33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
November 14, 2020
Readings: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6;
Matthew 25:14-30 https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/111520.cfm
Does anyone know what a “talent” is? It’s a unit of money, a huge unit of money, in the ancient world of Jesus’ time. It’s so big that a working class person may only hope to earn 1 talent in an entire lifetime. So the idea of being given 1 talent, nevermind 2 or 5, all at once is quite an amazing sum. It’s like winning the lottery.
When Jesus tells this parable to a crowd before him, he’s saying something like this: “imagine working for someone so generous and trusting that she pays you up front an enormous sum of money, and asks you to keep it safe and use it as she would.” Imagine being trusted with so much?
This is like you and me. We start off life as if we’ve won the lottery!
We are all so very gifted – each of us has unique abilities and great
potential. We have our minds, our bodies, our social connections with
others, our talents for art, or mathematics, for music, or creativity and
imagination, for caring, for baking, for building and making people laugh.
God is that generous with us. Look around…behold the gifts. Really, look around at all the gifts the people around you possess!
Most of all we have the freedom to use these gifts however we like. God trusts us that much!
But our freedom is also the hardest part about it. Clearly we can use our gifts for good or evil. We can choose to use our gifts selfishly or generously.
But in this parable the master is not as concerned with that. Perhaps because it is obvious that one should not do evil.
Notice that the servant whom the master admonishes as ‘wicked’ is the one who simply did nothing with his talent. He didn’t spend it on himself; he actually spent it on nobody. Nor did he invest it. He buried it in the ground.
Why did he do that? Anyone…? FEAR
He said, “out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.”
See, it wasn’t malice or selfishness, but FEAR.
Fear PARALYZED this servant from doing anything good, anything that would produce more fruit.
What is worse, is that he feared his master. He made all kinds of assumptions about his master. He assumes the master is “demanding” and “harvested where he did not plant”. This image of the master is false.
After all, the master had trusted him with so much! That was an act of faith! Of respect and love! – to say ‘I’m going on a long trip. I leave everything that is mine in your hands til I return’. He treated that servant like flesh and blood, not as an ‘employee’.
But somehow the servant never reflected on this. Never responded to this love.
Perhaps he never beheld just how special he was in the master’s eyes. So an
imagined fear paralyzed him from doing anything but keep things just the same, bury the money, take no risks, invest nothing, do no good.
THAT, in the master’s eyes, was wicked and lazy. Why? It’s taking love and
burying it in the ground. It’s taking gift and not sharing it.
The kind of investment this parable seems to lead us to, is the investment of love.
Love is the only thing that when shared always expands, grows, and does more
This is why, when people get into a spirituality of purely private personal piety and prayer, when their whole religious project is just about avoiding sin, and it does not move them outwards to love, towards community, to invest in other people – it rings hollow. Like St. Paul says, without love faith is like “a resounding gong or clanging symbol” (1 Corinthians 13:1) – a discordant noise, not the melody of the divine.
How do you invest your talents? – and you have many!
Our lives can be very ordinary, but the ordinary is blessed. It is in our daily life that we have the opportunity to invest our talents, to use them to love others.
Look at our first reading from the book of Proverbs: spinning wool, mending clothes, giving to the neighbor in need, offering hospitality. These are investments that lead to holiness.
I look around the St. Anselm’s community to the people making ordinary and important investments of love. Just this week…
• a dozen people came and cleaned the church on Wednesday after
• a team worked on improving the technology for the live stream,
• another group worked to set up a good outdoor mass arrangement
for the winter months ahead,
• people have come and made anonymous donations,
• the St. Vincent de Paul group works on serving the poor,
• a person experiencing loss was counseled by a friend,
• someone having surgery was prayed for,
• the accounting books were reconciled,
• several people led prayer – rosary, stations of the cross with others,
• religious education is restarting for our children because of a number
of people who stepped forward to help.
Holy people, entrusted with many talents, investing them, for a return of love.
There is room for many more of us to come forward.
What can hold us back?
Like that one servant who buried his talent, FEAR can paralyze us too. There’s that voice of fear that sometimes grips us…
• I don’t have anything to offer
• She can do things so much better than me, I’ll be embarrassed
• I’m not as articulate as he is
• I don’t know if they will like me, so I better not go
• What if I make a mistake?
Notice how some of these voices are untrue? Are based on what-ifs? Tend to lead us to be alone?
DO NOT ENTERTAIN YOUR FEARS. They usually lead away from God.
I conclude with some words of wisdom from the fourth century theologian and bishop, St. Augustine:
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to
hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has
ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others. That is what love looks like.” –
(St. Augustine, Confessions)
Love looks like our St. Anselm’s community, with more people bringing their
talents to the table, making an investment of love, so that God’s freeing, healing,
joyful love GROWS in this corner of God’s earth.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)