Responding to God’s Gifts

In the English language, we have all sorts of expressions and expected responses.  If I say to you, ‘Thank you,’ you say?  ‘You’re welcome.’  If you meet my mom for the first time, and I say, ‘This is Julianne,’ you say?  ‘Nice to meet you.’  And when you’ve been dating someone for a while and build up the courage to say, ‘I love you,’ what do you hope they’ll say in return?  ‘I love you, too.’  If the person says, ‘Thanks,’ it’s over!

For Chinese people, when you’re at a restaurant, if someone offers to pay, you have to insist on paying—that’s the expected response.  That’s why, because I’m half Chinese, I argue for a while and then let the other person pay.

At the end today, I’ll share  a story about how a daughter finally got her mother to say, ‘I love you, too.’

Our faith also has expressions and expected responses: ‘The Lord be with you.’  ‘And with your spirit.’  And when God the Father gives us gifts, did you know that He expects certain responses?

When He gives us good health, a beautiful day, peace, joy, He expects us to thank Him.  He doesn’t need it, but does deserve it.  When Jesus says to us, ‘I love you,’ He hopes we’ll say, ‘Love you, too.’

Today, He gives a parable about the Kingdom of God, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.  Then he went away” (Mt 25:14-15). ‘Going on a journey’ can refer to two things:

1) The time when Jesus ascended into heaven, 33 A.D. until the time of Jerusalem’s judgement, 70 A.D., when it would be destroyed by the Romans.  God had given them the gift of His Son, but they responded poorly, and so were judged.

2) The ‘journey’ represents our lifetime, after which we also will be judged.  As for ‘talents,’ they were a unit of measurement weighing 80 lbs of silver, or 6,000 days wages, or 16 to 19 years’ worth of work.  So, five talents mean a lifetime of blessings, while two or just one talent are still amazing gifts.

When the slave with five talents makes (remarkably) five more talents, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master’” (25:21).  Being ‘trustworthy’ means that we respond as God expects.  At the end of the parable, Jesus says, “To all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (25:29).  To those who respond to God’s blessings with love, they always receive more.  Think about faith: Those who trust God always receive more faith; but to those who doubt God’s goodness, they actually separate themselves further from God and so lose more.  God still loves us, but this indicates the power of response.

“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.  Here you have what is yours.’  But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave!  You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers” (25:24-27).  Some Scripture scholars believe that this slave is lying, because the master, who represents God, says that he’s ‘lazy,’ and that, if he were truly afraid, he would have at least invested the money with bankers.   Why didn’t he?  Because he was ‘wicked,’ which some scholars take to mean that he was angry with only getting one talent, whereas the others received five and two.

Have we ever done the same: Become angry with God because we haven’t received the same blessings as others?  Resentment is a common experience.  We have an excellent standard of living compared to billions of people now and throughout history, but we’re sometimes envious that others have better jobs, can afford better things, and live in greater abundance.  So, it’s possible that, instead of responding well to God’s gifts, we’re angry with Him.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists five ways we can sin against God’s love:

– indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.  [Indifference says, ‘Whatever.’]
– ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return Him love for love.
– lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.  [This says that my love for God is enough rather than trying to love Him more.]
– acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.  [Spiritual laziness says we can’t be bothered to do our best.]
– hatred of God comes from pride.  It is contrary to love of God, Whose goodness it denies, and Whom it presumes to curse as the One Who forbids sins and inflicts punishments” (2094).

The five virtues opposite to these sins can be summarized with these statements:

indifference‘I care’  
ingratitude‘I’m grateful’,
lukewarmness‘I’m on fire’,
acedia or spiritual sloth‘I do my best’,
hatred of God‘I love God’.

So, there are two actions for today: 1) How many blessings have we received in our life?  A lifetime of blessings, 40 years of blessings, or 20 years of blessings?  Now, perhaps we say we’ve received very few blessings—verify if that’s true.  Ask Jesus to help you see the blessings.  And, if any of us are angry at God because our life is full of suffering or disappointment, be honest.  However, don’t respond like the man with one talent; don’t give in to resentment.  Whatever blessings we’ve received, our response should be, ‘I care, I’m grateful, I respond with zeal, I’ll do my best, and I love God.’  Can we at least say, ‘I want to care.  I want to be grateful,’ etc.?

2) In preparation for our Christ the King Challenge next week, here again is our Relationship Diagram:

If we’ve experienced Jesus say to us, ‘I’ve made you the centre of my life,’ then He is hoping us to say, ‘Jesus, You’re the centre of my life.’  If we don’t know what it’s like to be loved by Jesus like this, then it makes sense why we can’t respond.  When I was a child, I never knew how much Jesus loved me, so I could never respond.  But once I came to know His love, I responded.

Now, some people have asked if, instead of using the Relationship Diagram, we can use a scale of 1 to 5 to describe our love for Jesus, because maybe He isn’t the centre of our life, but He’s really close.  The answer is that when a man proposes to a lady and says, ‘Will you marry me?’ the expected response is not, ‘On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m a 4.’  No, the response is either ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or, ‘Not yet.’  Our relationship with Jesus is like a marriage: Either we’re married or not, and we need to make a choice.  It doesn’t mean the marriage is perfect; it just means that that person is now at the centre of our life.


When Jenny’s mom first learned to text, the first thing she sent Jenny was a GIF of a fluffy cat.  This surprised Jenny because it was more affection than she ever got during childhood.  So, she got bold and wrote, ‘I love you, Mommy.’  Her mom wrote, ‘Okay.’  Because Jenny knew how important words were to her, she decided to train her mother to respond appropriately: She started saying ‘Thank you’ for everything her mother did for her, and each time, she got the response, ‘Why “Thank you”?  I’m your mom.  That’s what I’m supposed to do.’  Jenny explained that appreciation is the right response to love.  Over time, her mother accepted this.  Yet, still needing to hear words of love, one day she grabbed her mother while she was watching TV, wrapped her arms around her and didn’t let go, saying, ‘From now on, when I say, “I love you, Mommy,” you have to reply with, “I love you, too.”’  Her mother kept on watching TV, so Jenny repeated it.  But her mother asked, ‘Then why do you have to hold me like this?’  ‘Because it’s important to me.’  No response.  Finally, Jenny said, ‘I read from doctors that when you hug someone for 45 seconds or more it boosts your immune system.  So I’m hugging you and teaching you to say “I LOVE YOU, TOO” because it’s good for our health.’  The mother said, ‘Okay,’ and has been responding, ‘I love you, too,’ ever since.

With every gift, there’s an expected response.  Simply put, when Jesus says, ‘I love you,’ He hopes that we’ll say, ‘I love You, too.’

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