November 19, 2017
In the parable that is our text for this Sunday, the Master is going on a long journey and giving each of his servants an unbelievable sum of money. A talent was the equivalent of 6,000 denarii and one denarius was the usual daily wage. Even the servant who received one talent has received an enormous amount of money. The difference in the amount each has received is not the issue. The Master has placed a great amount of trust in each of the servants. The first two servants are very industrious and have found ways to double the master’s wealth. The last, however, has protected the master’s wealth out of fear, but returns it in full. He has not used what was given him so that it would increase.
When Jesus was telling the original parable, those who were hearing it would have been peasants who had little or no wealth. For them, a person who had so much wealth that he could have divided it among three servants would have been scandalous. It would have been presumed that the wealth was gotten by depriving others, or if not, the master should have used his wealth to expand his reputation by sponsoring others in the community who had little. But instead, this one expects that the servants return what has been entrusted to them, with a profit. For the average person to whom Jesus told the parables, this story makes little or no sense. The parable only works as a story about something other than material wealth.
The 25th chapter of Matthew consists of three parables about the coming of the reign of God. The first parable is the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) that was the gospel text last Sunday. The second parable is of the generous master who shares his wealth with his servants (Matthew 25:14-30); it is the gospel text for this Sunday. The last parable is that of the final judgment, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats according to how they have treated the least among them (Matthew 25:31-46.) This parable will be the text for next Sunday, the feast of Christ the King. Matthew begins the 26th chapter with Jesus speaking to his disciples of his approaching betrayal and death. “When Jesus had finished all these words, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’” (Matthew 26:1-2) By the end of the 26th chapter Jesus is arrested, and Peter has denied him three times. It will be helpful to understand these parables in light of their context in Matthew’s gospel, and in light of how the early Christians reflected on them to shed light on their own relationship to God.
- What talents and gifts has God given to you?
- Are there times when you are more aware of the talents and gifts of others than of your own? What is happening around and within you during those times?
- How is the attitude of the first two servants toward their master different from that of the last servant? Of the two different attitudes, which seems to be closer to the one you seem to live most of your life?
- What kind of temptations might arise because the master is a long time in returning?
- Do you value your faith relationship with God as a gift to you? What do you do to protect that gift, nurture it, and foster its development?
- Do you think God expects you to develop and share with others the gifts that you have been given?
- When do you experience God’s invitation to “come share your Master’s joy?”
- When do you experience God’s saying that you are a “wicked, lazy servant?”
- Can you take some time to talk to God about how you feel about the gifts that you have been given, how you experience God’s desire for you, or what you hear God saying to you in this gospel?
The gospel background and reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.