As we wind down our journey into the last days of Fall, the days grow shorter and the weather becomes cooler. Most of us adapt to the increased darkness as well as the changing weather. Mother Nature brings us a season that is suited to quiet and contemplation and encourages us to slow down a bit. So, too, does the Church invite us to adopt a more contemplative spirit as we approach the beginning of a new liturgical year and enter the Advent season, looking forward to the celebration of Our Lord’s coming at Christmas, as well as at the end of our earthly life. Before we get to this joyous celebration, it’s good for us to consider whether we are prepared to meet Our Lord.
In the past couple of weeks, our readings at Mass invited us to reflect on this very topic. We were reminded in the parable of the ten virgins that we should stay awake, for we know not the day or the hour at which our Lord will come. We heard in one reading that the Lord comes like a thief in the night. Both of these clearly point to the necessity of living as Christ’s disciples each and every day so that we might be prepared for whenever we are called to meet our Lord.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus tells of a king who was embarking on a journey; but before leaving, summoned his servants and gave to each of them a certain amount of money to care for in his absence. Two of the servants went out and used what their master had given them wisely and, in turn, doubled what they were given. However, the third servant, fearful of the master, kept to himself what he had been given and returned only that to the master. The two that used their gifts wisely were invited to share their master’s joy; whereas the one, who kept what he had been given, was cast out.
In trying to understand this parable, there is room for confusion when one word has multiple meanings. Today we think of “talent” as a special attribute that a person possesses – in sports, in art, in music or whatever. Talents are the gifts that enable people to excel in a particular area or field in their lives. These talents are not earned, but they can be developed. Does it annoy you as much as it does me to see gifted people who do not use their talents properly? By the same token, aren’t we particularly impressed with people who use their talents for the good of others?
But, the talents in that Gospel are different – more like sums of money that can be invested – which is what two of the men in the parable do with them. A single talent of silver was worth more than fifteen times the basic daily wage of the time, so gifts of one, two or five talents were very extravagant. One man, however, does what people today are often inclined to do with their money: he buried it for “safety.” It seems the sensible thing then was to dig a hole and bury your savings because it was too easy for burglars literally to break a hole in the wall of a house and steal valuables. But, parables are notorious for turning upside down the expected order of things, and this one is no exception. The high-risk takers are rewarded for their audacity; the prudent one is punished. It is clear that playing safe with God’s gifts is not an option in the kingdom of heaven. Those who took risks are not given extra talents; they are praised identically for being good and faithful servants, and they are invited to come and share their master’s happiness. The one who played safe, who risked nothing for his master, is deprived of his talent and cast out.
However, the emphasis is on the positive. The parable reminds us that we have been given much by God. We don’t have the option of not using our gifts to build God’s kingdom. We are His servants; the talents are the gifts that God has bestowed on us – our intelligence, our ability to love, our skills, and even temporal goods; the journey that the master takes signifies the duration of our life; his unexpected return represents our death; the settling of accounts our judgment; and the banquet is Heaven. Whatever we invest, the promised reward is to share in the happiness of the master’s kingdom.
As we enter into the season of Advent, may we use this time to reflect on our own lives and seek to understand whether we utilize the gifts that Our Lord has given us to build up the kingdom of God on earth: living the stewardship and discipleship way of life, or keeping them selfishly for our own gain. I hope that each of us can say that we live as good stewards of our talents by our striving to live each day as Christ’s disciples. May we be ever prepared for when the Lord arrives, so that we, too, might hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your Father’s joy.”
I invite you, this Sunday afternoon, to share in a very spiritual moment. At 3:00 p.m., we will present a spiritual musical based on the Three Kings journey. Bring your family, and enjoy this presentation of “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” Try to see where you might fit in on your own life’s journey to see Jesus. It’s a delightful Advent experience you won’t want to miss!