by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
"It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one - to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money.
"After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bring the additional five. He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more. His master said 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.' Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.' His master said 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.' 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. His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
"Now then! Take the 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. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"
The church serves up another parable from Jesus that is filled with meaning and packs his usual punch. A man goes on a journey and entrusts his possessions to his servants, wanting them to invest what he has granted them and provide an accounting upon his return.
It is too easy to overlook a critical word from the first sentence, "entrust." When we entrust something to another, it suggests that that something is precious and dear to us. Consequently, we are inclined to entrust our prized possessions to someone we trust thoroughly, convinced they will use them appropriately and treat them with due respect.
We know from the Gospels that Jesus did not normally concern himself with money. He lived an enormously humble and simple life. He placed the focus of his ministry on teaching, serving, and loving people, and on accomplishing the will of his heavenly Father. So, we can be quite sure that Jesus is not really discussing money in this parable, but other things God has entrusted to us as his servants.
First of all, think of the people in your life - family, friends, follow students, co-workers, teammates. They are God's possessions whom he has entrusted to you. He wants you to see them as precious gifts to be cherished and treated with respect and dignity. Ponder as well the great gift of your faith in Christ. We are challenged to invest our faith, that is, to hold it dear, to put it into practice and to nourish it with study and prayer. How about the church, funded by the Lord and guided by the Holy Spirit? Is is a privilege to participate in the mission of the church. The Lord wants us to treat her with respect and bu8ild her up in love.
Mindful of God's precious gifts, how am I using them? Am I being a good steward of these gifts? Am I investing them well?
The Gospel gives three reasons for failing to invest our gifts properly - fear, wickedness and laziness. The one servant who fails to invest and indeed buries what was given to him uses fear for his excuse. When we let fear reign in our hearts, we get paralyzed. We fear failure, not being good enough, not being appreciated for our efforts and not having all the skills needed to carry out a project. What fears are welling up in your heart these days?
Jesus knows us well. How often does Jesus say to his disciples, "It is I. Be not afraid." In essence, Jesus says to us: "If you know me, glimpse the depth of my love for you, comprehend that I am by your side and trust that I never ask anyone to do anything that I do not promise an abundance of grace to accomplish, then fear need not reign in your heart."
The other two reasons are given by Jesus with a certain level of intensity: "You wicked, lazy servant." A wicked servant might be using the gifts entrusted by God for completely selfish gain. Perhaps he or she is exercising leadership from a place of anger and hurting constantly. Maybe the wicked servant is taking advantage of others through dishonest measured.
The third reason offered in the Gospel for failing to invest fittingly God's prized possessions is laziness. A lazy servant makes no effort at all or makes a very feeble effort because they are not willing to put forth the energy and sacrifice needed to carry out a demanding task. It could also stem from an inordinate desire for the comfort of bed or the endless entertainment flowing from the computer of TV that actually sucks life out of us and robs us of the joy of living for others and serving our heavenly Father.
The invitation from Christ today is to grasp more fully the truth that God has entrusted to all of us a wide variety of his precious possessions. This process begins with seeing and appreciating these precious gifts. It proceeds with cherishing them and living with profound gratitude. The process continues with a commitment to invest them generously and sacrificially that they may bear fruit.