33rd SUNDAY Year A
Here is a story about payday when we take a risk, and disappointment when we don’t. The parable appeals to capitalists, financial advisers and career coaches: turn your money into profit and your talents into self-improvement. Jesus’ listeners were neither capitalists nor self-improvement devotees. They were mostly poor peasants who wouldn’t have had a penny to spare. The parable would not have excited them in the least as it appeared to confirm their bitter experience of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. If God gives his blessing to that dynamic, who needs God?
I wonder about the servant who out of fear buried the single talent he was given. People often find themselves unable to keep up with those in the fast lane. When it comes to our own lives, what is the level of risk we are prepared to take to avoid ending up in the dark like he did? The darkness of failure can pull us down to the depths, or it can be the catalyst that leads us to the light of personal insight and wisdom – real education and freedom. The servant who buried the talent was playing safe. He wasn’t a risk-taker. He ended in darkness. Wisdom and insight are learned not in the university but in the “school of hard knocks”, through handling the setbacks of our lives on a day by day basis. What did I learn from an unfavourable thing that happened to me?
Many today appear no longer to fear the fires of hell; they assume that a God of love would not condemn anyone to such a fate. On the other hand, judging by the large and growing number of people who go to church less and less, an awful lot of folk seem reluctant to commit to entering the kingdom of God. Commitment puts the brakes on. It implies a price to be paid – in terms of time, talent, treasure and other ways. Jesus tells us that the kingdom is like a seed growing by itself in the soil, and given to us free, gratis and for nothing. But, paradoxically, its coming “demands utter commitment” writes Gerhard Lohfink. Jesus of Nazareth, 120.
Christ’s parables are about hope, not worldly expectations. The story of the talents teaches that the “master’s happiness” we are destined to enter and enjoy is not material reward but the life “of knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” – John 17: 3. Such an encounter offers a peace and joy that transforms. A priest friend, now long since dead, was an alcoholic and presented himself at AA meetings for many years. He spoke about a sense of peace that settled in his soul when he handed over the management of his addiction to “a higher power.” Unlike the servant with the one talent, this man let go of his fears and shared the fruits of his peace and sobriety with others. What one quality do I have that I have not used for the benefit of others? And why?
Fr QQ – 16/11/2023