Faith, Fellowship and Fun

November 15: Matthew 25:14-30 pdf version here
Matt. 25:14  Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Jesus’ message is clear: No to conservatism, Yes to creativity, No to a sterile life, Yes to an active response to God. No to an obsession with security, Yes to a risky effort to change the world. No to a faith buried in conformity, Yes to a committed following of Jesus.
The third servant doesn’t understand what active creative faithfulness is. If we never feel called to follow Christ beyond what we have always been taught and instructed to do, then we need to learn the active creative, and risky faithfulness that the parable shows us.
Religion is often seen as a system of beliefs and practices that protect us from God, but don’t help us to live creatively. That kind of religion leads to a sad, sterile life devoted to safeguarding our relationship with God- a life without joy or vitality.
The virtues we need to develop in today’s Church are not “prudence’, ‘conformity’, ‘resignation’, ‘faithfulness to the past’. The virtues we need are ‘courage’, ‘the ability to risk’, ‘creative searching’, ‘listening to the Spirit’ who makes everything new. Taking risks is not an easy path to follow for an institution, including the Church, to follow. But it is the only path to follow if we want to pass on the Christian experience in a world that has changed radically.
Something is wrong in the Church if its own security is more important to us than a creative and risky search for new ways to communicate the spirit of the gospel and Christian hope to today’s men and women.
True faithfulness is not lived in passivity and inertia, but in the vitality and courage of those who try to hear God’s call in our own time.

JOSÉ A PAGOLA-The Way Opened up by Jesus
As with last week, is good to bear in mind that a single parable will never give us all we need to keep in mind, but only one or two aspects. Thus certain questions such as the harshness of the boss are, perhaps, not relevant, because the bottom line here is we are each responsible for our response to grace.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY What does God desire of us? This simple question is perhaps not asked frequently enough!
It can be made quite personal: what does God want of me, from me?
In the end, the answer has to be—in the words of the song—“all that I am,” precisely because God loves all that I am.
This will mean allowing ourselves to be loved.
It will also mean responding with my whole self,
including all the gifts of body, mind and soul that God has bestowed upon me.
In the end, God does hope that we may be and become our true selves.
Nothing less is adequate to God’s own love for us.

In the Parable of the Talents a man leaves his servants certain sums of money as he heads away on a long journey. The idea is that they should use his money wisely so that the master gets a good return for his investment. The term ‘talent’ refers to the largest unit of currency of the time and is equivalent to about a quarter of a million euro today. Two of the servants manage to double the money while the third more or less opts out by simply hiding it in the ground. On his return the master commends the first two servants warmly for their action. While we might him to be disappointed with the third what we get is a tirade as he turns on this hapless individual calling him wicked, lazy and good for nothing. The by now familiar pattern of the shock aspect of the parable confronts us again. Jesus wants us to realise that the kingdom is about using our talents, not hiding them. It is about being out there and using our God-given gifts to promote the kingdom that Jesus has proclaimed.

How often we hear phrases like ‘I am a good person. I do no one any harm.’ This is the thinking that Jesus challenges today. It is a negative response to our calling which in the parable is like an adventure that involves taking risks. As the year comes an end, perhaps we could ask ourselves in what way have we used our gifts for the sake of the kingdom?

SEAN GOAN- Let the Reader Understand

  1. A gift given in love, is given to be enjoyed, treasured, and used. Through fear, one servant failed to recognise the loving trust being shown to him and buried the talent. When have you found that overcoming fear helped you to make the most of opportunities in life?
  2. On the level of our own personal life, faith is not given to us to be locked away, but to be “traded” with.  We trade with it when we believe in its value, trust it, and use it, bringing it into the experiences we have in daily life.    Can you recall times when relying on your faith has brought you rewards?
  3. Likewise with our own personal gifts and talents.   We can fall into the trap of seeing these as our personal possession so that we can do with them as we like, rather than share them as gifts so that they can be multiplied. What is your experience of hoarding or sharing your own gifts?    When did you feel most alive?
  4. In the current lockdown it is easy for us to retreat into our ‘cocoon’ and isolate ourselves from others. Perhaps it is also an opportunity for us to be inventive and imaginative in finding new ways of using our talents. What is your experience?
  5. Pope Francis in his letter The Joy of the Gospel wrote, “I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities. …..The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters.” EG (33) How is your parish responding to this call?

This Sunday’s passage continues last Sunday’s. It too is a long parable telling us “what the kingdom of heaven is like”, i.e. “what it is like” to experience grace coming into our world.
Most people find this parable difficult because of the master’s seemingly exaggerated anger; also he is very hard on the third servant who was already less gifted than the others. If this is “what the kingdom of heaven is like”, then it is “bad news” indeed.
We must find an interpretation  therefore which is both faithful to the text and also brings “the good news of the kingdom” to all, but in particular to the “little ones” (those with “only one talent”) of our communities.
The key to such an interpretation is to remember Jesus’ situation when he gave this teaching. As with last week’s passage, he was at the end of his public ministry, frustrated at the hardness of heart of the leaders of the people. The Mosaic tradition had taught generosity of spirit and compassion for the oppressed; the leaders had let this glorious tradition become their personal possession, an excuse for meanness and exclusiveness, a way of protecting their positions of privilege. Jesus is highly indignant at what they have done with God’s gift – rightly so.
The parable then is giving two messages.
- To those who have been made to feel excluded from the kingdom (“tax collectors and prostitutes”) Jesus brings the “good news” that this is totally against God’s will.  In fact God is very angry that they are being  excluded.
- To his disciples he issues a stern warning: do not fall prey to a similar narrow mindedness. The history of the Church (like our individual stories) tells us how right he was to warn them. We all fall into the trap of seeing our talents as our personal possession that we can do what we like with. God’s will is that we see them as gifts to be shared so that they can be multiplied.
The parable is not all negative. It shows another possibility – the first two servants, trusting and free spirited,  and experiencing abundance. We celebrate people who have followed that path, communities too and social moments.

MICHEL DE VERTEUIL - Lectio Divina on the Sunday Gospels