Sunday, 19 November 2023. Read Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31, Ps. 128:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, Matthew 25:14-30
“You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming, I should have received what was my own with interest.” (Matthew 25:26-27)
Last Sunday, Jesus gave us the parable of the ten virgins. Five were foolish; they made several mistakes and were kicked out of the wedding banquet. We know that Jesus is the bridegroom that would come at the end of time, and only the wise ones who have gone the extra mile to live according to His precepts will be admitted into the eternal banquet of heaven.
Today, Jesus gave us another parable, similar to the parable of the ten virgins; however, this time, there is just one foolish servant who again ended up in a place of outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. How do we resemble this foolish servant? And what lessons do we learn from this parable?
1. How We Bury Our Gifts.
There is a whole world of difference between resting and laziness. While rest is a sign of wisdom, laziness (avoiding work) is foolishness. Scriptures teach us: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a vagabond, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:10-11) Meanwhile, the same Scriptures declare: “Sweet is the sleep of a labourer, whether he eats little or much.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12).
One of the ways we bury our gifts is by looking for excuses to avoid work. When you don’t want to do something, you would always have an excuse (a valid reason) for not doing it. According to this foolish servant, the Master was a hard man reaping where he had not sown, meaning that, for him, his Master did not deserve the profit. For this reason, the Master referred to this servant as a wicked person. It is a sign of wickedness if we fail to use the talents, gifts and abilities that God has given us.
Secondly, we bury our gifts when we are overwhelmed by fear. The foolish servant said: “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” (Matthew 25:25). Fear is an acronym for “false expectations appearing real.” Fear paralyses and locks us down in our shells. This man feared losing money if he traded with the talent, so he buried the talent and gave back the exact amount. He was so scared of failing that he couldn’t even trust the bankers to deposit the money with them. Dear friends, never bury your talents; do not hide your gifts. If you are too afraid to fail, pray and trust that God will support your efforts.
Thirdly, we bury our gifts when we view work as a curse, something that is beneath our status. For instance, what would be your reaction if you came into the church this morning and saw me sweating profusely while sweeping the church myself? Our first reading today describes the good wife as one who works with willing hands. Many women today are praying seriously to marry a man rich enough to employ a cook, a cleaner, a driver, a gardener and even a nanny. They consider this description of a good wife as too outdated. In the name of modernity, many marriages today have crumbled, children grow up without fathers and mothers, and more trouble looms for our society. If working with willing hands is your sacrifice for humanity, do it gladly. If we all care about looking beautiful and maintaining our shape, there will soon be no families or cradles to raise responsible humans for society.
2. To Each According to His Ability.
Another important lesson this parable teaches us is that although we are all gifted, we do not have the same abilities. Stop comparing yourself to others and stop getting depressed because you feel cheated by God. We do not all have the same talents, and even if we may have similar talents, there is always a variety of degrees to which we possess these talents. While one servant got two, another was given five talents, not because he was luckier but because the Master knew his potential. Look inward, discover what you have inside you and make the best of it.
Avoid pulling others down to shine in their place. Life is not a racing competition; even if it were, everyone has their race tracks. If you are running to catch me, you may be running in the opposite direction of your race track, and you will miss out on your true calling. Ultimately, the one who got five talents did not do better than the one who got two, as both doubled their investment. Likewise, the one who got one talent could double his if only he used it. God cheats no one in this life. Your life is God’s gift to you; what you do with it is your gift to God.
3. Walk as a Child of Light; Avoid Darkness
As the year gradually draws to a close, we are reminded that everything we see and know (including our very life) must surely end. What makes death so disturbing is the fact that it happens without prior warning. In our second reading, St. Paul describes the day of the Lord’s coming as “a thief in the night.” He then says that we are not in the darkness for that day to surprise us like thieves. As children of the light, we have no reason to fear death.
St. Paul says: “So then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” Our Psalmist this morning sings: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.” When we fear God and do what is right in His sight, we are assured of His blessings in this life and the future. In his commentary for today’s readings, Dr Pitre Ryan explains that sin distorts our image of God. When Adam and Eve sinned, they started seeing God as a threat rather than a loving Father. When we sin, we start to see God as entirely different from who He is, and our poor image of God makes us behave like this servant who hid his Master’s talent.
Conclusion: Trust and Obey God.
Truly, God desires the very best for us. He wants to see us prosper, He wants to see us happy and fruitful, and He always desires our good. We only need to trust and obey Him. Yes, the world will end, but in the meantime, we must be busy with our talents. Jesus would say: “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5:17)
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, help me to discover and use my talents for your glory. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Colour: Green. Bible Study: Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31, Ps. 128:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, Matthew 25:14-30).
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu