【英汉主日证道】| Cowardice Misconceived as Prudence (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time)


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time —Year A

Fr. Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF


Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew,

Glory to you, O Lord!

"It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one - to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' (Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'

Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.' His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. 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. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'

The Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.

HomilyCowardice Misconceived as Prudence

While reflecting on this parable of the talents, we need to clarify some misconceptions usually associated with it. First of all, Jesus does not intend to give a moral lesson on honesty and how to invest the money, but rather on the commitment in putting to good use the treasures that belong to everyone. Secondly, the master did not have a poor esteem of the one who was given only one talent. This is clear when we know that a talent was at that time corresponded to a worker’s salary of about twenty years of work. Thirdly, the talents do not indicate the qualities that everyone has received from God. Verse 15 says the talents are delivered “to each according to his abilities.” Talents and qualities of the individual, therefore, are not the same thing. After clearing these misconceptions, let us re-reflect on this passage. The master entrusts his possessions to the most trusted servants. He knows their abilities, attitudes, competences, and according to these, he establishes how much to assign to each. This gentleman is clearly Christ who, before leaving the world, handed over all his goods to his disciples.

These goods are what Jesus has given to his church: the gospel, the message of salvation intended to transform the world and create a new humanity; his Spirit “who renews the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30), and even himself in the sacraments; and then his power to heal, to comfort, to forgive, to reconcile with God. The three servants are members of the Christian community. To each of them is given an assignment to be done, so that the wealth of the Lord may be put to good use. According to one’s own charism (1 Cor 12:28-30), everyone is called to produce love. Love is, in fact, the gain, the fruit that the Lord wants. Two servants are enterprising, dynamic, hardworking, while the third is fearful and insecure.

In the third part of the parable, the servants are called to render their accounts. With justifiable pride, two servants say to the master of having doubled their possessions. Then the third servant appears. “I know,” he says to his master, “that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours.” The central message of the parable is in the master’s rebuke of the slothful servant: the only unacceptable attitude is the disengagement; it is the fear of risk. He is condemned because he let himself be blocked by fear.

There were neglectful and diligent disciples in Matthew’s time, and they continue to be in our communities. There are dynamic and enterprising Christians who are committed to give a new face to the catechesis, liturgy, and pastoral work, who are passionately committed to the study of God’s word in order to grasp its true and deep meaning, who are generous and active. Other Christians are rather lazy and afraid of everything.

It is unbelievable but true. One can be paralyzed by the fear of Christ. A certain spirituality of the past urged Christians to act but especially recommended not to engage in active service for fear of breaking the commandments and precepts. Transgressors are threatened with terrible punishments. This spirituality created the third type of servants, that is, the Christians who, in order to avoid sins, always played it safe. They could not risk it because those who try, those who commit themselves inevitably expose themselves to the risk of being wrong. Those who preach this fear, without realizing it, are the cause of the lack of love, sterile goodness, and spiritual lethargy.