33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
15th November 2020
Year A – Psalter week 1
The Parable of the Talents
Some biblical scholars argue that the Parable of the Talents was used by Jesus as a reproach to the religious elite of the time who knew the treasures of the Law, but who through over-caution, fear, or laziness, effectively hid God’s word from others and failed to share it with those who needed it most: “Much had been entrusted to them: the Word of God; but like the servants in the parable, they would shortly have to render account of how they had used that which had been committed to them: it would be seen whether they had used it in accordance with the will of God, or whether, like the third servant, they had frustrated the operation of the divine word by self-seeking and careless neglect of the God’s gift.”
In Matthew’s gospel, this parable is concerned with the Final Judgment. The master is Christ himself, his departure is his Ascension into heaven, and his delayed return is the delay of the Parousia, when Christ will return in glory to judge the nations. Finally, the reward, rather than just mere money, is a share in the master’s happiness, a share in the heavenly banquet.
At the time of Jesus a “talent” was equivalent to a very large sum of money. The combination in this parable, however, of the fiscal term “talent,” and the term “ability,” has led modern languages to the use the term “talent” for a gift, or an aptitude for something. So the whole idea of God-given “talents,” or abilities, comes precisely from today’s gospel passage. At the personal level, this passage is about cultivating and using, over our lifetime, the gifts that God has given each of us, whether they be natural or, through the action of the Holy Spirit, supernatural.
How best then, do we go about making use of our gifts? Maybe the first thing to notice in today’s gospel is how the two servants rewarded by the master, immediately set about trading their talents. They had courage and were prepared to take risks as they put their talents to use. As a result of this, the talents actually worked for them, and they made more talents, and were themselves enriched. The most important factor, is not that their abilities differed so that one made more talents that the other, but that they both tried, that they made the most of the talents they did have. In one sense, the one who was endowed with five talents and made five more, did not do any better than the one who was given two talents and made two more. Both of them doubled their talents by putting them to good use.
Jesus tells us here that this will be the same with our talents. All our gifts, whether natural or supernatural, have been given to us in order to serve others and to build up the body of Christ. No one person has every gift, rather, we rely on each other to share the different gifts that we each have. Some may have more gifts than others, but that’s not the point. The point is that each of us has at least one gift to share, and that we put that gift to use for the good of our neighbour and for the glory of God. Further, when we do take the risk and have the courage to put our gifts to good use, we will be rewarded with superior gifts and responsibilities, and ultimately with a share in the Lord’s happiness in the banquet of heaven.
In contrast, the servant who was rebuked by the master had, through fear and maybe laziness, hidden his talent by burying it. Maybe he was insulted when the master entrusted him with only one talent, while the others received more. He may even have refused to invest or trade with the talent because he now despised his master and did not want him to benefit. The master does, after all, judge him to be not only a lazy but also wicked, with the end result being that this servant loses the one talent that he had been given, and brings condemnation upon himself.
Once again, it is the same with our God-given gifts and talents. If we, through fear, laziness, or even envy, deliberately hide or bury our gifts, and fail to put them to use in serving others, then they will be taken from us, and we will run the risk of rejecting God’s work of salvation in and through our lives. Of course, if we do struggle with fear, sloth, envy, or any other kind of difficulty that may be inhibiting our spiritual growth, then we need to ask the Lord for help, so that through His power we may be freed from their hold on us. If we have, for whatever reason, buried any gifts, then again we can ask the Lord for help, maybe by first identifying those gifts and then in bringing them to the surface so that they may be put to good use in the service of His kingdom.
The Christian life entails risks and challenges. If we take courage and put the talents we have been entrusted with to good use, the more we ourselves, and indeed others, will grow spiritually, and the greater the gifts we will then be entrusted with. Conversely, fear, laziness or envy, for example, only lead to our God-given blessings and abilities being squandered and lost. Ultimately, while we have had the privilege of hearing the Gospel and have each received the gift of faith, the question we must ask ourselves is how earnestly have we striven to put our faith into action and used our God-given talents to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others?
 Joachim Jeremias, “The Parables of Jesus”, SCM Press, 1972 Edition, p. 62.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Sunday Message and Look
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Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. Whoever remains in me bears fruit in plenty. Alleluia!