11-19-2017 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov 20, 2017
33rd Sunday in OT / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
We have the opportunity this Sunday to reflect upon the wonderful parable of the talents—which tells us something important about God and about ourselves. The story is familiar to us. A rich man (Jesus) "entrusts his wealth" (the divine life) to his servants (you and me), and he goes on a journey. Each servant is given an amount that corresponds to his ability: the first receives five talents; the second, two; and the third, one. While the rich man is away, the one who received five talents makes five more; and the one who receives two talents makes two more. But the servant who received one talent buried it in the ground. When the rich man returns, he praises the first two servants, but he is angry with third, who buried his talent—and he is cast into the darkness.
Jesus oftentimes uses imagery from rural, everyday life Palestine. But Jesus also uses images from business, as he does here.
The business model is one of investment—risk—return. The parable tells us that this business model can be applied to the spiritual life. We call this model "The Law of the Gift," a fundamental principle in the spiritual life. In its simplest form, it means this: the life of God within us, the divine life, increases only to the extent that we share it.
Let me expand on that. We are made in the image of God; we are made for "self-giving" love, not "self-getting" love. And what do we give? We give what God gave us: our minds, our hearts, our abilities. When we use these gifts for others, they return to us a hundredfold. That is the Law of Gift—a fundamental truth of Christianity.
Think of the parable. The servant with 5 talents invested them—gave them up—with some risk, but the risk paid off: he got five more (he gave the talents away, but he didn’t lose anything!). The one with 2 talents invested both, with some risk, and got 2 more.
But the servant with one talent selfishly kept it to himself—no risk, no gain, and he lost the little he had. (Like putting your money, your gifts, under the mattress.)
So how can we apply this parable to our life? Think about your talents and gifts: I’m a good teacher, I’m a good plumber, I’m a good listener, I’m a good lawyer, I’m a good builder, I’m a good investor, I’m a good mom or a good dad or grandparent, etc. We all have many gifts! I like to think we all possess the gift of love—and when we give our love away, we never lose it. It always comes back to us a hundred-fold.
But how about the gift of faith? The gift of faith grows when I take a risk and share it (evangelization). I can hear your responses: my faith isn’t very strong. What good is my faith? And I would respond as Jesus did: if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains! And besides, if your faith is weak, the best way to strengthen it is to share it.
And the world is in need of your faith! But, like any investment, there is a risk: you will risk rejection, ridicule, hurtful remarks, suspicion. But the greater the risk—from the business world—the greater the reward. You just might be surprised! In the workplace, you might mention that you were at a Baptism this weekend. You have a picture on your desk of your child’s first communion—or the picture of a saint that inspires you. You mention what you heard at church. There will be questions, and you answer as best you can: yes, I’m Catholic. Yes, my parish is Cathedral. Yes, my kids are in Catholic School or religious ed. Yes, my faith is important to me.
The important thing here is the sharing . . . not the response. And when you do share, you just might be surprised at the response.
But the best response of all comes from God : "Come, share your master’s joy."