There are times in my life when I am astounded by the generosity of God. Today’s Gospel – the Parable of the Talents – shows God as an investor who expects us to be doing something with the gifts he gives us. And the more we give ourselves away, the more he repays us: “everyone who has will be given more”. Over the past year or two, I have had example after example occur in my life.
How do we become a gift to someone else? I know I have experienced this only recently – although in this first example, I was not the gift, I was on the receiving end. About fifteen months ago, I was at a particularly low point in my life, worse, even than when my husband died. For that, I had been prepared – spiritually prepared even, before the cancer had been diagnosed. But when I was at this low point, and in terrible agony of spirit, angry at the Church, angry at the passivity of others, and constantly calling on God to ask what in the world he thought he was doing, some friends invited me to a quiz night at a neighbouring parish, and I went along, still ready to tell my story of frustration to anyone who had an ear to listen. And God sent me someone to sit next to me this particular evening and be interested in my complaint. This was one of the deacons who was ordained to the priesthood last Friday, along with five others from the Archdiocese.
If Deacon – now Father – Mariusz is anything to go by, these new priests are a bumper crop, and I expect great things from them. May God use them abundantly in his service.
There is a prayer we say at Opus Dei recollections, which goes (in part),
My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that you are here; that you see me, that you hear me.
When God sends someone alongside you, as he did in my case – over several dozen cups of long macchiato no sugar taken at Brewed Awakening – you realise that God indeed does see you and hear you, and that the God you have spent so much time kneeling before in the Blessed Sacrament, has been looking back at you all along, and smiling, no doubt quizzically.
Since this time, I have been making more of an effort to be a gift to others, or to come alongside them. This is what the Holy Spirit does: he is the Parakletos (παράκλητος) – literally, he who comes alongside. This doesn’t come naturally to me as I am by nature a selfish person, but we all have to start somewhere. Only yesterday, I was able to sit down with a woman in another coffee shop, and listen to her talking about the tremendous mental pain she and her family are in. It sent a quiver of shock and awe through me when she described me as being like an angel God had sent to her in her time of need. Sometimes people just need you to ‘see’ them and to ‘hear’ them. I put those in quote marks to emphasise that I am talking about a different kind of seeing and hearing from the everyday – there is an extra dimension and it is rather like tuning in to someone’s soul.
And when you do this, giving of yourself, God surprises you with unexpected events. Like the time I helped out a friend by paying his airfare for a trip he needed to take, and the very next day my neighbour turns up and offers me an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa because she has a spare ticket.
Of course you don’t go into this for the reward. But virtue is its own reward, as they say. And all we have to do is take Him seriously when he asks us to do something with whatever gift he has given us – keep paying it forward. God is never outdone in generosity.