Today’s parable was relatively long and detailed with special emphasis being given to the lot of the servant who received one talent and did nothing with it. Some people tend to think that what he did with the one talent is irrelevant because he was unfairly, if not unjustly, treated from the beginning by being given only one talent while others had more given them; and so, feeling sorry for this servant who “received only one talent”, they harbour a kind of grudge against the master of those servants and don’t really seek to learn anything from the parable.
However, we should take care not to project our own psychological make-up and/or complications onto the parable but rather just try, first of all, to appreciate how much a talent was worth in those times long-ago. One talent was equivalent to 6000 denarii, and a man and his family could live adequately for one day at the cost of 2 denarii. So you see that the man who received “only one talent” was actually entrusted with a sum sufficient to provide a suitable living for himself and his family for over 8 years!
People of God, let us have nothing to do with prevalent greed and self-love which leads many to cry foul where some seem to have more than others! All of us have, indeed, been most generously endowed by God for the task of bringing forth fruit for eternal life in the course of our earthly pilgrimage.
Let us now, therefore, ask our heavenly Father for wisdom – personified as ‘the worthy wife’ in our first reading – and then calmly turn our attention to the two faithful servants so as to learn from their experiences.
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 feel glad, happy for and happy with those servants. If we concentrate more directly on 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” implies the joy, the peace, the happiness of a good conscience. “I will give you great responsibilities” foresees one being able to use one’s talents and abilities to the full, which is what we call the fulfilment of our being. However, even so great a natural happiness is not able to dominate 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, a personal share in 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.
Next, let us, for just a few moments, compare those three sorts of happiness, and you will realise how wonderful is that invitation to enter into the master’s joy. Surely, we have all experienced at times some of the many and varied innocent joys and deep happiness that can result from human endeavour and life in human society: sometimes we have the joys of success and achievement; we treasure the happiness of love and family; we can appreciate too the joys of beauty recognized or of truth known and appreciated. Many of these earthly types of joy and happiness do indeed delight us and give us a sense of deep fulfilment; and yet, they are also indirectly connected with sorrow and sadness. There is a famous song, “Plaisirs d’Amour” which tells of the joys of love which swiftly pass and of its pains and sorrows which endure. That might be a somewhat mawkish and poetic appreciation, but, nevertheless, we all aware, that, in this world, human love is inevitably accompanied by its own particular sorrows. That is why so many modern people opt only for pleasure and try to avoid love: they want just loose relationships for pleasure without any binding commitment, so that if and when too much sorrow looms ahead, they can break the relationship and take up another source of comfort and pleasure that promises less trouble or greater satisfaction. Yes, earthly love and family life, though they are such deep and indeed necessary joys for most, nevertheless, they also bring with them -- due to our sinfulness -- their own particular and inescapable sorrows. Moreover, our work, at best, only offers us limited successes, and, of course, those short periods of apparent fulfilment can be quickly obscured by the shadow of competition and/or soured by occasional threats such as short time or redundancy.
The joy of a good conscience, however, is not in any way connected with sorrow and is therefore joy of a superior kind; moreover, it leads to another unsuspected joy which can 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 sinfully weak and fragile, are capable of receiving and appreciating, infinite, eternal, happiness? Despite all the outstanding advances of modern scientific thinking and technological ingenuity and expertise, we cannot even imagine, let alone conceive, the immensity, variety, and beauty of the universe God has created and sustains: how then can our poor hearts be expanded so as to be able to accept a fullness corresponding to His infinite beatitude in which are promised a share?
The Psalmist (Psalm 81:10) gives the answer to our question:
I am the LORD your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide.
How are we to open wide our mouth? Listen to the Psalmist (Psalm 119:32) once again:
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart.
So that is the way we can prepare ourselves to receive the divine happiness that can be ours: we open wide our mouth by walking, indeed by running, in the way of God’s commandments; and He then 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 is often objected against the very thought of eternal happiness, that it must be extremely boring. ‘Not that happiness itself is boring’, such people would add, ‘but surely eternal -- that is everlasting, unchanging -- happiness must become boring’. Let me counter such a remark with a question. Could eternal pain be boring? Of course not, the pain would not allow us sufficient respite ever to think we were bored! The thought of being bored in heaven is a foolish thought; and yet, though not logical, it does, nonetheless, lead many to put aside any positive thoughts of heaven, it does explain why the promise of heaven means so little to so many unthinking souls. Therefore, I would just like to help you think a little about heaven now: not so much intellectual thinking as considering an experience that probably most of you have known several times in life.
I want you to just try to recall the happiest moments of your life. Do you remember how short the time seemed? You were so happy it seemed only a moment, even though it might have been hours, days, even years. Now that gives us the key to heavenly happiness, for even though time is earthly, part and parcel of creation where things are always changing, nevertheless, there are occasions -- yes, even here on earth -- when time seems to stop or disappear, melt, in the presence of happiness. How much more then is the question of time utterly irrelevant in eternity where there can be no time! Eternity is not endless time, eternity is timeless; time has no meaning, there is nothing to be measured by time, in heaven before God’s Presence. St. Peter tells us something of this in a pictorial way in his second letter (2 Peter 3:8):
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.
Therefore, for those who are called to share, with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, in God’s blessedness in heaven, time will be totally obliterated by transcendent joy flooding their being. Think again, People of God! You have had plenty of experience even here on earth, which is, so to speak, a time-zone: if you are bored or weary, anxious or worried, time drags ever so slowly; and yet, when you are happy it flies! Therefore, even here on earth time is relative. Now, heaven is a time-free zone: that is, in heaven time is totally irrelevant, not only because we won’t notice it, but because it has no being, no function, in the bliss of God to which we are invited in Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
People of God: each one of you has been given much by God. Each and every one of us is called, offered the chance, to share in God’s eternal blessedness, but for that we need the whole Gospel, not a Gospel shortened by the exclusion or omission of what some people may think is ‘not nice’ to hear. Pieces are being ‘ear marked’ for omission these days because they might cause hurt, offence, even harm (would you believe it, the Gospel causing harm!! Harm for what sort of Catholics?). Today’s Gospel is one where verses 22-30 are ‘ear-marked’ as mentioned. We have heard the Gospel in full today, let us give a little particular attention to what might have been legitimately (!) or perhaps even preferably (?) for some people, omitted:
Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant, and gathering where you did not scatter, so (I was afraid).
What does it mean in Jesus’ parable that the one who originally received 5 talents made another 5 and the one who received 2 made another 2? In accordance with recent Gospel readings we can interpret that of the two commands: love of God and love of neighbour. Each of us receives according to the measure of God’s gift, faith, that is love of God; and we have to put that gift to profitable work, by progressing in and learning to live out, love of our neighbour as the fruit of our co-operation with God’s grace. We do not have to seek out extraordinary forms of behaviour in order to do this, we simply need to follow St. Paul’s teaching (1 Thessalonians 4:9–12 NLT):
We don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God Himself has taught you to love one another. Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.
Such a life of charity and simple edification is not beyond anyone’s capacity, so richly have all of us been endowed. Those endowed with the one talent -- love of God in the faith of Jesus -- are called, as living members of Mother Church, to thereby progress to love of neighbour as St. Paul indicates. Called that is, by Jesus Himself, Who -- though He Personally only sowed the seed of His Gospel in Palestine for the Jews -- does indeed, like the master returned from a long journey, expect His Church, through her members, including you and I, to proclaim His Gospel throughout the whole world and to all mankind by our growth in love of neighbour, and thereby bring forth copious fruit for God’s glory and the salvation of all those of good will who will respond to Mother Church’s proclamation of Jesus’ Gospel. Those who will not thus progress in love of God to love of neighbour will have no excuse, and Jesus’ final words will ultimately be found to be infallibly true despite perhaps having being considered ‘not nice’ and ‘better-to-be-omitted’ by certain modern-day disciples of Jesus, and not-so-humble servants of Mother Church.
Don’t think little of your gifts, People of God, be they 5, 2, or 1 talents’ worth, they are more than ample for all your needs. Don’t be foolish enough now -- and ultimately wicked enough -- to ignore a happiness which can transfigure your whole being and help transform our world, making you eternally fulfilled and happy beyond all imagining! It can be yours in Jesus: let Him lead you, in His Church, by His Holy Spirit, to live and work for the glory of the Father, in Whose presence Jesus promises, you will be greeted by those most memorable 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!