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November 19, 2017 - How will Our Story be Retold?

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Latest data tells us that now the richest 1% own 86% of the world’s wealth. In the United States, top 20% of Americans own 86% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population own 14%. I begin with my homily with these statistics not only because of staggering the inequality, but also because in a Capitalist economy such as ours, the Parable of the Talents might make us conclude that the top 1% are really the heroes of the parable, and that the rest of us are lazy, stupid, and incapable. After all, the master said, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.”  Matthew’s purpose of writing this parable is certainly not economic. If the Master is God and the servants are us, it becomes very important that the parable is interpreted correctly, least it become a tool for oppression. 

In three points, let me reflect on this parable. 

  1. God is Good. At the first reading, the parable seems to put God in a negative light. Towards the end, the third servant and the Master engage in a rather negative dialogue. Rightly understood, this is a very positive parable that reveals God’s nature. First, the parable tells us that God is generous. To each of these people to whom he owned nothing, he generously gave all his possessions. Those of you who watch the TV show, “Shark Tank,” know how hard the entrepreneurs work go get the ‘Sharks’ to invest in their company. Or if you have ever applied for a loan, you know how cumbersome the process is. Yes! God is a generous God. Second, the parable tell us that God trusts the people to whom God gave the talents. Remember that he gave these people the gifts and then he just left town. He simply trusted them with the talents. Third, the parable tells us that God gives to each according to his or her ability. God respects our abilities and our limitations and treats us accordingly. God is not the hard master that the third man in today’s reading accused him of being.Today, for us, this means that our life is an act of God’s generosity; that God trusts us with our life; and, that God does not expect more from us than our abilities. God is good! 
  1. How Will Our Story be Retold? The three people to whom the talents were given, tells us somethings about humanity? It tells us that we are all gifted, each according to our abilities. The lesson for us is not merely that we must live our lives meaningfully and use our gifts well. That message is self-evident. My concern these days is how God given gifts and abilities are being used to cause pain and destruction. How many mass shootings have we had in our country just in the last month? What about all the sexual harassment cases coming out against politicians, presidents, celebrities and public officials? What is it that we still do not know? How much pain is caused by human persons? On the other hand, there are millions and millions of people who bring much goodness to the world. As we look back at history, we can think of the people who were very gifted and they left death and destruction behind, like Hitler. And then there are those who were not very gifted, yet brought about much good, like Mother Teresa or Blessed Oscar Romero. How will history judge your life and mine? When we stand before God, what will the story of our life look like? How will our family re-tell our story to the future generations? As we reach the end of the liturgical year and the church encourages us to reflect on these eschatological parables, these are good questions to think about.
  1. It is About the Gospel. What is this parable really about? This parable is not about money, investments, or even our natural talents. In reality, this parable is about the gospel of Jesus Christ. In writing this parable Matthew’s was addressing the Jews who gave a cold reception to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his mind, they were like the third person who buried the talent and did nothing with it. Matthew’s practical implication of this parable for us is this: that God has generously given us the gift of life  and the gospel of Jesus Christ; that God has trusted us with our life and the gospel in the same way that he trusted the people in the gospel; that God wishes that according to our abilities, we will make the gospel grow. Matthew is proposing that your life and mine becomes a powerful means through which the gospel can spread and bear fruit. According to the best of our abilities, our life must be shout out to the gospel. If today or tomorrow was the day that we stand face-to-face with God, may God say to us, “'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share your master's joy.”

This Eucharist is also God’s precious gift. As we receive God’s real presence in this bread and wine, may we share that goodness with the world.  

- Fr. Satish Joseph