Sunday, November 16, 2008

Parable of Talents - Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

Today we celebrate the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time and this year the Parable of the Talents Jesus told his disciples, can definitely not be interpreted literally.  Not after the financial market events of the last three months.  Regarding the question about what it means for us today, we will have to go beyond the surface of the story to extract useful meaning from the chronicle about the three servants entrusted with the possessions while the owner went on a journey.  In today’s financial markets reality, the third and most fearful servant would have scored by far the best compared to his more experienced and less fearful colleagues.  Yet, even today, the story does have meaning for us.  If we take the entrusted possession as the abilities and capacities God gives us, putting them to work meaning, using them will bear fruits to His Kingdom.  Interesting that the currency on the story is talent and that today talents are aptitudes and capabilities.  There is some duress in the story, for the fearful servant who does not put his gifts to work.  Not only is there nothing to be shared, but punishment from an angry master is foretold.  Sharing in the joy of the Master is the recompense for the dutiful servants that have put the talents to work. 

The twelve disciples learned that Jesus had a sophisticated knowledge of finance. He was aware of the often more profitable field of financial markets of his time.  We should remember (or just learn) that a talent  at the time when Jesus walked the Earth in Palestine was not a coin, it was a weight in gold or silver of about 85 pounds, so it was a very considerable treasure that this man was trusting to his servants. One talent was probably equivalent to a whole lifetime’s wages for such a servant—he had entrusted them with something precious beyond their wildest dreams

His followers then received a valuable insight into the forever unfolding mosaic that is Christ. He was continually displaying fresh facets of His personality, which He continues to do to this day. That unfolding plays a vital part of His ongoing charm for a billion and a half people. It is the reason that of all people who ever lived, Jesus has been written about the most. 

Interesting to note, this is the last parable Jesus tells in the Gospel before going to Jerusalem for his passion and death on the cross.  The Synoptic authors (this year Mathew, also Luke and Mark tell stories about journeying noblemen) seem to have left the last for best.

God encourages us to jump into life and run the risk of growing.   Mere avoidance of serious sin does not make for good Christians. We must use all the gifts God gave us. If we are not moving forward, chances are, we march full speed backwards. The Nazarene does not want us to hide in church but move out into the street telling us, "You are never more wonderful than when you are taking big chances.”  Some of us have received short straws in some sense but perhaps gifts in other areas.  There is a wonderful story about Ludwig van Beethoven in this regard.  The famous composer was well aware that he had few social skills.  He found talking to people not just burdensome, but beyond his abilities.  He just couldn’t do it.  The story tells about a dear friend of his that suddenly lost his son. Beethoven rushed over to his friend’s house, but he just couldn’t find the words to express his grief to the dead boy’s father.  So he used the gifts he had been given.  Beethoven went to the piano and for a full thirty minutes he played a beautiful and consoling elegy.  It is believed that he composed it on the spot. He used his talent to console the grieving.

Despite how strong or weak we believe our gifts and talents are, we are supposed to give life a first class run with these gifts. The ultimate aim in life is to say before the undertaker nails down our coffin. "I have given life my best shot."   Let us avoid the melancholy line in a John Denver folk song, "I am sorry for the things I didn't say and didn't do."   Mark Twain puts is bluntly when saying, "The safe thing is to run risks; the risky thing is to play it safe."

The Readings for this 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time speak about:

First Reading from the last chapter (31) from Book of Proverbs attributed to Lemuel, King of Massa in Arabia, talks about teachings that his mother taught him, like give a worthy wife rewards for her labor and praise her.  Chapters 1-29 of Proverbs are from Salomon, son of David, King of Israel.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (in the Second Reading), in 50 AD, while in Athens when Timothy brought back the good news of their faith, despite persecution.

Matthews’ Gospel today is about the Parable of the Talents, commented at the beginning of this column.

A complete text of the readings at:

With God’s Love and Blessings,



  1. From one our our subscribers:

    I have enjoyed reading your article and it has been an excellent event for my Sunday morning, when I decided to relax at home, instead of my usual biking exercise. I thought of risk management as a God taking skill was a wonderful message, which must have concrete next steps for me in my current life stage. Really, this was a much deeper than usual message, that I will take to practice this week, where I will re-think and re-define my to-do's with a touch of divine aura around my activities and plans.
    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to find Christ in all we do.

  2. Thank you Rainer for your sharing. How crucial it is to understand that the man going on a journey is the image of Jesus ascending into Heaven leaving his treasures to His servants, we; the talents, all those God given gifts to be used for His glory are as different as the services we are to provide, we are only asked for good will in using them, faith working through charity. I have learnt that the intention of the giver is as important as the intention of the receiver; both parties should do it as a blessing coming from God in His Divine Will.


  3. I love your blog!!

    Good excerpt for Psalm 61 for today:

    Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

  4. It's interesting to see how you adapt what the Bible says to today's life and to the problems we face (and are facing). I agree that the only way to go ahead is to try and keep trying, but is it not also important to not only think of the things to come but also of the things/situations that have made us who we are? The future is definitely important, but unfortunately the past is often overlooked...especially in the States. So many things could've been avoided if only some real consideration had been given to past cases (e.g. korean war, vietnam, iraq II), and so many lives could've been spared. History teaches us a lot, but if we don't pay attention...well, it repeats itself.

    te quiero mucho pa