33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Rick Sherman
Prov.31; 1 Thes. 5:1-6; MT 25:14-30
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
“After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. 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. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”
So let’s walk through today’s gospel step by step.
First of all, it’s a parable. A parable about the end of time, the Second Coming the last judgement.
A man goes on a journey and returns after a long time. This is Jesus ascending into Heaven and then returning at the last judgement. 2000 years later and counting.
Before his departure he trusts the care of his possessions to his servants to be invested and utilized until his return. He has many possessions which is indicated by the gift of talents. Some scholars have estimated that a single talent was probably equivalent to 20 years pay for the servants. Even though this parable is not meant to be understood in purely economic terms, the idea is that the master gave lavishly and with great trust to his servants. He gave each according to their abilities.
Everyone does not have the same type of abilities, so each person received an appropriate amount commensurate with his potential. The main point here is that some trusted the master’s good intentions and used the gifts wisely, although there was considerable risk involved as is implied by investment. Very profitable investments are seldom a sure thing with guaranteed results; they require wisdom, instincts, risk and usually lots of effort.
The third servant by contrast did not trust the master and in fact accused the master of harvesting where he did not plant and gathering where he did not scatter. This third servant was in fact judging the master rather than accept the judgement upon himself. Because he wrongly judged the master, he was severely punished.
When understood in the larger context of the parable we recall that prior to His ascension, Jesus told the apostles that all the power and authority of heaven was given to Him by His Father in Heaven. Jesus in return used those gifts faithfully and with great risk and effort on His part. The relationship of Jesus and the Father was a true love relationship which implies a reciprocal level of loving, otherwise it’s not mature and faithful love. This total self-giving resulted in the Resurrection and later the coming of the Holy Spirit. So prior to His ascension into heaven Jesus commands the disciples to love as he loved and to go forth and teach and share everything that Jesus had given them.
As with any attempt at a love relationship, if only one person is taking the risk and making the personal sacrifice and gift of self, the relationship doesn’t work. It’s a lie. It dies.
God knows what each of our abilities are and He has gifted us lavishly according to our abilities. If asked to give an accounting today of all that we have been given, how would we fare. Could we show God the fruits of our labor, our reaping and sowing?
Or would we rather accuse God of not giving us what we needed according to our own desires and estimates? Would we deny that we even received many of the gifts that God gave us?
As with any love relationship, the mutual return of love and gifts is in itself the reward that grows and grows without limit. Recall in the parable, the master said to the faithful servants, “Come share your master’s joy!”
Surely one of the greatest gifts that we have received is the gift of faith. We have apparently kept the faith as might be evidenced by our presence here at Mass on a regular basis. What are the different ways we have shared that faith? What effort, risk and cost came with that sharing? What rewards and increase have we experienced and passed along? What gifts have we possibly not acknowledged? These are especially important questions to ask ourselves as we approach the end of Ordinary Time. And as we endure a time of considerable disruption in our lives and the likelihood of some new beginnings as the ‘old world’ passes away. God knew we would live through this time and He has given us everything we need for the next part of our journeys. The Church gives us the liturgical year to remind us of our ongoing need for renewal. Letting go of what doesn’t work and stretching toward the new and the unexplored.
This might be a good time to look up ‘charisms of the Holy Spirit’ in the Catechism and see which new one jumps out. How quickly do we turn away from it? Or embrace it? Which one is most needed in our community?