The Parable of the Talents
As we approach the end of the Liturgical Year, we are in the middle of a series of Gospel parables that Jesus shares about staying alert and being prepared for his second coming. We are reminded that the Lord Jesus will return at a time no one knows. In the meantime, we must live lives that show that we are ready for His return whenever He comes. We believe that appearance will mark the end of this world as we know it. Jesus cautions his listeners several times to remain at-the-ready, even if their “master” is gone for an extended period like the man in this parable or the groom in last week’s parable.
The parable of the talents presents the fundamental message that while awaiting Jesus’ second coming, we should work responsibly and not be paralyzed by fear or laziness—the equivalent of the servant who hid the money. Ultimately, God will bring about the fullness of the Kingdom of God, but we should not wait passively for God to act. We are all called to participate in the building of the Kingdom. As disciples we are called to act in this world, even during a global pandemic. Simply accepting suffering while awaiting a reward in heaven is not enough. Jesus calls us to put our talents (gifts, skills, money, and otherwise) to work, alleviating pain, building healthy communities, and fighting injustice—while we stay hopeful and alert for his coming.
We will all be held accountable for how we have used the talents and abilities God has given. We will have to answer for how we loved our family, treated our friends, cared for the lonely, and took care of the environment. As we will hear next week, our final judgment will be based on how we showed our concern for Jesus by demonstrating our concern for those who need our help.
When we meet the Lord Jesus at the end of time or at the end of our life, He may have many questions for us in store, and one of the most important of those questions will probably be, ‘Have you loved and used wisely the gifts I gave you?’ This is a question we should take to heart now and think about how well we are actually using the gifts God has given us before it’s too late.
One troubling aspect of this parable is the conclusion where Jesus states, “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.” When we take the talents to mean just skill or money, this seems quite harsh. As Bishop Robert Barron says, “This hardly seems fair, it seems more like a cutthroat venture capitalist view of life”. Instead Bishop Barron suggests that an Old Testament interpretation would view the talents to include the “weightiest” thing that God could give, and this would be, none other than the inexhaustible mercy of God. God's divine mercy exists only in gift form. It is what gives itself away for the sake of the other. When you try to make the divine mercy your possession, you lose it.
Therefore, we need to think of the talents as everything that we have received from God---life, breath, being, and divine mercy. Because they come from God, they are meant to become gifts. The one thing you cannot do is cling to them nor bury them. If you cling to them, like the third servant, they do not grow. In fact, they waste away. What you have to do with the heavy weight of God’ s love and mercy is to use it and you will find it increasing thirty, sixty or a hundred-fold.
I leave you with two personal questions for today: With what talents and abilities has GOD gifted me? How have I used them, not just for myself, but also for the Good of others?
God bless you folks, Father Gerard