In the written work for which he is most well-known today, St. Augustine of Hippo, whose memorial is today, wrote in his Confessions the following, about love:
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of people. That is what love looks like.”
In another place he remarked: “Our whole purpose in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”
These two short statements of this influential 4th century Doctor of the Church provide lenses through which we can see the wisdom of today’s Scripture readings.
In the first reading, where Paul is instructing the Thessalonian church about how to live the Christian life, how touching it is that at this point he offers no instruction on how to live in love with each other.
It is so evident that they not only love and care for each other, but also go beyond themselves to other church communities in the area, he doesn’t need to encourage them at all! Recall that these small communities were likely a collection of some households; not large parishes of people. The love they shared was likely very specific, and very focused on real people in real need. St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that they already know what love looks like – to use St. Augustine’s later language.
St. Paul’s call for them to live in tranquility, peace and mindfulness is also interesting. Perhaps we should take comfort from the fact that, even then, believers struggled with being tranquil and peaceable! We still struggle with that, and so have much in common with them. St. Augustine did, too!
For St. Augustine, being aware of God’s plan and God’s purpose for our lives brought great peace to his own heart after years of seeking happiness and peace in everything other than God! Seeing with the eye of the heart is, for him, what faith in God is all about.
Remember, too, that his mother St. Monica prayed for him to find God’s true peace for 30 years! There is model of tranquil trust in God if ever there was one!
The Gospel today from St. Matthew may seem harsh to us – the final servant does not make any money from the amount the master has given, and, in the end, the master takes it away and gives it to those who have more, and then expels the servant! This doesn’t seem very loving or seeing with the eye of the heart!
This is in a section of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus is speaking about judging between good and evil both now, and at the end of time. So that context may help interpret it for us.
I invite you to consider with me –even though there are three servants in the story of the talents, perhaps they can also represent ourselves at different times in our lives. Sometimes we are able to do more with what God has given us; sometimes we are held back by other challenges in our lives.
Like Augustine, there were times when he was like the servant who didn’t know what to do with what God had given. If he hadn’t changed, at the end of his life, he would have had to account for this. But like him, and like all of us, that final judgment isn’t here yet. God hasn’t yet called us home, and if you’re listening to this video, the world hasn’t come to an end yet either!
There is still time to look into our lives and see what is keeping us from investing the gifts of our hearts which God has given to us. We may strive to understand what those gifts are and to do what we can to see with “our heart’s eye” how God looks on us with love – sees us – and sees what we can do with the gifts given to us! We can begin to see how we can put our gifts into action in service of love.
When we strive to do that, we are assured of a bounty of treasure when we must return to the God of Love the fruits of love that have come about because of our lives. And in so doing, we will come to know the peace St. Augustine also came to know – slowly, over a long time – as he said so well: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
May God give you peace!