by Fr. Tommy Lane
There is no time like the present. Now is the important time. Now is the time, to use the words of Jesus in the Gospel parable (Matt 25:14-30), when we are either good and faithful servants or we are wicked and lazy servants. That future judgment, good and faithful or wicked and lazy, all depends on now, on how we serve now. The future reward, to use the words of Jesus in today’s parable, “Come share your master’s joy” or “throw this useless servant into the darkness outside” depends on how we serve now.
The Parable of the Talents taught by Jesus is urging us to be ready for the master’s return. Jesus is that master who went on a journey when he ascended to heaven. After a long time the master, Jesus, will return which is either at the moment of our death or at his Second Coming. Whenever he comes again we will stand before him with our talents. The talents were not distributed to each servant equally in the parable. One servant received five talents, one received two talents, and one servant received one talent. Why? Jesus said they were distributed to each according to his ability. Therefore each servant received just the right number of talents to match his ability; not too many in order that talents would not go to waste unused, and not too few in order that the servant would not be frustrated with his untapped abilities. The first two servants produced a different number of talents but there is no differentiation in the words spoken by the master to the one who produced five talents and the one who produced two talents. The master says exactly the same thing to the servant who produced five talents and to the one who produced two talents,
“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.”
There is not even one word different in the response of the master to the servants even though one had produced three talents more than the other. Why? They had both been equally diligent according to their own ability. The reward they receive is equal because they have been equally conscientious although they produced different talents.
Too bad that the third servant was wicked and lazy and did nothing and suffered the consequences. It wasn’t that he was terribly immoral. His sins were sins of omission rather than sins of commission. It was what he should have done and did not that was his sin. He had also received a talent according to his ability. Presumably then we would have expected him to have made one talent according to his ability. But he was not diligent and had no progress to show his master at his return. He is the complete opposite to the worthy wife in the first reading from Proverbs 31, the wife whose value is beyond pearls. She is like the first two servants in the parable, good and faithful. The reading gives a list of her good works but what we heard is only an excerpt of a much longer passage listing even more of her good works. She seems like a servant who received ten talents and made ten more talents. It is her diligence according to her ability that has ensured she is read together with the Parable of the Talents today.
Now is the important time. Now is the time, to use the words of Jesus in the Gospel parable, when we are either good and faithful servants or are wicked and lazy servants. The Lord does not give us a blueprint for every hour of every day just as the servants in the parable were not told what to do with their talents. But the Lord expects diligence in using the gifts we have received. It is up to us to figure out what is best with what we have received. We are not expected to produce the same fruit as our neighbor, what we are expected is to produce fruit for the kingdom. God expects us to be enterprising and entrepreneurial for the kingdom. We are not to waste time trying to figure out when the Second Coming of Jesus will be, as we heard Paul reminding the Thessalonians in the second reading (1 Thes 5:1-6). Yet not knowing when Jesus will come again is not an excuse to do nothing as Paul also reminds the Thessalonians when he writes, “let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” Now is an exciting time. God has given us talents. He trusts us how to use them. We get to figure out and decide how best to use our talents for the kingdom.
The parable also wants us to know that what we have received from God is not something small but is gigantic. A talent as well as being a unit of weight, was also currency, and its value was 6,000 day’s wages, twenty years wages. Clearly then the master is entrusting the servants with a huge sum of money. The servants are receiving something that is gigantic in their times. What God gives us is equally colossal and priceless. We have received so much from God that we take for granted. Because the sum is so huge Pope Benedict XVI says the talents refers not just to our natural abilities and qualities but are the riches Jesus gives us. Pope Benedict lists these talents or riches as the Word of God, Baptism, prayer, forgiveness, the Eucharist, the Kingdom which is God himself present and alive in our midst. The third servant buried his treasure because he had a wrong attitude to God; he described God as a hard taskmaster. You would think, listening to his description of God, that God was like Pharaoh commanding bricks to be made with no straw. He did not have a relationship with God; in the parable we read that he even was afraid of God. Pope Benedict says this happens when after receiving Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation people subsequently bury these gifts beneath a blanket of prejudice, beneath a false image of God that paralyzes.
Here on this campus we could say that our theology degrees are talents given by God. Every year we are reminded that this is a most privileged education the Church offers us. Most of us will probably never again have the same amount of time to study theology as we do while here. Now is a precious time not to be wasted. Surely above all it is in the lives of the saints that we can see the talents being doubled, and in the case of St. Thérèse of Lisieux through her study of Sacred Scripture:
By Thérèse’s own admission, we know that the Scriptures became her daily food during the hours of mental prayer and spiritual reading in Carmel. Literally every page of the Story of a Soul, the General Correspondence, and Her Last Conversations contains either a direct quote from the Sacred Scriptures or is, at least, filled with thoughts and sentiments of the inspired texts……All of Thérèse’s writings reveal that she had acquired a keen intellectual penetration of the Old and New Testaments. Considering the sad neglect of the inspired text common in her day, her knowledge of the Word of God was admirable and, in fact, formidable. (The Trial of Faith of Saint Therese of Lisieux p121)
Now is an important time, now is an exciting time. The Lord does not give us a blueprint for every hour of every day but the Lord expects diligence in using the gifts natural, spiritual and academic, theological that we have received. It is up to us to figure how best to use with what we have received. If, God forbid, we have buried a talent, now is the time to dig it up so that we can hear the Lord say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share your master’s joy.”
More homilies for the Thirty-Third Sunday Year A