November 15, 2020
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
In these last days of this year, as the sunlight decreases and the darkness increases, we are instructed by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel how to live as children of the light. In these last days of Ordinary Time, as we listen to the end-time discourses of Jesus in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we learn how to live in preparation for the end of our life and our judgment day.
The key which unlocks this Sunday’s end-time parable is the correct understanding of what a “talent” is. That word causes us to think about an inborn trait or our own particular gifts or unique abilities. Such as, she has a talent for music or he a talent with numbers or she a gift for bringing people together or he a knack for fixing things. Understanding the word “talent” in this way, we think we will be welcomed by the Master to share His joy when we discover our talents and use them.
But that is not what the word “talent” refers to in this Scripture passage. A “talent” in Jesus’ day was a form of currency that equaled 20-years worth of wages. The servant who received 5 talents received a gift of 100 years worth of wages, or millions of dollars in today’s terms.
Thus, as some Scripture commentators point out, the “talent” which the Master, Jesus, shares with his servants could refer to the incredibly costly gifts of his love and mercy. Jesus’ possessions, what he has to give away and does give away throughout his life, are love and mercy. He lavishes love on every person he encounters. Jesus multiplies mercy by setting people free from whatever separates them from God, so they can go and do the same.
As the Risen Lord, Jesus breathes on his followers the gift of His Spirit, the Spirit of love, so they can love others as He loves them.
The love of Christ Jesus, given to us, multiplies when it is given away. The mercy of Jesus Christ, poured into our lives, increases when shared.
The worthy wife described in the last verses of the Book of Proverbs is like the servants in today’s Gospel who doubled their “talents” by using them, multiplying mercy and increasing love by sharing them. This woman is worth more than the value of many pearls, because she does not hoard the life-giving love and compassion she has received from God. She generously gives away what she has been given, both to her family and to anyone in need.
The divine gifts she has received broaden her own heartfelt concern beyond the walls of her own home to those who have no home. The loving mercy of God compels her to feed not only her own family but with great resourcefulness to reach out and feed the poor at her door.
In a very practical way, this valiant woman shows us how to use the “talents” God has given us. She anticipates the future free from anxiety because she has a holy fear of the Lord, knowing that everything she has comes from the Lord. She knows that the love of God will sustain her in good times and bad, so she shares that generous, self-giving love with others. She is not focused on herself but on others.
Her shining example calls to mind the words of Pope Francis about how we are born to help each other and how Nature reveals this truth.
Rivers do not drink their own water. Trees do not eat their own fruit. The sun does not shine on itself. And flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves.
Living for others is a rule of nature. We are born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is…. Life is good when you are happy; But much better when others are happy because of you.
This is the way to enter into the joy of the Master.
In 2017 Pope Francis designated the 3rd Sunday in November as the “World Day of Prayer for the Poor.” Today, on this 4th World Day of Prayer for the Poor, we receive those who are poor as God’s gift to us, because they call forth from us in a special way these divine talents of love and mercy.
Our own Blessed Stanley Rother taught us that those who are poor are God’s gift to us. He taught us this truth by his life and by his death— that those who are forgotten by the world, invisible to the people in power, who live on the margins—are God’s gift to us.
By lovingly and mercifully sharing our gifts with those who are impoverished, we remember the One from whom all gifts flow into our lives.
And miracle of miracles, whatever gifts we share with the least of our brothers and sisters, we are really giving to the Lord and Master of the Universe.