deeply in your relationship with God in prayer this year. Take advantage of that and learn to pray well. To my brothers not in SY: make prayer your priority. Start your day in prayer and give your holy hour priority. Prayer is what will sustain us in the life of virtue as Christians.
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Monica who exemplifies the importance of prayer. She is the mother of St. Augustine and prayed constantly for her son’s conversion. St. Augustine was living a selfish, disordered life before he had a conversion, and his conversion is accredited to the prayers of his mother. Augustine is one of the great Church Fathers and this is largely due to his mother’s unceasing prayers. St. Monica is also known for the conversion of her pagan husband before he died because of her prayers as well. So, too, can prayer help convert our hearts to a deeper love of Christ each and every day. And like St. Augustine, each of us have that same sort of mom in our lives. She might be our own biological mom, like my mom who prays constantly for me and has recently discovered emoticons on her iPhone to keep telling me through little hearts and praying hands in a text message that she is praying for me. Thanks Mom. But even if we don’t have our biological mom praying for us, each of us has Mary our Blessed Mother, always praying for us and our daily conversion to live as the faithful and prudent servant. Even if we cease praying, she never ceases praying for us! So as we continue with our Eucharist today, I invite you to renew your commitment to prayer, pray for the grace to live like the faithful and prudent servant as a future priest ministering to others, to live selflessly for others. Pray for each other, that together as seminarians we may grow in holiness and live our lives for Jesus. And pray to Mary and ask for her intercession to help us grow in the holiness that Jesus desires for each of us, so that when the Master comes at the end of time we may be blessed with eternal life.