How will we use what we’ve received?
By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time/Nov. 19
Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30
The readings for today are a bit confusing. At first glance they seem to praise capitalism. The word “talent” might have us think of the original meaning of the word in English: “a large sum of money.” Matthew, however, has a different meaning in this parable.
The first reading from the Book of Proverbs is a good place to begin. It is a beautiful example of the meaning of the Gospel passage. The gifts we have been given and the openness to use those gifts to live as Jesus did more accurately reflect the meaning Matthew seems to have in mind. The worthy wife is one who used the gifts she had, and developed a life of joy for those in her midst. She heard the Word of the Lord and put it into action for the benefit of others.
Jesus’ response to the people to whom He gave the talents, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities,” demonstrates that the servant was to multiply what God has given him.
TALENTS SHARED . . .
A story unravels it well: There was a father with three sons. He was leaving for a long journey and asked his three sons to use their talents to care for the farm while he was away. The first son cared for the olive trees which was a source of income for them. The second son had the responsibility of the sheep. The third son was a dancer who charmed people with his talent.
As the winter came, there was a long, cold spell. It was so cold that the villagers did not have heat. The olive trees suffered from the cold. So, the first son decided to cut down the olive trees in order to provide heat for the villagers who were freezing. The second son who cared for the sheep gave the wool he had to the villagers for warmth. The villagers had just enough warmth from the bitter cold, but the winter had broken their spirits and they lost all hope. Finally, they moved to a more hospitable environment.
When the spring broke and the father returned, he found smoke rising only from his own chimney. “What has happened?” he asked the sons.
The first apologetically confessed that he had cut down the olive trees for the villagers to provide warmth for them. The second son said in the same apologetic manner that he had given away the wool for the people to stay warm.
The father replied, ”Don’t be ashamed, sons. You did the best you could and you acted rightly and humanely. You used your talents wisely for others. But, I ask, where are the people?”
. . . AND SQUANDERED
The third son began to speak. “There was so little to eat and so little firewood that I thought it insensitive to dance during such suffering. Besides, I needed to conserve my strength so that I could dance for you when you came home.”
“Then, dance, my son. The village is empty and so is my heart,” the man said.
But as the third son rose to dance, he fell down in pain. His legs were stiff and sore from sitting so he could not dance. The father was so sad that he could not be angry.
“Ours was a strong village. It could have survived the want of fuel and food, but it could never survive without hope. So now? Now the village is deserted and you are crippled. Your punishment has already fallen upon you,” the man said. With these words he embraced his two sons and wept.
As with the third son, the choice is ours. Do we give what we have for the sake of others or is our “talent” squandered or preserved for our own needs?
Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She serves as pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.