Thirty-third Sunday, Year (A)
What was the ‘talent’ mentioned in Our Lord’s parable?
It was a measure of weight used, in our case, for silver; and one talent of silver was a LOT of money ... those servants entrusted with three or five were effectively millionaires.
Looking at the three servants we can make the following observation: the third servant had no love for his master. His comrades did respect their master, and not only did they feel obliged to use his goods well, but they also wanted to live up to his expectations of them, and that they did, both making one hundred percent profit for him. The master’s return (hinting a Jesus’ second coming) was a very fulfilling and rewarding experience for those and for their well-pleased master.
Not so, however, for the fellow who received the one talent of silver ... remember, that was still a very sizeable amount of money ... he just wanted to secure the money as quickly and as easily as possible, and then be able to forget altogether about the absent master and his affairs, and get on with living his own life as best he could.
Yet more surprising, however, was his attitude to the master when he had come back and expressed his dissatisfaction with the bald return of his one talent! This servant did not acknowledge any fault at all, in fact, he blamed the master himself, for having made, so he said, him so afraid:
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ (Matthew 25:24–25)
The other two servants, however, had not found the master such a fear-inspiring man! Far from it, they wanted to show gratitude to him for having trusted them!
It would seem that the third servant wanted – above all – to be safe from blame. And whoever might threaten his delightful shell of self-satisfaction he would attack: ‘Who can blame me for being frightened? It was you who made me frightened.’
Dear People of God, this parable character, servant no. 3 let us call him, can be instructive for us. He sits on his talent in the parable, and in real parish life too many parishioners, generally regarded as ‘good Catholics’, sit on their faith: they have got the faith, they are intent on keeping the faith, and with that they are satisfied, despite so many words of Scripture, despite exhortations by Mother Church, to bring forth fruit for Jesus. There are, indeed, many, many, ways of bringing forth fruit for Jesus, even in the secret depths of our own heart ... but for all of them we do have to do one thing: we have work on, work with, develop, deepen our faith, we cannot just sit on it.
Why might too many choose to just sit on their faith? Let us learn from our parable: because that way they like to think that they cannot be blamed by anyone, and they can approve themselves: they have kept the faith.
Let us look back again to servant no. 3: he had a grudge against the master going off on a long journey because it meant that he had been burdened with a duty to take care of some of his master’s possessions. Unlike the other two servants whose love and/or respect for their master made them pleased, first of all to see the esteem he had for them by trusting them with so much of his possessions, and secondly, most willing to show their gratitude to him in return by careful stewardship.
Now, it was that responsibility before, being made answerable to, his journeying master, whom he had never learnt to like or admire, that servant no. 3 deeply resented and feared, and that is why he almost viciously attacked the returned master as we have heard:
Master, I knew you were a demanding person, so out of fear I went off and buried your talent.
Yes, Catholics who simply sit on their faith fear God, the Lord Who has promised to return, but because they, like servant no.3, have not opened up their hearts to their Lord and Master, they fear Him in the wrong way: not with a reverential fear that draws them to Him, but with a servile fear of punishment and loss which would push them from Him.
Moreover, together with servant 3, they may also possibly have a deep grudge against the absent Lord, because they imagine Him to have left them burdened with an unwanted responsibility.
The promise of eternal, heavenly life, a blissful life of self-giving love, they find wonderful, but they hate being saddled now with a responsibility to earn such a blessing. RESPONSIBILITY they want as little-of as possible and so they sit on their faith, holding it tight to themselves, refusing to allow it draw them to God or to their neighbour.
Dear People of God, there is a tendency to preach a Jesus of Whom people -- including unbelievers -- want to hear, so that they can remain untroubled, challenge free; and thus, authentic aspects of Jesus tend to be omitted and ignored. Today we had the alternative Gospel which omitted the following words of Our Lord:
Now then, take the one talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
Dear People, Jesus was not on earth, and is not now in heaven, a milk and water personality wanting to become popular; He is eternally God and Man, Who died a most horrific death to save all those – and only those – who would believe in Him and obey His Gospel of Good News, proclaimed in and by His Church to and for all mankind.