My beloved SLU Billikens opened the men’s basketball season with a nail-biter of a win on Saturday night, but it was actually the half-time entertainment that wound up bringing the most fervent prayer to our lips.
We watched with a fair degree of fear and trembling, as acrobat Cristin Sandu piled metal tubes higher and higher on a raised platform…and then clambered atop the unstable stack, to provide a memorable display of balance (and derring-do). In the climactic sequence of the act, the acrobat wobbled a good twenty feet above the floor – more than high enough to inflict serious injury, had something gone wrong.
Fortunately, Sandu’s guardian angel was apparently on duty – and our whispered prayers for his safety were answered.
The performance came to mind for me again this morning when we heard Matthew’s version of the parable of the talents at Mass.
Clearly, Sandu is not one who has chosen to bury his talents (although one could argue that our heavenly Master might actually deduct points for the acrobat’s utter lack of common sense. But I digress.) And it got me thinking that his five-star performance was not unlike the two-star demonstration of boldness and courage we witnessed a few days ago in our kitchen – when granddaughter Hannah took a couple of her first precious baby steps toward us.
Nothing special, right? Nothing in her modest achievement that would bring an arena to its feet cheering in admiration. Still there’s an unmistakable element of divine energy in Hannah’s decision, it seems to me. Despite some initial reluctance, she let go – and found herself capable of doing a bit more than she imagined was possible.
Which got me wondering: Is the point of the parable simply that we’ll each be judged by what we make of the finite set of talents entrusted to us? Or is it perhaps more along the lines that God is encouraging us to be risk-takers – that we should learn to trust a bit more fully in the way the Spirit is at work in our lives?
Isn’t it true, after all, that we’ve each been given a continuum of decision-points to manage from day to day? Isn’t it true that we each have chances to make some 5-star choices…and two-star choices…and that, in considering some of our choices, we tend to flub the opportunity altogether?
When we allow the Spirit to influence those choices, though, it changes the equation considerably. No longer relying on a finite set of talents, we are strengthened to take risks that might otherwise seem impossible, as Sister Verna Holyhead has written: ‘forgiving rather than burying a grudge in our hearts; standing by another in times of sorrow, failure or misunderstanding; giving someone the benefit of the doubt;…laying down one’s life for another—perhaps a misunderstood friend, a rebellious child, a terminally ill spouse, aged parents.’
We don’t have to do these things on our own. In many cases, we can’t do them on our own. But God can work with our ‘yes,’ if we’re willing to take the first step. And that’s when things truly begin to come into balance.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.