Saturday, November 21, 2020

33rd Sunday OT (Cycle A) The Parable of the Talents


      I’ve always thought that of the 4 gospels, the Book of Matthew from which the reading I just proclaimed is taken is the scariest. And I say scary not in a “Halloween” spooky way, but scary in the “Did Jesus really say that??” kind of a way. The story is simple: A wealthy man divides his fortune between three servants to care for it while he is gone. He doesn’t give them instructions, he just gives each a great part of his treasure. When he returns, he sees that two of the three servants have invested this treasure wisely and doubled the value of what they received. The third servant however decides that it is too risky to speculate with that which was not his, so instead places this treasure in a safe place so that he can return it to his master. (And here is where the scary part comes) When the master hears about how this servant treated the treasure he was given, he became angry. Calling him lazy takes what he had received and gave it to the one servant who had made the better use of his gift. Just listen to the way the Lord Lord Jesus ends the story: ” For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.... Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Those are pretty scary words coming from the Lord Jesus who (as we all know) is supposed to love everyone.

    I hope that if you were paying attention to my retelling of the story you noticed something I did on purpose. I did not once use the word money. I spoke of wealth, treasure, value but never of money. I did this because in the times of Jesus a “Talent” was a unit of value that meant much more than just money. A single talent was much more than what a common laborer could earn in a lifetime.  Yes, in the parable Jesus says that the master tells the servant he should have at least “put his money in the bank” to get interest, but money is just a part of what a “talent” is. What Jesus  truly means is: “you should have at least used the money part of what I gave you so that I could at least get something...anything from my investment”.

     It is easy to misinterpret this parable in an area as wealthy as our own. We hear it and we make the mistake of assuming that what these servants received from their lord was just money and that the only thing this master truly cared was how much money he would have in return. This is not what Jesus has in mind when he taught this. The owner in Jesus' story entrusted a lot more than just money —he left them all his possessions, everything he had, everything he had accumulated throughout his life. By doing this, he took a great risk and he wanted  his servants to do the same. This is why he was so mad when the treasure he gave to the one servant was not used, not even a small part of it.

    Now, If we were to replace the owner of this story with Our Heavenly Father and the servants with ourselves, our first thought might be “how much money I have to give to the Church or to the poor?” But material possessions are NOT the biggest gift we can receive from God. So the real question we should ask ourselves should be: “What is this great treasure God has given me and how am I using it?”  Well, We all know that God gives to us our own lives with all their material rewards.  But again this is just part of God’s gift to us. What else has God given to each one of us? His own life. He has given us his Son, to die on the cross for us, he has given us His Spirit to be with us to guide us and instruct us, He has given us his grace to unite us with him and with one another in a stronger way that we are united to our own families.

   When we say that God has given us life, we mean he has given us everything we have and are and everything we can become. Not using these gifts for his glory, is the same as burying God’s gifts so that we are not disappointed or even persecuted for living the life of a disciple. The Lord God wants us to take all the beauty and love he has given us and spread it wide and far, without worrying about how much loss we suffer in the process. He wants us to take risks with the blessing of his grace, life and spirit. He wants us to be bold Christians to go and spread his love to those who have not learned how to use their own gifts. He wants us not to worry about how much return we are going to receive for our efforts, what he wants is for us to make these efforts. In the words of St Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which you have heard me quote many times from this pulpit: God doesn't want us to be successful, He wants us to be faithful.

  What is the alternative? Well here is where the scary part comes, he is very clear in the story, those who don’t share his gifts are condemned to a life of darkness and loneliness, grinding their teeth in fear,  condemned to wallow in this fear wondering what will the Lord do when he sees that we have not been faithful with his wishes. A very scary thing if you ask me, and that my brothers and sisters is a chance we can not afford to take. GBMBAAS