I wonder how many of you have
ever driven out along Route 20 into Sudbury, to Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, the oldest operative inn in America, built
in the early 18th century? If you have, then you have probably also
seen the Old Grist Mill, the oldest mill in America, built in the same era. This mill, made of massive gray stones, is most picturesque in all seasons with its
huge red wheel and a sluiceway over which water cascades gloriously into a stream below, sometimes even tossing up rainbows. The sluiceway remains open now, but I remember the time, when the sluiceway was closed
and the diverted water poured over the great wheel, flowing from trough to trough to trough, thus setting the wheel in slow
but steady motion for the grinding of wheat into flour for bread.
Notice that there are two ways
for the water from the lake above the mill to flow down into the stream below: either
1) coming straight down the sluiceway, or, 2) diverted over the turning wheel. It
makes me ask a question which pertains to today’s Gospel: How do you view
God and creation? Does God’s love pour directly into all creation, or does
God’s love pour over us in such a way that we are involved in the ongoing creation of the world?
Many people, whether they realize
it or not, live as if ongoing creation is all up to God. They stand outside the
process and go their own way seeking their own happiness, vaguely aware that God is out there somewhere. But, I believe that God pours his love over us, that we have been invited not just to stewardship (which
is taking care of creation) but to an actual partnership in co-creating with God. With
God, we have power, if we use it, to fashion our world.
How does that happen? The Old Grist Mill shows us. The water of God’s mercy
and love and energy and beauty flows into the troughs of our being. We receive,
we are filled, (through prayer, through worship, through reading Scripture, through Eucharist, through study, through work). But, for the wheel to turn, like the troughs, we have to also let go, be emptied,
give and hand on, (whether the giving is through our talents, our time, or our treasure.)
These are gifts received. They do not belong to us! They are part of the stream. And the stream belongs to God.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is
saying that God has given each of us a talent or talents to be used for fostering the Kingdom of God here on earth, a kingdom of
justice, of peace, of love. We can use that talent or those talents for ourselves
or for God. We can also not use them at all.
We can bury them.
Notice how both the one with five
talents and the one with two talents immediately went out and doubled what was given to them, Notice their excitement
in doing so. They acted immediately. They are alive, eager. Then, look at the one who buried his talent. He seems sad,
fearful, depressed. Let’s face it: If we do not use the talent(s) which
God gives us, something within us dies. When a talent goes to waste, a person
goes to waste, and everyone loses out. The violence in our neighborhoods points
to wasted talents and wasted lives.
In the Gospel, the man of one
talent was afraid of the master. I don’t think that is true of us. We are not afraid of God. I suggest that
we are afraid of ourselves and of one another. We can be afraid of making mistakes,
of criticism, of failure. We can be afraid of being vulnerable. We can be afraid of the cost to our comfort. But Jesus is
saying, “Don’t worry. Take a risk.
You will create new life with me. And you will save your very soul, i.e.,
you will be alive!” Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was once asked, what enabled
her to do such great things in her life. She responded by saying simply, “You
cannot do great things. You can only do small things with great love.”
Love is the opposite of fear. We have a choice: which way do we move?
And that brings me back to the
image of the Old Grist Mill, -- Notice that for the wheel to turn it needs many
troughs to hold and pass on the flowing water. A few troughs are not enough. Many troughs, in synch with one another,
turn the wheel steadily, even when the water is diminished. Isn’t that
a good image for this community? What can happen when each person, receiving
from God, gives back to God in the context of a community working together, -- out of love?
Our retreat December 3-5 is a time to receive from God and from one another so that together we can pour forth in love
Lastly, the turning of the wheel
is to grind wheat into flour. And that flour will become bread. Whether it is natural bread or Eucharist, there is a hunger in our world to be filled. God looks to us to fill that hunger. Let us not disappoint
Kenneth J. Hughes, SJ
Cambridge, MA. 11/16/08