33 Sunday of the Year A
Prv 31:10-13; 1Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
It was a common practice in the Near East such as Egypt, Assyria and Palestine for wealthy men, when going on a long journey, to entrust their property to their trusted servants, more or less depending on their ability . Today's parable tells us the servant who received five talents knew that his master expected him to invest for his benefit. Thus, he made five more. The servant who received two talents, also invested the money for interests, and thus made the additional two. In proportion to percentage, the servant who made two more talents was also as successful as the one, who made the additional five. Both tried to invest their master’s talents for his benefit and thus were in favor of their master.
How did both servants double their money in their investment? The answer is at that time in Palestine, money lent for a long period could yield very high interest, possibly one hundred percent. The servant who buried his master's talents had enough ability to handle a small task entrusted to him. However, he let his fear and laziness to take over. He did not give the reason to bury his talents; he simply blamed his master for being a hard bargainer. Due to his laziness and his lack of responsibility, he was discharged disgracefully. There might have been other reasons for his failure to invest his master’s money, perhaps his dissatisfaction with the small talents or his jealousy of his fellow servants who received more. A number of scripture scholars considered the slothful servant as the scribes and Pharisees. They were experts on the Law of Moses, but they kept the law for the sake of law observance, and closed their minds and hearts before God’s call and disregarded others.
The one who had received two talents made two more talents, was praised as well done, good and faithful (Mt 25:23) and promised to receive more and share his master’s joy as the one who had received five talents and made another five. The one, who refused to use his small talents, missed the opportunity to develop his talents. That is what Jesus said: For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one, who has not, even what he has will be taken away (Mt 25:29).
The lesson Jesus wants to teach us today is the importance of investments materially, mentally and spiritually. According to Saint Paul, each has received different spiritual gifts from God: To one the Spirit gives wisdom in discourse, to another the power to express knowledge. Through the Spirit, one receives faith; by the same Spirit, another is given the gift of healing, and still others miraculous powers. Prophecy is given to one; to another power to distinguish one spirit from another. One receives the gift of tongues, another that of interpreting the tongues (1Cr 12:8-10).
Each person also receives mental and moral gifts. Some have intelligent and creative mind. Others are good in sports and music. Some have good quality in personality. Others have profound spiritual life. What is important is to discover our goods, talents and gifts and find ways to develop them for the glory of God and the service of man, not just for self-praise. We might not be aware of our potential if we do not use whatever talent or gift we have and develop them. When we use our talents and gifts, we would have feedback from people. When people evaluate our talents and gifts, we would be motivated to cultivate them further.
Hàn Mạc Tử’s poetry at first was not quite distinctive. When he got different inspirations, his poetry became more flowery and appreciated. Then an event came to him, upsetting his whole life. He was shocked at his leprosy. It changed his whole view on life. At the end, finding a source of strength and comfort from God and the Virgin Mary, Hàn Mạc Tử accepted the disease with a spirit of love and trust and offered his life in serving humankind with touchy poetic verses from supernatural inspiration.
Each person has a number of talents and gifts for investment: material, mental and spiritual. The question we need to tackle today is how we have used his material blessing and gifts. Each one of us needs to find out the gap between his/her talents and gifts and his/her performance. As the master of the household expected the servants to invest their talents for his benefit, God wants us to develop our talents and gifts for his glory and honor. Each one of us, depending on his/her ability, opportunity and condition, and circumstances in life should use our talents and gifts wisely and responsibly to glorify God and serve humankind.
A prayer for investing what God has given:
Oh Lord our God, you are God of all creation.
We thank you for the goods, talents and gifts
you have given us for investment in our life.
Teach me to be willing to accept
those things we have received with gratitude.
Do not let us grumble and complain to you.
And teach me to be faithful to my investment
as to serve you and your people. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong
. Kemp, T. L. Homilies on the Sunday Gospels. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1977, p. 110.