The Catholic spiritual tradition has long included the practice of the examination of conscience. This exercise has traditionally included two questions: What did I do wrong and how have I failed? In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable that turns these two questions upside down (Matthew 25:14-30). The parable describes three servants whose master entrusted each of them with a sum of money. Two of the servants invested the money and were able to return a greater sum to the master. The other servant buried the money and returned to the master the same amount he was originally given.
The one who buried the money was surprised when the master reprimanded him for not investing the money and wondered what he had done wrong. In fact he had not done anything wrong. The problem was that he did not do anything right. The servant was not dishonest. He did not take advantage of other people. His shortcoming was that he played it safe. He buried the money in the ground. In short, he under lived his life. Certainly the parable is not condoning being reckless with our lives and what we have. It is about taking the lives and gifts that God has entrusted to us and using them to their fullest potential.
Our lives are treasures that are to be invested in the wellbeing of others and of the world. We treat our lives like a buried treasure when we stop trying to improve, when our goal is to stay comfortable by never risking a deeper investment of ourselves. Sometimes we bury the treasure of our lives because we are afraid of failing. We will not fail if we never try. A baseball player will never strike out if he stays in the dugout. He will never hit a homerun either. A skater will never fall if she never enters the rink. She also will never dazzle anyone with a beautiful dance. We will never say the wrong thing or mess something up if we never speak or act. We also will never be messengers of hope and instruments of transformation in or world.
So it’s not about what we did wrong or how we failed. With the help of Jesus, it’s about what we did right because we tried.