To listen to the homily please play the audio below.
This parable of Jesus could come from today’s world of bankers and accountants and venture capitalists. We can miss what the story means. It’s deceptively simple, so let’s go slowly through it part by part.
First of all, the master of the house is going on a journey, so he calls three of his servants and writes out checks to them. He wants to make some money from what he gives them, and so they’re to trade till he comes back.
Right away, we see that the master of the house is very wealthy, extremely wealthy. He’s writing out big, big checks for his three servants.
The currency then was different than ours, of course. We have dollars; they had talents. One talent was a lot of money then, the equivalent to 6,000 denarii. And one denarius was the usual pay for a days work. So figure it out. My rough calculation is that 6,000 denarii would be what someone might accumulate after working 20 years.
So the one who got 1 talent got about $500, 000. 00. Not a bad amount to work with. The servant with 2 talents, was given about a million dollars. The servant with 5 talents, was about 2 and a half million dollars. That’s what I figure it was.
Whatever it was, it was a very large sum. That might be the first lesson to learn from the story. The Master of the house– God, of course– is very generous with what he gives us. We’re rich. When we were born and baptized we received, not money– most of us came into this world without a cent to our name. But we have gifts, talents. Actually, the word today means more than money. Talents encompass all the gifts of mind and body we have from God
The second lesson is that we have to use the gifts we have. “Trade till I come,” God says. We are God’s servants and what we have is not ours, it’s been given to us, and we have to account for our lives and what we do with them.. “What do you have that you have not received,“ St. Paul says.
That’s a good question. Some today say “I worked for everything I’ve got. I can do whatever I want with my life and what I have.” No we can’t. We’re God’s servants. We may not like to be called servants, but that’s what we are. The life that pulses through our bodies, health we have, the mind we have, the homes we live in, the cars we have, the jobs we do.
God gives us a great deal of freedom, as he does to the servants in the parable. He’s not standing over us every minute, telling us what to do. No, we’re free to do creatively what we can do. But God wants us to trade till he comes.
The final lesson in the parable is this. Did you notice which servant gets chastized ? It’s the one who was given one talent. His excuse is that he was worried about losing everything and so he buried his master’s money in a field. Actually, from what we know of our Lord’s time, that was the safest place you could keep precious things. Dig a hole and bury them in the fields out of sight.
I always wondered why the Master was so angry with this servant who seems only to be playing it safe. Maybe it’s because he seems to stand for all those with ordinary talents, so ordinary that they bury them and don’t use them.
There’s so much neglect of ordinary talents today, so much belittlement of them, so much of taking them for granted. We think only people with a lot are important. We stand in awe of celebraties and we miss the value of ordinary people and ordinary things and ordinary talents.
Someone sent me this little quiz by email.
- Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
- Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
- Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
- Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.
- Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies.. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
- Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. Use the talents you have.
“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” (Charles Schultz)!