My Dear sisters and brothers! From the outset of the parable we face, what looks to us like inequality. Let us acknowledge it, as Jesus in the parable also acknowledged the differences in the servants’ abilities in proportion to which they were given the talents. However in his second last parable before he was crucified, Jesus was not lecturing on banking or on economics. Modern countries base their prosperity on banking, or better to say on ever increasing spending, and healthy economics which demand ever increasing spending. The people who listened to Jesus were not millionaires. They were typical battlers. The amount of money was just huge for them. So they knew that it was unrealistic for them to be given not five but even one talent. Was Jesus teasing them then? Jesus respected them far too much to tease them with naïve hopes. That’s why they sensed that he was revealing to them something deeper. Indeed Jesus was.
Before we unwrap the truth hidden in the big money Jesus spoke of in the Gospel passage I would like to meditate on what the first two servants did. ‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way.’ St Paul in the first Letter to the Corinthians uses exactly the same expression to describe winning new believers for Christ: ‘I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could.’ In 1990 Saint John Paul II summarised it by writing that: ‘Faith is strengthened when it is given to others.’ In this light we can appreciate the Gospel passage about the talents like the first listeners of Jesus did. Talents are the faith we have been given, the faith which permeates us. That’s why the third servant faced such severe reaction of his master who is the image of God. The servant was like the person who ‘put the lamp under a tub,’ ‘he dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.’ He was given faith but he kept it to himself. He didn’t increase it because he didn’t share it with others.
I would like to recall an example of a person who did share the faith he was given. His name was Zacchaeus. You may remember the short man from
Jericho who claimed the tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. You may also remember that he gave a half of his property to the poor after that encounter with Jesus. The day before Zacchaeus wouldn’t give a cent to anyone. What changed him then? It was Zacchaeus’ discovery of Jesus or rather being discovered, found by Jesus. What Zacchaeus shared was not simply his money but his faith expressed in his joy, peace and compassion towards others. Even if Jesus speaks about a huge amount of money in the Gospel the Gospel is not about money it is about faith which is ‘more precious than gold’ as St Peter wrote.
As I said at the beginning the Gospel is not about equality. It is about the reality of being given various abilities. The Gospel is about responsibility for what we have been entrusted with. The Gospel is about the richness of people who don’t need to be alike. We don’t need to compare ourselves to others. We are to fix our gaze on God who ‘examines us and knows us’ as we pray in the Psalm 139 and who gives us faith to awake a fascination for Jesus with a person or a number of people we have in our lives.