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33rd Sunday of the Year A

 Life is God’s gift to us. What we do with life is our gift to God.

33rd Sunday of the Year A

Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30

As the Church year draws to a close, the Scriptures invite us to take stock of our lives. The Gospel readings for these last three Sundays are parables preparing us to meet the Lord with the story of how we have lived and loved.  Last week, the parable was about ten bridesmaids. This week, the Gospel is about the talents and what the three individuals did with them. Next week, the last Sunday of the Church year and the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, the Gospel is about separation of the sheep and goats.

In today’s Gospel we are introduced to a man who entrusts his property to his servants while he is abroad. He doesn’t instruct them what to do with the talents; he trusts them to use their own initiative and imagination in this economic venture. As in all stories and jokes with three characters, our attention is probably focused on the third servant who refuses to involve himself in the spirit of the enterprise. This guy believes that the safest way to handle his talent is to bury it and return it intact to his master. Usually, when this story is read at Mass, preachers will talk about the importance of using the gifts God has given us. And that is absolutely a valid way to interpret this story, and certainly, the most common. But what if we just broaden the scope of the story a little bit and see a slightly bigger picture.

Jesus is seen to be making a point against the scribes and the Pharisees. Their chief aim was to keep the Law which they had been given exactly as it was; not to change it, not to develop it, not alter it in any way. In their own phrase their mission was “to build a fence around the Law”. It is  as if they wanted to put the Law into a state of perpetual coma and that way they would avoid the risk of its walking the streets, where it would have to change and grow according to the conditions it met. Like the man with one talent the Pharisees are seen to have an investment in keeping things exactly as they were, and it is for that stale attitude that Jesus condemns them.  In this parable Jesus tells us that there can be no religion without risk, no religion without adventure; no religion without enterprise. Willingness to dare is an essential part of our faith. Our faith is lived in daily encounters.

Through the story we are invited to imagine a God who bestows gifts on all of us without exception.  The parable imagines God as a “gambler”, one who is forever taking risks in entrusting us with his gifts. He has no guarantee on his return, but that is the risk. God dares us to share a common enterprise; He trusts us to do it in our own way, knowing that if it succeeds both His will and ours will be done.

The parable also explores different attitudes to God. The first two servants have a completely different attitude to their master than the third. They know that their master is expecting them to share his business attitude for the sake of possible advantage. The third servant shares none of this, regarding his master as a fierce, exacting man. He is afraid of his master, so he plays out his own fearful attitude by becoming a kind of a ‘funeral director’ to the talent he has received. Instead of rejoicing in his talent he organizes a funeral service and buries it. To lose nothing, he risks nothing. And, not surprisingly, nothing comes of it.

The defense of this third servant is interesting. He focuses on the reputed meanness of the master, not on his own proven lack of enterprise. He takes the problem away from where it is - with himself- and places the problem where it is not-with his master. He portrays the master as harsh with no admission of his own lack of creativity. Life is God’s gift to us. What we do with life is our gift to God. Which gifts of God have we ‘buried’ out of fear or laziness?

Friends, how do you imagine God, and how does God influence your attitudes and behavior?  Is God an exacting master who demands that we return to him exactly what we have been given? Is God ‘an adventurer’ who lives in the fond hope that we will live in the spirit of his trust?  Isy our life of faith just a life of fear? Our faith begins with God. God risked his own Son, the talent of his life. He takes a risk with us every day. It seems only fair that we should return the favor and take a risk with God.  

 

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