God shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one He gives, and upon the other He bestows gifts. And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord.
~ Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom
Dear Beloved in Christ,
Christ is Risen! Truly He is risen!
ክርስቶስ ተነስቷል! በእውነት ተነስቷል! (Amharic, from Ethiopia)
Kristós Tanéstwal! Bergít Tanéstwal!
In the Bible study this week we read the Parable of the Minas from the Gospel of Luke (19:11-27). Jesus tells this parable just after his encounter with Zacchaeus, as He is approaching Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, when He will have the triumphal entry into the city, followed by His betrayal, passion, crucifixion, and resurrection.
The Parable of the Minas is similar to the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of Matthew. In both parables, there are servants who are entrusted with money while their master is away. When he returns, they are expected to give back the money along with any additional amount that has been earned. One faithful servant offers 10 minas/talents; another faithful servant offers 5 minas/talents. Both servants receive a blessing from their master: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, 23) (As we know, in this parable there is also a lazy servant, who doesn’t do anything to earn money for his master.)
What struck me was that the two faithful servants were welcomed with the exact same joy and congratulations by the master, even though one had earned more. Though their outcomes were different, their intentions were the same. It reminded me of St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal homily (quoted above), in which he says that the Lord, “both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention.”
In our spiritual lives—and in many other aspects of our lives—we focus on the outcome of things. We want to see results. But in the parable, Jesus reveals to us that the outcome is not as important as the intention behind it. This is not to say that the outcome is unimportant. However the outcome is determined by God; while the intention—the desire, the zeal—is determined by us. This is our part of the equation.
In our own lives, we would do well to focus less on the outcome of things: career, raising children, savings, owning property, etc. God will do as He sees fit, according to His divine providence and His love for us. Instead, let us focus on our part: the zeal or the lack thereof. How are we zealous for God and for our fellow neighbor? How are we pursuing virtue and righteousness? Where are our priorities?
God welcomes the intention! May our intentions always be toward Him.