November 15, 2020
At St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Church in Naples, FL
Proverbs 31,10-13, 19-20, 30-31 + Psalm 128 + 1 Thessalonians 5, 1-6 Matthew 25, 14-30
It’s easy to slide along with this parable and turn it into a simple lesson on the importance of using one’s gifts. At the same time, placed here at the end of the Church’s liturgical year, it becomes one more warning that Christ will come again, and there will be a time for accounting. The last two weekends have given us plenty of time to let that sink in. So, I’m not so sure that we ought to let these verses go with just a reflection on our stewardship or some thoughts about the last days. There is way more here than that. The crowds have gone, and this is a private conversation with the disciples on the Mount of Olives. As Matthew writes these verses, Jesus has gone on a journey to the Father, but he told them he would come back again. He told them it would be a long time, but just how long is something we still wonder about 2000 years later.
Notice in the parable that the Master does not tell any of them what to do. He just entrusts them with what is his. No instructions. Each one gets something according to their ability. There is no hint that the servants are in competition. This master has taken a risk, and I think that this is the key to what this parable means for us. It’s not so much about investing or planning as it is about risk taking. When we step back and compare the three of them, two are like the master, they take risks. The third who ends up being thrown out wants to play it safe. He is unimaginative and afraid, so he hides the master’s gift never taking a risk like the master does, and that’s a bad plan.
As with almost all parables, they reveal something about God, usually something that we might imitate since we are all made in God’s image. What Jesus reveals about the Father today is that the Father has taken a great risk in sending his only Son for our Salvation. It isn’t by chance that Matthew has this scene set on the Mount of Olives where the sacrifice of Salvation will take place. We ought to make that connection here. What God expects of us is that we more and more become like God, and this in this example, take some risks. The mistake of that one-talent slave who is afraid and does nothing cannot be our mistake. There is a lesson here about the expectations God has for us.
Non-involvement passivity, fear of making a mistake, a paralysis of anxiety results in only one thing, being thrown out. Discipleship, says Jesus to us today, is not a comfortable holding onto the gifts entrusted to us. We have to do something with them. We have to increase the yield of good works shared with others. We have to take risks with our faith. We have to risk forgiving when we’ve been hurt, and risk being hurt again. We have to take the risk of loving when we know we might be betrayed. We have to take the risk of sharing someone’s sadness and sorrow, grief or helplessness. It’s all about risk, because God is the ultimate risk-taker. God has taken a risk on us, and before Advent begins once again, we might begin to look at what return God will get from risking the mission of his son on us.