By Father Kyle
When I was in grade school, I always looked forward to our annual Scholastic Book Fair, held in our gymnasium, and the books that I loved the most were books about sharks. From when I was a child, I have always been fascinated by sharks, so much so that one of the first things I wanted to be in life was a marine biologist, and among all the 500+ species of sharks in the world, the one that I have always liked the most is the White Shark, better known as the Great White Shark. This star species of the Steven Spielberg movieJaws is one of the largest, most powerful sharks in the world, with the average adult male measuring between 10 and thirteen feet long and the average adult female measuring between 13 and 16 feet long (Sharks of the World: A Complete Guide by David A. Ebert, Marc Dando, and Sarah Fowler). Great White sharks can weigh anywhere from 1500 to 4000 pounds (Britannica)! In addition to their enormous size and set of teeth, one of the really cool things about Great Whites is how they hunt. They have multiple hunting techniques, but the one that stands out is sometimes called “spy-hopping.” If you have ever watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, this is what you will often get to see – a Great White shark leaping out of the water! When hunting surface- swimming prey, they will sometimes swim deep beneath their prey and then propel upwards, snagging their prey in one powerful bite as they fly briefly through the air. If you are a seal on its radar, you never know what moment might be your last because there is a large, powerful predator below and beyond your sight, and it is hungry and well-equipped to make you its meal.
As we draw closer to the beginning of the season of Advent, we are hearing more and more in Sacred Scripture about the “day of the Lord,” the final judgment at the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. We are reminded by St. Paul in today’s second reading that this event will come like a thief at night, on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour, like the moment of our own deaths and our particular judgment. He tells us that many people in the world will be caught off guard by it. “When people are saying ‘Peace and security,” then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) Such people are living in the darkness of sin and unbelief, blind to both the presence and promise of the Lord and to the adversary below, who seeks their destruction. They are like unsuspecting prey for the devil, who is acting on them beyond what their bodily senses can perceive, lulling them to a spiritual slumber by tempting and leading them to live selfishly for the fleeting, sinful pleasures of this world, with no eye to God and His Kingdom. People in this tragic state are not aware of the very real dangers that we all face as human beings, many of them not believing in the existence and power of demonic forces and many of them not even believing in the reality of sin or evil. These people think they have nothing to worry about, at least not until they are on their death beds, and so they go through this life aimlessly and recklessly. For them, the day of the Lord is a cause for fear and dread and will be a catastrophe.
And as I have said before, this is not just the case for many atheists and agnostics. It is also the case for many Christians, who waste the gifts and graces God has given them, like the third servant in today’s Gospel reading. In this reading from Matthew’s Gospel, our Lord Himself speaks about His coming again in glory and the account that each of us will have to render for himself or herself. To varying degrees, according to his or her ability and state in life, each of us has been given natural gifts, resources, and spiritual gifts, all of which are to be used not for our own benefit, but for God’s glory and the benefit of others, especially the poor and all those most in need. All of us have been given some measure of our Master’s treasures because we all have been given the good news of salvation, the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, the graces of the Sacraments, especially those of the Sacrifice of the Mass, communion with the angels and saints in heaven, and so many other talents that have been entrusted to us as members of the Body of Christ and His disciples. There are many sons and daughters of God, however, who have buried these talents in fear, shame, worldliness, and indifference, many people who are Catholic in name only, and these poor souls will suffer the punishment Jesus describes at the end of today’s Gospel reading – they will be thrown into the outer darkness (an image of hell), where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth (an image of misery and woe).
To avoid this terrible fate and instead share forever in our Master’s joy, what are we to do? St. Paul tells us, “Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6) In his first letter, St. Peter tells us something similar: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) First, we have to be ever mindful that in this life, we are in a sense always in shark-infested waters, for Satan and his minions are always lurking below, hungry for our souls and well-equipped to consume them. Let us not underestimate them or the evils they tempt us to embrace. Second, we must discern better, in prayer, the gifts that God has given us and the way He is calling us to use them. Third, we must not hesitate to use those gifts. Like the first two servants in today’s Gospel parable, who immediately went out on their business venture to make a profit for their master, we should not be wasting time in bearing fruit from those gifts and graces we have been given. Like those servants, we do not know when our Master will return, and we need to strive to be found at work for Him and one another when He does. And lastly, we need to remember that our business venture for Him is often not conducted on an extraordinary scale, but in the ordinary events and duties of our daily lives, at home, in school, at work, in the church. What should be really cool about us Christians is the way we grow and spread. We can and should be transforming our environments, our ecosystems so to speak, into dwellings for the Creator and Savior of the world, by being transformed ourselves, by making ourselves better dwellings for Him and allowing Him to change the world in and through us.