33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A

Gospel:  Matthew (25: 14-30)

The very rich man in this story sounds like an honorable person at the outset.  It is only at the conclusion that we learn that he is dishonorable.  The 3rd slave even describes him as such, and the rich man agrees with him!  The first 2 slaves not only served their master but imitated him.  Why not?  If you can’t beat the system, join it.  The 3rd slave did what most rabbis would later commend as the safest and most honorable course of action for a freeman, but maybe not for a slave.  In 1st century Mediterranean culture people believed that all goods already exist and are already distributed.  There is no more where this came from, and the only way to get more is to defraud another.  Anyone who suddenly acquired something “more” was automatically judged to be a thief.  (Pilch, the Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, p. 164)  So then why is the parable saying the 3rd slave is wrong?

  • It may have been to capture the attention of Jesus’ audience.
  • The message is we are not to be complacent but increase what Jesus has given us.
  • William Barclay makes this point about the gospel’s ending advice: “If someone has a talent and exercises it, he is progressively able to do more with it. But, if one has a talent and fails to exercise it, he will lose it – slowly, but surely.   (The Gospel of Matthew, 324)
  • From Celebrations, November, 2002 and 2005:  Fearfulness only breeds fear and crippling inaction. If we dare to risk ourselves in loving God and others, then Jesus assures us that we will find a God who is eager to share his powerful presence and gifts. Along with this parable, we need to reflect on the kind of God that Jesus shows us — a God who welcomes sinners and who rejoices when the lost are found.

Fr. Richard Fragomeni once said that faith is a risk; it is a bet we make with  our whole lives . . .

C.S. Lewis once suggested that the ‘one’ talent many Christians fail to ‘invest’ or fear to risk losing is love.  In a series of 10 lectures on this subject (later published as The Four Loves) he explains:

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one — not even to an animal or pet.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.  Lock it up safely in the casket or the coffin of your selfishness.  But, in that casket– safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, unredeemable. The only place outside heaven where you can be safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.

In this parable Jesus tells us that there can be no religion without adventure, and that God can find no use for the shut mind (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series for Matthew, Vol. 2, p. 323).  Doesn’t this remind you of Pope Francis?  In a recent homily, he said, “I am attached to my things, my ideas – does this mean I am closed? Or, am I open to the God of surprises? Am I a person who stands still, or a person on a journey?”

Let us resolve to become one-talent wonders, willing to risk ‘being fully alive’ so as to invest our love in God’s service.  Let us not dig a hole to bury our love. Let us prefer service to safety, and risk to retreat. (Isn’t that what Jesus did?)

We can love as Jesus did, fully, freely, and forever – at least, we can try!

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