Consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord."
Jesus told them this parable,"Think of a man, going on a journey, who 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. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'
Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, '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. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! So you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
The gist of today's parable is the painfully true paradox that in this world order the haves will get more, while the have-nots will lose even the little that they have. It surely does not express the ideal of Jesus, which was for a community of love and sharing. But the paradox does have some practical applications. Like any motor or machine with moving parts, God's gifts must be kept in use in order to stay in good condition. Non-use leads to stagnation, rusted parts and clogged-up valves. Physical and spiritual life degenerates if kept in isolation and confinement. But the abuse of life's gifts can also destroy them, even more than non-use. Today's readings enable us to integrate these factors in the use of our talents.
The written word is just one part of the total process of arriving at the will and purpose of God. As we trade with our precious heritage of Sacred Scripture, the biblical text interacts with our personal, family, society and church expectations. We pray for the enlightenment of God's Spirit while also seeking advice and reflecting on our experience. Those who have engaged in this dialogue will get more, while those who just sit tight are in danger of losing the little they have.
Paul offers a central guiding norm for keeping up the quality of our life: Jesus is our sanctification, for he enables our best self to emerge; and he is our redemption, so that we form one living person with Jesus, our elder brother, whose spirit and example we try to follow in everything.
When Jesus involves three characters in a parable, the emphasis usually falls on the third character. For example, the good Samaritan, who is mentioned after the priest and Levite pass the man on the roadside, is the focus of that story. In the parable we have just heard the third servant had a very negative view of his master; he saw him as a hard man, reaping where he had not sown. Because this servant was so afraid of his master, he did nothing with what he had been given. The other two servants, in contrast, had a much more generous view of their master. As a result, they had the freedom to take initiatives and even to take risks with what they had been given.
Jesus has revealed a God of infinite generosity; he has shown God to be someone whose goodness leaves us astonished, who remains faithful even when we are not faithful. Jesus does not reveal a God who is just waiting for us to fail, which is how the third servant saw his master. Rather, Jesus shows us a God who wants us to launch out into the deep and who continues to befriend us whether or not we catch anything. God's loving fidelity should give us the courage to take risks with what God has given us. Perfect love drives out fear, according to the first letter of John. The assurance of God's perfect love should drive out the kind of fear that left the third servant in the parable crippled. God who has been generous with us asks us to be generous with what we have received, and then to leave the rest to God.