Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.
‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”
‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’
Gospel for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parable ends on a sad note. In a culture which sort of feels it is unfair unless everyone wins, we might wonder about the morality of the Master. Maybe the frightened servant really couldn’t help how he behaved and needed love and care to gt over his ‘block… And maybe a better title for this parable than the usual ‘Parable of the Talents’ would be ‘The parable of the frightened servant’…
Maybe then we would see not only the consequences of responding to opportunity to trade effectively and the virtue of good capital investment, and how good managers reward good workers, but also see some shortcomings in the successful servants and in their master.
If only the ‘good’ servants have tried to share the good news with the one who is locked in disbelief and fear; if only the master had wondered why he was only ready to entrust this one with one talent… Things could have been so different.
As they are outside of the world of the parable where our Master comes in flesh for the sake of the sick, those who are told the mercy of God is not for them and who are fearful because of the lies and because of their sins and weaknesses. He comes for them not to banish them but to help them find their home in him.
And he entrusts the message of sharing the good news to the fearful to the countless millions who already share his life and form his Church….
- How does your parish or faith group reach out to the fearful?
- What part do you play in this common work?
Art Gallery and Canal, Walsall. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.