Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Parable of the Talents — By Rembrandt
Reading 1 RV 4:1-11
and I heard the trumpetlike voice
that had spoken to me before, saying,
“Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.”
At once I was caught up in spirit.
A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat one
whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian.
Around the throne was a halo as brilliant as an emerald.
Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones
on which twenty-four elders sat,
dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads.
From the throne came flashes of lightning,
rumblings, and peals of thunder.
Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne,
which are the seven spirits of God.
In front of the throne was something that resembled
a sea of glass like crystal.In the center and around the throne,
there were four living creatures
covered with eyes in front and in back.
The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf,
the third had a face like that of a man,
and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight.
The four living creatures, each of them with six wings,
were covered with eyes inside and out.
Day and night they do not stop exclaiming:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty,
who was, and who is, and who is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks
to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
the twenty-four elders fall down
before the one who sits on the throne
and worship him, who lives forever and ever.
They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming:“Worthy are you, Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things;
because of your will they came to be and were created.”
Responsorial Psalm PS 150:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6
Praise the LORD in his sanctuary,
praise him in the firmament of his strength.
Praise him for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his sovereign majesty.
R. Holy, holy, holy Lord, mighty God!
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet,
praise him with lyre and harp,
Praise him with timbrel and dance,
praise him with strings and pipe.
R. Holy, holy, holy Lord, mighty God!
Praise him with sounding cymbals,
praise him with clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
praise the LORD! Alleluia.
R. Holy, holy, holy Lord, mighty God!
Alleluia SEE JN 15:16
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 19:11-28
While people were listening to Jesus speak,
he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem
and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately.
So he said,
“A nobleman went off to a distant country
to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.
He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’
His fellow citizens, however, despised him
and sent a delegation after him to announce,
‘We do not want this man to be our king.’
But when he returned after obtaining the kingship,
he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money,
to learn what they had gained by trading.
The first came forward and said,
‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!
You have been faithful in this very small matter;
take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported,
‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said,
‘You, take charge of five cities.’
Then the other servant came and said,
‘Sir, here is your gold coin;
I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,
for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man;
you take up what you did not lay down
and you harvest what you did not plant.’
He said to him,
‘With your own words I shall condemn you,
you wicked servant.
You knew I was a demanding man,
taking up what I did not lay down
and harvesting what I did not plant;
why did you not put my money in a bank?
Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’
And to those standing by he said,
‘Take the gold coin from him
and give it to the servant who has ten.’
But they said to him,
‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’
He replied, ‘I tell you,
to everyone who has, more will be given,
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king,
bring them here and slay them before me.’”
After he had said this,
he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.
Commentary on Luke 19:11-28 From Living Space
Immediately following the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus comes a parable about the use of what God has given to us. Jesus and his disciples are near Jerusalem “where they thought the reign of God was about to appear”. How right they were! It was indeed going to appear in Jerusalem but not at all in the way they expected – with the political and military defeats of enemies. As the beginning of the Acts reveals, they “were hoping” that Jesus was about to restore the political kingdom of Israel. In time, they would learn that a kingdom of far greater significance was coming into being and that they would play an important part in its inauguration.
The parable which follows differs significantly from a similar one of the talents in Matthew (25:14-30). In Luke, too, there may be two parables fused into one – that of the coins and that of a disputed claimant to a royal throne (symbolising Jesus himself).
Jesus begins the parable by saying that a man of noble birth went to a far country to have himself appointed king and then return. This may have reminded his hearers of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, who went to Rome in the year 4 BC to get himself appointed king. On his return, he succeeded his father. It may seem a rather unusual procedure but the Herods used to go to Rome in order to get appointed as rulers over the Jews.
Similarly, Jesus is soon to depart and in the future will return as king. During his absence, his servants are entrusted with their master’s affairs.
In the parable, the king, before leaving, gives ten units of money to each of ten servants and tells them to invest the money until his return. The coins are called ‘minas’ and were each worth about 100 drachmas, where a drachma was the equivalent of one day’s wages. Each coin then was the equivalent of about three months’ wages. This is a much smaller sum than those in Matthew’s parable. The other difference is that there are ten people and each one gets the same amount. (In Matthew’s parable there are three people who get respectively 10, 5 and 1 talents.)
In the parable, we are told that the people despised this man and did not want him as their king. In fact, a Jewish delegation had gone to Rome protesting at the idea of Archelaus becoming king. In the same way, Jesus was soon to go away and return some day as King and Judge. While he is ‘away’, his ‘servants’ will be entrusted to take care of their Master’s affairs. But others will reject him completely.
When he returned, the new king asked each of his servants to give an account of their trading, as Jesus will do at the Judgement. One had made another ten units on his capital of ten and he was rewarded by being put in charge of ten towns. Another had made five and was rewarded with five towns. But a third came along with just the capital he had been given. He had not traded the money for fear of losing it but kept it in a safe place. He was afraid of the king who, he said, took what he had not deposited, reaped what he had not sown.
The king was angry. He did not dispute his ruthlessness but he said that the man could at least have lent the money and got some interest. He ordered the ten units be taken from him and given to the one who had already made ten. This man was obviously good at business. The lesson of the parable is spelt out by Jesus: whoever has will be given more, but the one who has not will lose the little he has.
The last sentence of the parable, in a way, describes a third set of people in the story. The first set consists of those who used their coin well and profitably. The second is the one who kept his one coin and carefully guarded it. But finally, there are those who did not want this man as king and these are executed. “Now about those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king, bring them in and slay them in my presence.”
They are the greatest losers of all and it probably points to those Jews who rejected Jesus as King and had their city destroyed, referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD. The punishment of those who rebelled and actively opposed the king was much more severe than that of the over-cautious servant.
The context of the whole parable is emphasised by the last sentence of today’s reading: “Having spoken thus Jesus went ahead with his ascent to Jerusalem.” We are coming near the end of our story and the climax to which it is headed. The parable points to all those who are being called by Christ. It is the final part of one large unit (Luke 18:18-19:28) which includes the story of a rich man with good intentions but not able to respond to Jesus’ call, a prediction of Jesus’ passion not understood by the disciples, the story of a blind man who, after having his vision restored, becomes a follower of Christ, the story of another rich man who was willing generously to share his wealth with the poor and ending with the parable of the proper use of what we have.
The first rich man claimed to follow the commandments (the Law) but wanted to keep his money safely in his own possession. He is like the man who buried his money and did not invest it in the love and service of his brothers and sisters, especially those in need. The other, Zacchaeus, generously shared his wealth with the poor. He had invested his money well. He had learned to see. Any one who can really see where Jesus is has no alternative but to go his Way.
Finally, there are those who totally reject Christ and all that he stands for. Their blindness is total.
Today we are asked to reflect on the special gifts that God has given to each one of us and how we are using them for the benefit of brothers and sisters in need. What are our attitudes to money, to property, to professional status, academic or other qualifications or other gifts with which we are endowed? Where do we invest our gifts, our talents both inborn and acquired?
The message is clear: the more we invest, the more we will gain. We cannot stand still or just cling to what we have. The only way to gain is to let go, to give and to share. Good examples of this would be St Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa. It is an attitude very foreign to many people’s way of thinking, who feel that life consists of amassing more and more, that security is in having.
But the Gospel way is really the only way that makes sense. It is not collecting but sharing that generates wealth, the wealth that really matters – freedom, security and peace.
Art: The parable of the talents
Parable of the talents or minas
We all have different gifts and talents in life. Some of us are more privileged than others. Many things in life are givens, our status, our health, our family and even our wealth. Often, those who are less gifted than others tend to envy those who have more. We are always looking at the greener pastures. As a result, we can become resentful, envious and bitter against society and against God. Such people who are never satisfied can never find happiness in life. Conversely, we have the other group of so-called fortunate people. They seem to be blessed with all the good things in life, health, talents, wealth, loving family, status, influential connections and good careers. Yet, they are not happy. Wealth is a double edged sword. We can use it for good or abuse it. Failure to use it well will lead to our own destruction.
Consequently, regardless of what gifts and talents the Lord has blessed us with, we are called to be grateful and be contented with what we have. There is no need to desire more or less. Being contented is what brings us real happiness in life. But what does it mean to be contented? Does it mean that we are to be complacent and irresponsible? Does it mean that a contented person has no zeal, no passion and no ambition? Does contentment equate with being irresponsible with our gifts? Being contented is to make full use of what we have for our growth and the service of humanity. It means that we are always acting in full capacity at any point of time. We are not working or doing less, yet we are not over-exerting ourselves at the expense of our health, peace of mind and relationship with our loved ones. It means that we are always realizing our potentials in life, always growing and always living a life of fulfillment. How can we cultivate such a disposition?
Firstly, we must know our place in life. As the gospel tells us, we are the servants of God. He is our king who has given us certain responsibilities in life in His kingdom. We are His subjects. Like the vision in the first reading, we are called to render total submission to the king as the 24 elders did. All of us, regardless of our status in life, must glorify God. They “honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne.” Even the four animals, whether it was the mighty lion, the sacrificial ox, the biggest of all birds or the human person, all are called to glorify God each in our own ways, “singing: “’Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty; he was, he is and he is to come.’”
Secondly, we must understand the inexorable laws of nature. The principle of life is that we are happy only when we are full-filled. That is to say, we are in a state of fullness. Different people have different capacities. It is like eating. When we eat more than our stomach can hold, it becomes a sacrifice and no longer a joy. The joy of eating is in eating just enough. Beyond that, there is decreasing satisfaction. In the same way, there is no need to envy those who have more, whether it is food or a better job because if we are given a responsibility that is more than we can manage, it will be the death of us. We would be so stressed up every day that our health and relationships will break down. So in life, in all things, we must seek to arrive at the optimum. That is why greed and gluttony will destroy a person’s health and happiness.
The second law of nature is that we can grow in capacity. But this is not something done overnight. Like a child, we need to learn how to crawl before we learn how to walk and then run. Contentment does not mean complacency and indifference to growth. Rather, it means taking our growth seriously. And as we grow in strength, in knowledge, skills and experience, we can handle more and more. This explains why the man who made ten talents was given ten cities to govern. To give him less would underutilize his talents. But he should not be given more either because it might be too difficult for him to manage. Hence, the man who produced five pounds was given five cities to look after.
The third principle of the law of nature is that those who prove themselves to be “faithful in a very small thing” could then be in charge of greater things. There are some people who want to be promoted in their jobs and be given greater responsibilities. They seek to do big things. Yet the test of a good leader is when he or she is able to be responsible in whatever is given to them. Indeed, a worker who does his or her job well will certainly be seen as a potential for higher duties by the company. Who does not want someone who could do much more? But when we cannot even do small things well, no one would ever entrust us to do greater things because the damage caused could be irreparable. Doing small things well will help us to grow in our skills and work attitudes, which in turn will give confidence to those who are in charge of us.
The fourth principle of the law of nature is that the more we have, the more we will be given. “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more.” This might seem to be rather unfair in life, that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The truth is that everything is cumulative in life. When we grow in our skills, we have a greater capacity to do more. This is true even in mundane matters like investments, as the gospel suggests. We should take the initiative to make the money grow instead of hiding or hoarding them. The only way to ensure that our money grows is not even to put in the bank but to invest wisely so that money is made to work. So if the man who had more was given more, it was because only he could manage with more.
However, there are warnings as well for those who do not take initiative and risks in life. Firstly, they will remain stagnant in life. Such people cannot grow. Life is such, either we are growing or we are dying. Nothing is stagnant. That is why the man who did not invest the money was condemned. He was not only lazy and irresponsible but he was afraid to take risks. He could have done something with the money. And this is true for us. God has given us health, wealth, personal resources, knowledge, education, influence, etc. Where and how have we used them?
Secondly, if we do not use what we have, then Jesus tells us that whatever little we have will be taken away:“From the man who has not; even what he has will be taken away.” Indeed, those who do not use their talents or develop what they have been given will eventually lose them. Those of us who learn music but do not use our talents to render our service to the community will eventually forget how to play music. Those of us who do not read and study will become demented and unable to think and read anymore. The best way to grow something is to continue doing it and we become better and better at it each passing day.
So let us use our talents well. They are given to us to glorify God and to serve His people. In the process of using them for service, we grow as persons because we realize our potentials. Only by exercising the gifts given to us, can we develop and form ourselves. That is why we should never be afraid of challenges in life. They help us to maximize our potentials like a fully charged battery. Our focus is not on what we get at the end, or how much money we make, or whether we are given higher office. The focus is on the present. Happiness in life is experienced more in the journey than at the arrival. When we arrive, that is the end of the journey and then another journey must begin till we arrive at the next destination. The fun and joy is in the journey! The end is the beginning.
Tags: breath and life, by just listening we cannot enter the Kingdom of God, coins, From the throne came flashes of lightning, her hope in the Lord, Holy holy holy Lord mighty God, hoping for the coming of the kingdom of God in our lives, how do we use what God has given to us, kingdom of God in its fullness, Lk 19:11-28, Matthew 25:14-30, minas, November 16 2016, parable about the use of what God has given to us, parable of the talents, Parable of the talents or minas, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 150, Psalm 17, rv 4:1-11, SEE JN 15:16, seven spirits of God, tax collector Zacchaeus, willing to take the risk of opening ourselves to God in our lives