Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Optimistic Investor

(33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, A)

The parable we hear today from St. Matthew is one of those parables in which we usually jump too quickly to an examination of ourselves. As soon as we hear it we begin to judge ourselves morally to see how well we are doing with the resources that God has entrusted to us. But when we begin our self-examination right away, we miss a lot. We’ll get to all that, but first let’s bracket ourselves off and take the time to notice the image of God presented by the man in the parable, and the attitudes of God that are imagined through his relationships with his servants.

I don’t prefer the traditional title for this passage, the “parable of the talents,” but instead I like to call it the parable of the optimistic investor. The man entrusts his servants in the parable with a huge amount of money; the talent was a unit of both weight and currency in the ancient world. Now nobody is exactly sure how much it was. One commentator I read said that it might be about fifteen years’ worth of wages for an ordinary worker. Another said that a talent would be about a cubic foot of gold or silver. So in any case we’re talking about a lot of money. And this is the first part of the image of God we should notice; God has entrusted to each of us resources of tremendous value. Indeed, God has invested in us, in our humanity, the divine life of his only Son. Through our baptism into Christ’s death and Resurrection and through our Holy Communion with his humanity in this Eucharist, God has invested each of us with his own divine Presence. In fact, God has poured out his own infinitely loving and refreshing Self into our humanity. That’s the good news of the Incarnation, and the ultimate blessing each of us has received as members of Christ’s body.

Just like the man in the parable, God looks forward to a return on his investment. It is God’s delight to see us taking the gift of God within and making it flourish in the particular circumstances of our relationships and our lives. This is what we do as Christians; we strive to become vehicles for the grace of God, bringing the caring, gentle, reconciling love of God to all that we do and giving it a chance to grow and increase in the world around us. Notice what the man in the parable says when he settles accounts with the first servant, the one who had doubled his money: “Come, share your master’s joy.” This is the God who is delighted when we take the presence of Christ within us and allow it to flourish in our families, our jobs, and our communities.

But we also have to keep in mind that though heaven rejoices when we make God’s investment in us grow, this is not just an invitation. God does not invite us to make his goodness and holiness multiply in the world; he commands us to do so. God is demanding! See how the man treated the servant who buried his talent in fear. That servant was condemned pretty harshly. Is this unfair? Well, no, because as we were told in the beginning of the parable, each servant was given a sum to work with “according to his ability.” From this we know that the servant who was given the one talent could have done something with it, but he didn’t.

So it is with God. God invests his own divine life within us according to each one’s ability. The presence and blessing of God that each of us has is tailored and meant for the particular creation that each of us is. It is up to us to take the saving, reconciling, and renewing presence of God that he has placed within us and use it to build up the people and the world around us in love. This is what it means to be the body of Christ we become in this Eucharist, and to participate in God’s great work of lifting up all creation in the Resurrection of Christ.


GrandmaK said...

This for me was a difficult parable. I just didn't get it. Until one Sunday during the reading...not the homily, I was struck by the word talents...And talents take many forms. So I had to ask myself, "How am I using mine?" Ever since them I am often asking myself that same question. To see these talents as building up the Body of Christ is another view that just struck me as validation of the tasks I have in using those talents. Thank you! Cathy

BTW...I have used your homily on purgatory with the RCIA class and shared it with my Bible Study group! Thank you!

Brother Charles said...

Wow! Thanks. May your candidates and catechumens grow strong in their faith and desire for God.