by Craig Taffaro
The theme of being faithful in small things is often discussed in relation to personal responsibility, “the little duty of each moment” as St. Josemaria Escriva writes. This application of the principle is true and good. One’s capacity for responsibility does increase through faithfulness in small things and discussing the importance of constancy in small things is a good reminder. The Collect for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time invites one to meditate further on the spiritual significance, not just the natural significance, of doing small things faithfully.
The petition in the Collect says, “Oh God . . . grant that by keeping your precepts we may merit to attain eternal life”. Just like one’s natural capacity for responsibility increases through faithfulness to daily duties, one’s capacity for love of God increases through lovingly keeping His precepts. C.S. Lewis provides an allegorical view of souls moving through Purgatory into Heaven in his short novel The Great Divorce. The narrator says upon arriving in the Valley of the Shadow of Life (not yet fully in Heaven, or the “Real World”), “It was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance, so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison”.* Indeed, there is a weight to the beatific vision that an ill-prepared soul cannot bear.
One’s faithfulness to the duties of life builds natural virtue, yes, but that natural virtue is not the true end. The soul’s true end is union with the Holy Trinity in eternal life. And since no action can escape the end for which it is enacted, the faithful man seeks an awareness that all of his actions point to God (and this should shape those actions) because he has given his life over to God in the virtue of faith. Presumably, having this awareness shapes the actions themselves, filling them with the love and presence of God. The Collect’s petition reminds the Faithful that God has founded the commands of his “sacred Law upon love of [Him] and of our neighbor”. By infusing love of God into the duties of life, a man not only matures in human virtue but in divine likeness. The gift of love from the Father is stewarded well only when it is freely given again. This is the point of the parable of the talents. The fearful servant who buried the wealth he received from his master is like one who after receiving divine sonship refuses to pour himself out like the Son. To one who, having received divine life from the Father, is faithful in love to his state and duties of life, more shall be given. He will have emptied himself like Christ that he may bear the weight of eternal life.