I have been to homes where moms cooked three different menus because of picky eaters. But when I was a child we had to eat what was put on our plate before we left the table. After once or twice leaving the table and going directly to bed, I learned that no one could out stubborn my dad. So if we had liver or peas or something else I really disliked, I would eat it first and save the parts of the meal I liked most for the end. Saint Matthew, who paints Jesus as the great teacher saves some of Jesus’ very best parables or for the end of his gospel.
In reading what St. Matthew wrote in the original Greek, we are told that the three servants were given 5, 2, and one 1 talents. A talent was a weight, and if the weight of the talent were in gold, scholars tell us it would be an awful lot of money – more than a million dollars. However, the amount of money entrusted to the servants is most often understood at the talents, gifts, and abilities that God gives each of us. In today’s parable Jesus makes at least four points:
o First, God gives some people more gifts and talents than others. We all know somebody or some people who have many and various gifts and talents. But, it is important to know and believe that everyone of us is gifted somehow and are given what we need by God.
o Next, we will be judged not by how many talents we have, but by how well we have used the talents we are given. I remember being horrified by one of my best friends in college who bragged that he never read an entire book during our four years of college. What a waste!
o Third, if we don’t use our talents, we will lose them. How many of us learned a foreign language or play the musical instrument in high school and can do either today? The famous Polish pianist Paderewki said, “If I don’t practice one day, I can tell the difference in my play. If I don’t practice three days, my family can tell. And if I don’t practice five days, the whole world will notice.” We use or lose our talents.
o Finally, the sin or failure of the third servant was being unwilling to risk. The one who is punished is the one who will not try. Our talents are given us by God to use and share.
Each of us has been gifted by God. Today’s gospel challenges us to use and share our gifts and talents to do God’s work in this time and place.