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
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."
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (in the Second Reading), in 50 AD, while in
Matthews’ Gospel today is about the Parable of the Talents, commented at the beginning of this column.
A complete text of the readings at: http://www.usccb.org/nab/111608.shtml
With God’s Love and Blessings,