For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.Matthew 25:14–15
This Sunday we heard in the Gospel the well-known “parable of the talents” (Mt 25:14-30). A man, before leaving on a trip, entrusts his property to three of his employees: “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away” (Mt 25:15). The talent was the maximum monetary unit of the time, equivalent to several dozen kilos of gold or silver, which indicates that he left them a lot of money.
The parable doesn’t say for what reason this man gave his wealth to those employees of his. Everything indicates that he did it out of generosity, without any particular motive—rather, simply for the pleasure of letting them share in his possessions. It seems that he enjoys being able to make them rich.
This is how God is with us. He is good, he trusts us and he is filled with joy in freely giving us his gifts. What we are, what we have obtained in life, the people who love us, our abilities and possessions—we have received from God as a gift. He has given it to us interest-free, out of pure goodness, without demanding anything from us in return.
The Lord made his riskiest, most important financial transaction when he created us. We are God’s most precious “investment”. Each one of us is an immeasurable asset. We are all different, each person’s knowledge is unique, and we have different qualities and possibilities like the servants in the parable who didn’t receive the same number of talents.
But we are all immensely valuable. None of us should feel inferior to others, living with a pessimistic attitude or letting envy take root in our hearts. None of us should consider ourselves so poor that we can’t give something that will enrich others and make the world a better place. None of us should feel so helpless that we can’t ask ourselves what our mission in life is and commit ourselves to doing what no one else could do if they took our place. We are all invaluable.
“The Lord made his riskiest, most important financial transaction when he created us. We are God’s most precious ‘investment’.” Bishop @silviojbaezTweet
The first two servants in the parable, the one who received five talents and the other who received two, began to trade with what they received and they doubled their wealth. In the end they were generously rewarded, because they knew how to respond to their master’s expectations (Cf. Mt 25:16-23). Although God has given us everything out of love, without asking anything in return, he expects us to respond in the same way: to respond with love. And this is not so much for God himself, who has no need for anything, but our response is for our own good.
The life we have received from God must develop and expand more and more every day. It must become more humane, more dignified and beautiful every day. And this is achieved only through love that frees us from selfishness and brings us closer to others. God’s investment—that is, we ourselves—grows when we give out of love what we are and what we have.
Our existence is enhanced when we give to others, especially the poorest. Our life becomes richer if, in caring for our needs, we do not forget those in need. “If goodness is not invested, it is lost, and the grandeur of our lives is not measured by how much we save but by the fruit we bear” (Francis, Homily 15 November 2020).
The behavior of the third slave in the parable is strange. The only thing that occurred to him was this: he “went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (Mt 25:18). He didn’t want to take any chances, so he didn’t make any effort. He didn’t waste the money. He did nothing wrong. But perhaps he did something worse: he did nothing.
We know that it is easier to hide in the comfort of our selfishness than to run the risk of loving, giving, and sharing. However, when we hide who we are and what we have, we risk losing everything. We know that it’s easier to hide than to face up to our commitment to justice and respect for human rights. It is very risky, it is safer to hide, to look the other way and to be silent so as to have zero problems. However, hiding and keeping quiet will not make us happier and will not help to improve the world.
“When we bury what we’ve received, when we bury who we are and what we have, we bury our own life.” Bishop @silviojbaezTweet
When the master who had left his possessions with his slaves returns to meet them, the third slave who has merely kept his talent safe, gives it back thinking that he’s faithfully responded to his master’s wishes, saying: “Master, here you have what is yours” (Mt 25:25). The employer condemns him as a “wicked and lazy” slave. He hadn’t understood anything. He only thought of himself and his security. He didn’t want to take any risks; he didn’t want to have any problems. He simply returned exactly what he had received.
The message that Jesus wants to convey to us with this parable is clear: life isn’t something to hoard like an obsession; rather life needs to be given and shared by doing good and serving others. Life is about taking risks by fighting to make the world more humane and making the lives of other people happier.
We believers cannot bury life and faith under conformity and indifference. It is very tempting to live a life that avoids problems by defending our own well-being. It’s really comfortable to just let things happen, to let others suffer, and to let society just drift away. The planet suffers from the abuse of nature, the poor are forgotten and neglected, and the powerful dominate their people with arrogance and violence.
And what are we doing? The goods of the earth remain in a few greedy hands while the vast majority of humanity lives in misery, society is degraded for lack of authentic values, and so many people suffer around us.
And what are we doing, what am I doing—me, right now—what am I doing with God’s investment? The temptation of indifference is great. The comfort of crossing our arms and living uncomplicated lives is a permanent risk. Woe is me if I bury the talent. It is the best way to live a sterile life: a tiny life with no horizon.
The third slave introduces himself to his master with this reasoning: “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground” (Mt 25:24–25). This employee wasn’t able to produce a generous yield with the talent that he received because he didn’t understand that it was his own, that he had received it out of love. He didn’t understand the kindness of his master; he imagined him to be harsh and demanding, which produced a paralyzing fear that led him to seek his own security.
Fear does us no good. It closes us in on ourselves, prevents us from being detached, fear makes us distort reality, and it can lead us to live with permanent distrust of others and God.
In the worst case scenario, fear makes us distort God and imagine him as someone harsh and demanding. God isn’t a selfish tyrant who frightens us, seeking his own interest; he is a Father who entrusts the great gift of life to each one of us. If we live in fear, we run the risk of messing up everything in life. If we let fear dominate us, we can end up denying Jesus and renouncing the Gospel and the Church. Jesus has a vision for us: persons who are willing to take risks and overcome difficulties in order to become active collaborators, so that the world might be a happier place and the Church might be more committed to service and her prophetic mission.
“The temptation of indifference is great. The comfort of crossing our arms and living uncomplicated lives is a permanent risk.” Bishop @silviojbaezTweet
If we settle for doing things simply because “we’ve always done it this way”, without putting forth any effort or creativity, we are burying our talent. If we behave as most people do, letting ourselves be passively led by what most people say, by fashion, or by the prevailing ideology, we are burying our talent. If we are dedicated to acquiring more and more, rather than being in solidarity with those in need, we are burying our talent. Talents become productive when we fearlessly follow the noblest impulses of the heart, enlightened by faith. Talents are multiplied when we do not obsess over insuring our lives, but when we lay our lives on the line, taking the great risk in the adventure of love.
Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
15 November 2020, St. Agatha Church, Miami
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.