The Apple of God’s Eye

I was born to a Catholic couple and raised in a Catholic family. I lived in a Catholic house on the same block as a Catholic school, a half a block away from a Catholic church. I was baptized in that church, graduated from that school. The sisters from the convent would come over on Saturday mornings and have coffee with my mother. Nuns have seen me in my pajamas! 

My mother was — and, at 83, still is! — organist at that church. I made my First Communion and First Reconciliation there, and I was confirmed and married before that altar. I served as an altar boy and lector and, living just a half a block away, answered many a call to fill in at the last minute when some other server failed to show up. Bottom line, I was nurtured in the faith, as Catholic as those seven brothers were Jewish.

And yet, I specifically remember our priest teaching us one day during a visit to religion class that we had to choose for ourselves: are we going to believe, or not? I don’t know if it had the effect he intended, because for me, it sounded like, “hey, you have an out.”

Clearly, I was not a Maccabean son, ready to give up my very life for my God and beliefs. And yet, I, too, had a parent who exhorted me to keep the faith they taught me, and that made all the difference. I learned by example that our God is a God of love who is deserving of all our love, praise and worship, however imperfect. 

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us where we go from there. One might think the parable of the talents is sort of a faith economics lesson — God gives you gifts and expects you to be productive with them. But it’s so much more, and it all starts with that Maccabean concept of loving God above all. When our focus is on the Lord, then the using of our gifts to the best of our ability for him is the natural course of action. Because God loves us, we love him, and we serve others out of love for God and them, for his glory alone. 

It’s a big call, and the servant who did nothing with the talent shows the consequences. But note that the servant who returns fivefold is not chastised for failing to gain 10, he is rewarded for doing his best. The one who did not try is the one who must answer for it.

But then Luke throws in that unexpected twist: the people who didn’t want this nobleman to be king in the first place. Suddenly, “you have an out” comes into much clearer focus. If we’re going to believe, we need to love God above all and use our talents to further his kingdom in love and service. And if we aren’t, if we opt out, God will oblige by opting out on us. The king had his enemies slain before him, cutting them off completely. How could we possibly want that? Our prayer indeed must be, as the psalmist says, keep us “as the apple of your eye.”

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Mike Karpus is a regular guy. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, graduated from Michigan State University and works as an editor. He is married to a Catholic school principal, raised two daughters who became Catholic school teachers at points in their careers, and now relishes his two grandchildren, including the 3-year-old who teaches him what the colors of Father’s chasubles mean. He has served on a Catholic School board, a pastoral council and a parish stewardship committee. He currently is a lector at Mass, a Knight of Columbus, Adult Faith Formation Committee member and a board member of the local Habitat for Humanity organization. But mostly he’s a regular guy.

Feature Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez,