This is an interesting Gospel that I am glad we can talk about today. I was always a little confused by this one, the treatment of the servant given one talent seemed over the top. I mean he protected the talent for his master right?
So digging into this passage, there is much to understand and it offers us a lot to think about. The Master in this parable is Jesus and the trip he is going on is to Heaven after his resurrection. He is gone a long time because his return is at the end times. The servants in the parable are actually the disciples and Jesus is teaching what he expects of them while he is gone. Before he leaves, he has given them “talents” each according to his ability.
The talents are gifts from God to be used to further the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, so when the first two servants use the talents for the betterment of the Kingdom, Jesus was pleased upon his return. Imagine the smile on his face when he says, “well done my good and faithful servant”. They get more responsibilities, i.e., greater gifts in Heaven.
Now the servant who was given one gift from Jesus and did nothing with it while on earth has missed his opportunity to please God and build his Kingdom. He is treated harshly for this and will misses out on the Kingdom.
One thing I find interesting in this Gospel is that it is not the number of talents that one receives that matter, it is what they do with them for building the Kingdom here on earth. Both servants who doubled the talents were similarly praised by God with “well done my good and faithful servant.” What caught my ear was the words used by Jesus when he calls them “my” good and faithful servant. They are good and faithful servants of Jesus Christ! I think that is what we all want to hear from him, right?
When I sat with this I found myself thinking not immediately about the talents that Jesus has given to me and what I should be doing with them, but about the talents he gave to others that were specifically needed by me – he knew just what I needed and he gave that talent to just the right person. We moved to Walpole in late 1995 and after spending a tough winter in a rental house in Sharon, we finally moved into our new house in April of 1996. We knew next to no one in town, already had three kids and were trying to find our way. Then the talent showed up at our door in the person of Carol Jacobson, the Welcome Wagon lady! You may have known Carol as a longtime parishioner who passed away about 5 years ago. I am not sure how many talents Jesus gave to Carol, but I know the one that was meant for us that day. Carol came and did her welcome wagon thing, but it was when she asked us if we had a Church picked out that she really came to life. She was the best advertisement for our Catholic community in town and remained that for us over the years as we stayed friends. Her talent was a loving welcome that we will never forget and she became Blessed Sacrament in many ways for us. Carol used her talent in a way that I know Jesus then said, “Well done my good and faithful servant”.
So what is the talent or talents given to each of us? And are we putting them to work and multiplying them like the women in the first reading? In the reading from Proverbs, she demonstrated how to live our lives, not like the foolish virgins last week or the servant who did nothing with his gift in this weeks Gospel. The women from Proverbs had talents that she put to work for her family and for the poor – she “obtains”, she “works with loving hands”, she “reaches out to the poor”, she “extends her arms to the needy.” She didn’t keep those talents for herself, she used them for exactly the people Jesus intended. The last line of Proverbs reading is, “Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.” I think we know what that praise is right? “My good and faithful servant”.
So again, what are the talents given to each of us? The number doesn’t matter, it is what we do with them. Carol Jacobson had many, but we needed that one. What is the one talent we can bring today for that someone whom Jesus wants us to encounter?? Is it different than the one we brought yesterday? Do we have a tried and true talent he wants us to keep delivering?? The talents, the gifts from God that he gives us to further the Kingdom are different for each of us, and many I suspect are delivered in small and quiet ways.
Jesus told this parable only to his disciples. Each disciple had different talents and a different number of talents, but he knew what gift matched their ability. We are also his disciples and have been given gifts, he knows our ability and he knows who we need to encounter and what work needs to be done to better the Kingdom here on earth.
Jesus Christ is the Master. We want to hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
What talent, what gift can we bring today?