Good and Faithful Servant

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.” “You wicked, lazy servant.”

Secretly I hope one day to hear the first sentence addressed to me by God and not the second. And you?

One thing we can learn from the parable today, among its many lessons, is the paralyzing effect of anxiety. The one who received only one talent stated he was afraid of his master so he hid his talent in the ground so he could safely return it to him.

This anxiety gnaws at the human spirit as we grow into our middle years, even if we consider ourselves someone who believes in God’s love and mercy. “I just turned 51 last month. I’m beginning to ask myself: Have I done what I was supposed to in this life? Have I wasted too much time? What if I don’t figure out what God wants of me before my life is over?” These questions my friend began asking herself are typical mid-life questions we ponder as we sense that “time is running out.” At 51, those questions started to pop up into my own consciousness unbidden.

“I hope that God doesn’t remember what I did before I got married.…” “I’m praying that God is watching the good things I’m doing now and forgetting about the past.” The variation is as infinite as the hearts that voice them….

In the parable in today’s Gospel, the one thing that is missing is the thoughts, the questions, the excitement or anxiety of those who received the talents from the master who went on a journey. Jesus doesn’t make these explicit in the parable. However, it is this inner world that we are most familiar with, particularly as we grow older. The early heady days of celebrating the adventurous and smart successful things we do with our personal talents and spiritual gifts are long gone. Now our memories stretch over decades as regrets and uncertainties begin to surface around the edges of our grateful and happy memories. And the anxiety shows up with them.

The anxiety, I believe, begins to haunt us because we know clearly now that we can’t control life as we believed we could when we were younger. And we know that judgment approaches with the moment of our death, and judgment, by its nature and in our human experience, implies another having power over us. I know my desire—my urgent need—to have a straight A report card to present at the heavenly door to my Savior has not been achieved. Too much has transpired in 56 years. A weight of struggle, trial, and temptation has accompanied the joyful, beautiful, and grace-gifted events of my life. When I appear before my divine Spouse and infinitely loving Redeemer, it will be now with the empty hands of St Therese, the Little Flower. No, Jesus, I trust myself entirely to your merits. I have no virtue, no merits, no glory. I take yours and that is sufficient for me. I am but a little child…. 

There is a story of St Francis de Sales who was tortured as a young man with the fear that he was going to hell. I don’t remember how long he endured this trial, but I’m sure some of you, as I, have at some point in our life had this perhaps unspoken concern. It was only when Francis finally, at the foot of the Blessed Sacrament, cried out in his pain to the Lord that he found relief. “If I am doomed to hell,” he said at last, “then at least there will I love Thee, my God, so that Thou art loved even in the midst of that place of darkness and pain.” And immediately the weight of sorrow and fear lifted.

If you are experiencing anxiety like this, do not bury your heart in the ground. Reach out to someone you trust. Share your story. Get perspective. Enter a journey of healing. Experience the joy of confession.

This parable convinces me of how serious life is. From beginning to end it is a journey that we make as we emerge from the hands of a loving Father and in our sunset years return it into his hands. A gift that we have carried through the storms and songs of many decades of living in often uncontrollable and incomprehensible situations that weave their way through the lovely experiences that have made our hearts swell with gratitude and love. The gift of this life we invest by making responsible choices to love our Creator and Father, conform our lives to Jesus our Brother, and open our hearts to the sanctifying presence of the Spirit. But in the end, we return to him with the joy of our holiness, yes, but we recognize as the first Preface for the Saints declare:

 “You are praised in the company of your Saints and, in crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.”

Contact the author

Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.


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Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Thes 4:9-11

Brothers and sisters:
On the subject of fraternal charity
you have no need for anyone to write you,
for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.
Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia.
Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more,
and to aspire to live a tranquil life,
to mind your own affairs,
and to work with your own hands,
as we instructed you.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 7-8, 9

R.(9) The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to rule the earth;
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.

Alleluia Jn 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.
After a long time
the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents
came forward bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

What: Me, Holy?

For a very long time, I thought I might have a vocation to the religious life. It turned out that I didn’t, but I gave the possibility a lot of time and thought and prayer. My everyday life seemed very far removed, indeed from what I envisioned for my future. Instead of spending hours rapt in the chapel, I was spending hours working, running errands, dealing with people, making mistakes. I didn’t want that everyday life: I wanted holiness, and I believed that the way to holiness was through the monastery doors.

Yes, well, that shows you how little I knew about vocations, about holiness, and about life!

Here’s the thing: We’re called to be holy, to be a holy people. That call is clarion-clear on nearly every page of scripture; today we hear it from Saint Paul, writing to the young Christian communities in Thessalonica. (He also talks a great deal about it when writing to the communities of Corinth and Ephesus.) And it’s reasonably easy to imagine those people, living still in apostolic times, believing the end to be near, risking everything to worship: yes, we say, those were holy people.

But how does holiness translate into the modern world? How do we live it in everyday life?

Living holiness doesn’t mean living perfection. Looking back on those first communities, once we get past our admiration for their courage, once we focus on what Saint Paul was saying to them—well, it’s clear they were up to things they shouldn’t have been; otherwise he wouldn’t have had to be so forceful in his recommendations! Their lives weren’t perfect and flawless, any more than the lives of the nuns I so wanted to join when I was young were perfect and flawless. We’re all human, and being human means being stuck in the everyday bustle and noise and frustration of ordinary lives. 

And that very ordinariness is blessed, made holy, by God through the incarnation. Jesus was born into an ordinary human family. For most of his life, he worked at a job, and he took on the same social relationships that complicate our lives today. We sometimes think it would be easier to be holy apart from the people with whom we live and work. But the incarnation reminds us that God calls us to be holy precisely in the midst of those relationships. 

Holiness is found in the daily struggle. We shouldn’t think lightly about how difficult it is to show up every day. To not give up. To do whatever tasks your life has set before you and tend to them as best you can. A character in the wonderful movie Chariots of Fire says, “You can praise God by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection.” 

And you don’t peel potatoes in the chapel.

Weathering the storms of life is difficult, and Jesus knows that. He’s been there. And yet still he asks us to carry our daily cross. Struggling to take that cross through the chaos of life is practicing holiness, no matter how messily we carry it or how many times we drop it. The very act of picking it up and moving forward is part of acquiring holiness. Perseverance is a holy act. When we navigate life, work, relationships, problems, joys, and concerns with Christ in our hearts, we are practicing holiness.

The popes are well aware of this. In his 1981 papal encyclical On Human Work, Pope John Paul II explained that work is our sanctification; it is redemptive in nature. “The Christian,” he wrote, “finds in human work a small part of the cross of Christ and accepts it in the spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted his cross for us.”

And Pope Francis devoted an entire apostolic exhortation to the call to holiness. “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious,” he wrote. “We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”

The sanctification of ordinary work was the cornerstone upon which Saint Josemaría Escrivá founded Opus Dei, an apostolate dedicated to spreading the message that work and the circumstances of ordinary life are occasions for growing closer to God, serving others, and improving society. “For the ordinary life of a man among his fellows is not something dull and uninteresting,” he said in a homily. “It is there that the Lord wants the vast majority of his children to achieve sanctity. Either we learn to find Our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find him.”

Saint Augustine, as usual, finds the right words to express what is in many people’s hearts:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.

So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Right now, they’re not making saints like the ones I used to read about and admired. They lived in different worlds and had different graces suited to their times. But God has asked me to live my life in this world, to sanctify it somehow, to make of all the distractions and drudgery and lack of time a holy thing, an offering of love.

That’s a call to holiness I can handle.

Contact the author

Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at

Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Thes 4:1-8

Brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God–
and as you are conducting yourselves–
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

This is the will of God, your holiness:
that you refrain from immorality,
that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself
in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion
as do the Gentiles who do not know God;
not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter,
for the Lord is an avenger in all these things,
as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.
For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.
Therefore, whoever disregards this,
disregards not a human being but God,
who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 97:1 and 2b, 5-6, 10, 11-12

R.(12a) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful ones;
from the hand of the wicked he delivers them.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Alleluia Lk 21:36

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all times and pray,
that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.