Parable of the Talents; 19th-century anonymous engraving

Fr Neil’s message about the readings for Mass on Trinity XXIII (15 November)

Come and join in your master’s happiness.

In the gospel parable of the talents our Lord is speaking about the last things with the coming judgement of the risen glorified Christ.

The parable is cautionary in nature — what we have done with the gifts that God has given us will, in part, inform the judgement we receive. Our Lord tells of three people to whom the master has given a number of talents according to their ability: five, two and one.

The first two people in Jesus’ parable grow what was given them and reap the reward. The third man however hides his talent and is thrown into outer darkness where there is ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’. The distinction between the first two men and the last is not so much in what he does with the talent but why he buries the talent given him. The third man tells the master that he sees him as hard, powerful, selfish and a thief: “you reap what you do not sow.”

The third man’s actions are irrational and rooted in fear, despite all evidence to the contrary. The master is God, not some gangland crook! He is generous and gave talents to the three men. It doesn’t say if the coins were gold or silver, but even one silver talent was equal to 15–20 years’ wages! In addition, the reward for the first two men shows God’s desire that all are able to enter into his eternal joy and happiness. Imagine a time of great joy and happiness and multiply it by eternity..! This man’s image of God was distorted and became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sin distorts our image of God. In Genesis, the Fall turns Adam and Eve from those who walk with God ‘in the cool of the day’ into those who hide in fear. Despite all the evidence to the contrary Adam and Eve, because of sin, give way to irrational fear, burying themselves in an attempt to hide from God.

Far too often today we can fear talking about sin because our view of God’s mercy is distorted and far too limited. We may also avoid proclaiming the truths of our faith and its demand for conversion of life, because we have a warped view of God’s love for us. This is even despite the clearest demonstration of his love and desire revealed to us in every crucifix we gaze upon.

Sin generates fear and fear makes us hide in darkness from God. However, the moment we stop hiding and come into the light of Christ, acknowledging our sin, we move towards God’s merciful love that calls us to share in the master’s happiness and joy for all eternity.