33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s liturgy celebrates the many gifts God has given us and calls us to account for our wise use of them. The parable of the talents closely parallels last week’s story of the ten bridesmaids: another call to be prepared for the Lord’s coming. The gifts God gives are entrusted to us to be used. A person who is interested only in preserving them will end up losing them altogether. We can see the money given to the three servants as the gift of “new life” that God gives us through faith. We must not hide that life under a basket. We must live it and let it grow. Only in this way can we attain the ultimate gift of salvation.
We are one week from the end of the Liturgical Year. So, in the Gospel, Jesus is inviting us to a dress rehearsal of the Last Judgment. And what will the Lord look for at the Last Judgment? Today’s parable The Parable of the Talents tells us. It stresses the demands of judgment rather than the imminence of it.
The Gospel contains the story of three men who got some money from their master, and two of them used it well, whereas the third failed to make any use of it at all. The first two men received praise and reward; the third one, on the contrary, was condemned to “the darkness outside.” The teaching of the parable is that God’s gifts of nature or grace to us must be kept in active trade; they must be regarded as an investment made by God, who wants his “capital” to bear fruit. The point then is not only that wrong deeds are sin; doing nothing also is sin. The time of the master’s absence is, for the disciples, the time of active waiting.
We all have so many fine qualities of mind, soul and body, which have been freely given to us, like the silver pieces handed by the master to his servants before he left on his trip. What do we do with these valued treasures? Our Maker expects a high percentage of performance from us. Talents are to be used, not hidden or left idle. God has no use for servants who are devoid of initiative and idle when the master is not present to watch them and stimulate them “with carrot and stick.” God wants his servants to behave in a responsible manner, to be enterprising and apply themselves to what they are doing.
The most amazing thing about God’s gifts is that the more they are used for others, the more they expand and increase in value. Gifts necessarily envision others. To be gifted is to be gift. The more we turn gifts into possessions, the less valuable they become. The ideal wife of the first reading uses her gifts so that others may benefit. The first two servants are enterprising to the master’s advantage. They are rewarded because they have employed their abilities for him. The third servant, on the other hand, is totally inactive; as a result no one benefits. By remaining unproductive, the gift ceases to be a gift. Gifts imply action, even coping with risks. By creatively using our talents we are being faithful to God’s gifts.
The parable in our Gospel reading makes quite clear that Jesus expects us to boldly use our talents so that they can increase. Jesus has mandated us to excel. He will look to see how we did with the lot or the little we had. He calls us not only to be good, but to be good at doing good. Like him, we must not just be good, but go around doing good. If we have imitated the unworthy servant in the past, let us make the best of the delay granted us -we do not know for how long- to make our talents fruitful with God’s help. At the Last Judgment, he will be waiting anxiously to find us worthy, so that he can give us the greatest gift, Himself!