Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church, Norman, Oklahoma Sunday, October 26, 2014
Matthew 25: 14-30
Jesus has just spoken the parable we heard last week about the virgins and the lamps. This parable today is the last before he begins to speak of the in-gathering to come at the end of time. Next week, the Seventy Sunday of the Glorious Cross, and then we move into the season that is a bridge to the Season of Christ’s Birth. All of this gives this parable great importance for us. As last week, this parable is directed to us, insiders, people who have their lamps lit or people who have been given gifts. Do not miss the point that everyone in this parable has been given something. It makes no difference how much or what. Everyone has been entrusted with something by the Master. Placed into the context of this Gospel, the parable tells us that there is something to be done by those who want to get to be included in the gathering for the banquet.
There is a common human condition being challenged here, and left alone, it can lead to disaster. Jesus insists here that “playing it safe” is not what brings one to the Kingdom of God. The old home-spun proverb: “Better safe than sorry” comes into conflict with these words of Jesus. For Jesus, “safe” is “sorry.” It does not matter that everyone did not get the same thing. It did not matter what they got in return for their wise use of what was entrusted them. What does matter, and the distinction that matters is between those who do something and those who do nothing. The reaction of the master to fear and his refusal to accept it as an excuse to affirm doing nothing is at the heart of the story.
This Gospel invites us to look at what role fear plays in our lives and in our decisions. I read recently that three out of every five people in this country die without a will, and they leave their property to the discretion of the courts. Because of a failure to plan, and most of all, because they fear death and refuse to think about it, people die every day and leave enormous sums of their life’s work to state and federal government because they ignored the opportunity to endow and plan. Possessed by our possessions, obsessed with the fear of loss or failure, isolationism and exaggerated individualism leave us frozen in anxiety, stuck in denial, and blind to the possibilities that the gospel would have us imagine are available to the faithful stewards who live anticipating the return of the master, anxious and ready to give an accounting of our lives.
The parable addresses all the gifts we have. It calls for bold action and confident risk, calling into question all our ways. Staying with what is safe does not guarantee the master’s approval. New times, new issues, new opportunities call for the use of other gifts like the gift of wisdom, or intelligence, thought, compassion, and understanding. The issues of Justice cry out to us in these times, and they never get addressed by those who elect to do nothing or by those who think it is better to play it safe for fear of doing the wrong thing.
This third servant excuses his behavior and blames the master with his lame excuse which should have motivated him to do something. His fearful caution and timid approach to his life causes him to do nothing. Here is the problem. Maintenance is not enough. Continuation of the status quo is not only not acceptable, it labels us useless and unworthy, and secures a place outside in the darkness. There will be no acceptable blame or excuse for doing nothing. That third servant did not trust his master. He feared him.
The wonderful invitation and the thrilling words we long to hear: “Come and share your master’s joy” are spoken only to those who have trusted the master. If the risks they took with the gifts they received went wrong, it seems from this parable that it would have been alright with the master. At last they would have done something.
Action, whether with few talents or many, is named good and faithful. Action is rewarded by the presence of the master forever. This parable is not a wake-up call to the church and the people of the church. The status quo, maintenance of what is for whatever reason is not in the master’s plan. Sometimes, the choice to do nothing is the biggest mistake of all. This is Gospel wisdom, and it is Gospel behavior for disciples, believers, and all those prepared for the masters return.