In our day-to-day lives, we hear the word “love” mentioned when someone gets engaged to be married, or when a baby is born. We also hear the word a lot at funerals, as we celebrate the love that the deceased gave to all those they left behind.
In today’s first reading, St. Paul compliments the Thessalonians on their love for their brothers and sisters in the Christian community. St. Paul knew that love between individuals—friendship, marital love and parental love are important types of love.
Recent Popes have spoken of another type of love, though, a more far-reaching love, one that extends into the larger spheres of human interaction. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also “macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones”. (Caritas in Veritate 2)
Pope Francis refers to this type of love as “social love”: …” Along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society. When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as such, matures and sanctifies us. (Laudato Si’ 231)
Looking through the lens of social love, how can we interpret the Parable of the Talents in today’s Gospel reading? The ”talents” in today’s Gospel represent what God has given us, both as individuals and as a human family. And the message of the parable is to not squander those gifts through misuse or abuse. Our common home, Earth is a one-time endowment from God. And just as the man in the parable entrusted his servants with sums of money, God has entrusted us humans since the Garden of Eden with caring and protecting the source of all our sustenance, Earth.
So, how can we “halt the environmental degradation and encourage a culture of care”, as Pope Francis asks? Yesterday was the beginning of the annual ecumenical Season of Creation, running from September 1st to October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. In this season, Christians celebrate the gifts of Creation, and we recommit to caring for Creation and the Poor. Let us join with our fellow Christians in many expressions of social love during this Season of Creation!
Patty Gillis is a retired Pastoral Minister. She served on the Board of Directors at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit. She is currently a member of the Laudato Si Vision Fulfillment Team and the Passionist Solidarity Network.