Today’s parable was relatively long and quite detailed, with special emphasis being given to the lot of the servant who received one talent and did nothing with it. Some people might think that what he did with the one talent is irrelevant because he was unfairly treated from the beginning by being given but one talent while others had received much more; and so, feeling somewhat sorry for this 'poor one talenter', they harbour a kind of grudge against the master of those servants and don’t really expect or seek to learn anything from the parable.
However, we should refrain from allowing our own modern critical propensities and emotional prejudices to have free rein with this story from long-ago and far away, and try, first of all, to appreciate the value – in terms relevant to ourselves today -- of the talent in our parable. One talent was then the equivalent of 6000 denarii, and a man and his family could live adequately for one day at the cost of 2 denarii. So you see that he who received “only one talent” had actually been given sufficient to provide a man and his family with a living for over 8 years! He had, in fact, been entrusted with a far-from-insignificant sum of money!!
People of God, have nothing to do with the prevalent greed and self-love which lead certain vociferous protagonists to cry foul wherever some seem to have more than others; avoid those who bristle with pseudo-sympathy for what they like to call ‘under dogs’ who have not -- in their estimation -- been personally endowed with all the talents, or given all the opportunities and advantages, that others seem to enjoy. Have nothing to do with such ‘defenders of the downtrodden and the poor’, I say, for without doubt, all of us have been most generously endowed by God for our privileged calling to bring forth fruit for God’s glory, and for our own sharing therein which we call ‘eternal life’.
We need, therefore, first of all, to ask our heavenly Father for wisdom – personified as ‘the perfect wife’ in our first reading – and then calmly turn our attention to the two faithful servants of the Gospel so as to learn from their experience.
Their master said to each of them on bringing their profit 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.
Such words make us all feel glad, happy for and happy with those servants. And if we attend more directly to the nature of that happiness, we can recognize three aspects mentioned or implied in those words:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
“You were faithful” evokes the joy, the peace, the happiness of a good conscience. “I will give you great responsibilities” implies being able to use one’s talents and abilities to a still greater extent, which is what we call the fulfilment of our being. However, even so great a natural happiness is not able to fully captivate our attention in this parable because of those last words:
Come, share your master’s joy!
Ultimately the joy of a good conscience will lead not only to our natural fulfilment but even -- thanks to Jesus -- to joys that are beyond our natural capacity, to the eternal joys of our divine Lord and Master in heaven:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your Master’s joy.’
Let us now, for just a few moments, compare those three aspects of happiness and you will realise how wonderful is that invitation to enter into the master’s joy.
We all know something of the many and various innocent joys and resultant deep happiness we, as human beings, can experience at times: sometimes we have the joys of success and achievement; most of us are deeply grateful for our experience of the peace and contentment of family life and love; we can appreciate too the happiness of truth discovered and known, and the thrill of beauty recognized and appreciated. Many such earthly types of joy and happiness truly delight us and can give us a sense of deep contentment; and yet, some are also easily linked with sorrow and sadness. There is a famous song, “Plaisirs d’Amour” which tells of the joys of love which swiftly pass away, and of its pains and sorrows which endure. That might well be a jaundiced, poetic, point of view, but, nevertheless, it is part of the reason why so many people these days opt only for pleasure and eschew love: they want loose relationships, the pleasures of companionship without any binding commitment, so that if and when difficulties loom ahead or sorrows arise, they can cut free from the relationship and seek out some other source of comfort and pleasure that seems to promise a measure of security -- for a time, at least. Yes, earthly love and family life, though they are such deep and essential joys for us, can also bring their own quite particular sorrows and trials: what parents, for example, can escape worrying about their children’s ‘health, wealth, and happiness’, and those we love dearest can -- at times -- hurt us the deepest. Our work also -- so necessary for our fulfilment both as human and personal beings – rarely offers us more than occasional success and limited satisfaction, while such blessings can be, these days, too often accompanied by concerns about business competition and the ever-present possibility of personal failure and/or redundancy. And again, our appreciation of and delight in truth and beauty cries out to be shared with an appropriate companion who is not always easy to find.
The joy of a good conscience, however, is not in any way connected with sorrow and is therefore, joy of a far superior kind; moreover, it leads to another unsuspected joy which can also be ours: that is, a share in God’s eternal happiness which totally transcends all earth’s joys. But how can it come about that we, who know ourselves to be so weak and fragile, are yet capable of receiving and appreciating something of infinite and eternal happiness? Despite all the outstanding advances of modern scientific thinking and industrial techniques, we still can hardly begin to conceive the immensity of the physical universe that everywhere surrounds us, while the overwhelming majority of its ‘contents’ are almost totally unknown to us … we can only guess at what we think ‘must’ be there … somewhere, somehow!! How then can our poor hearts and minds expand so as to be able to accept, appreciate, and respond to the transcendent, spiritual fullness of Divine Beatitude which can be ours to share in Jesus? The Psalmist (81:10) gives us the answer:
I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide;
How shall we open wide our mouth? Listen again to the Psalmist (119:32):
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart.
So that is, indeed, the way we can prepare ourselves to receive the divine happiness that can be ours: to open wide our mouth by walking, indeed by running, in the way of God’s commandments; and, as we do so, He gradually enlarges our hearts so that He might subsequently fill them with the riches of His blessings:
I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it! (Psalm 81:10)
It has often been derisively objected against the teaching of eternal happiness, that it must be very boring. ‘Not that happiness itself is boring’, such people would add, ‘but surely eternal, everlasting, happiness must become, eventually, boring’. Let me counter such a remark with a question: could eternal, everlasting, pain be found boring? Of course not! … real pain does not allow anyone sufficient respite ever to think they might be bored! The cry ‘I am bored’ is a luxurious expression -- neither logical nor purposeful -- of a spoiled child, or of an idle adult, indulging his or her self-love. And yet, its derivative ‘eternal life must be boring’ does induce many, too content with the things of this world, to put aside any thought of heaven, and it does help to explain why the Church’s teaching on, and Jesus’ promise of, heaven means so little to unthinking souls.
Therefore I would like to help you do a little thinking about heaven now: not intellectual work, so much as considering, going over, experiences that probably most of you have known several times in your life.
I want you to simply try to call to mind one of the happiest experiences of your life. Do you remember how quickly the time passed by, then? … You were so happy it seemed to last but a moment, though hours, days, or perhaps even years could be a truer measure of the time involved. Now that gives us a key to the nature of heavenly happiness! For even though time is earthly -- an essential part and parcel of creation where things are always changing -- nevertheless, there are occasions, even here on earth, when time seems to fade away and almost disappear as great happiness floods and fills our mind and heart. How utterly irrelevant then is any question of ‘boredom’ with regard to eternity where there can be no time! Eternity is not endless time, eternity is timeless: time has no meaning for, no reality in, heaven, before God’s very Presence. St. Peter tells us this in a pictorial way in his second letter:
Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)
Therefore for those who are called and being led by the Holy Spirit to share with Jesus in the blessedness of God’s heavenly and eternal Kingdom, time will – ultimately -- be totally obliterated by the influx of heavenly and divine joy. In heaven time is, quite literally, nothing: not only because we won’t notice it, but because it has no being, no reality in itself; and, most certainly, it has no place whatsoever in the infinite bliss of God to which we are invited in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.
People of God: each one of you has been richly endowed by God and each one of you is unreservedly called, and seriously offered the chance, to share in God’s eternal blessedness. Don’t think little of the gifts with which you have been endowed, don’t be fool enough now – or finally, wicked enough -- to ignore a happiness which can transfigure your whole being, making you eternally fulfilled and happy beyond all imagining! It can, most assuredly, be yours in Jesus. Therefore, let Him lead you now -- in the Church and by His Holy Spirit -- so as to be able, ultimately, to enter with Him into the presence of the Father Who, Jesus assures you, will greet you with those sublimely fulfilling words:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord!