1 Thes 5: 1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30
Today’s gospel poses many challenges in the world that we live today, culturally and economically. If we simply read it at face value, it gives the illusion that Jesus is a raging capitalist, where the rich get richer and poor get poorer, without any moral compass pointing the way. Unfortunately, you will hear some preachers that support that reading of the gospel, but they’d be wrong and is not the intention of this gospel. Another challenge is that we’ve heard this gospel many times in our lives, and again, we gloss over it and limit what’s going on to the fact that God has given us talents and we are to use them. Albeit that it may be a valid point, I think it glosses over what goes on underneath the words of this gospel, which is why it’s important that we read it in its entirety rather than a shorter version.
As we hear it play out, there should be something about this third servant that we hear of that shakes us a bit and the servants relationship to the master, especially when we automatically assume that the master is God and Jesus. First and foremost, we must try to put the talents aside and convince ourselves that it’s not about money. As a matter of fact, if we keep returning to that point, it only proves how much control money does have over us. But this servant, the third of them, seems to have a different relationship with the master than the other two. They seem to listen and go and do exactly what he says and tells them to do, but something is different with the third.
It gives the appearance, in terms of relationship, that there is a level of mistrust. He has all these preconceived notions about who the master is. He thinks he’s hard. He thinks he’s cruel and to be feared. He thinks he’s stealing and getting his riches from less than stellar avenues. He thinks he is a demanding person. So all of these perceptions are preventing him from trusting the master, the master’s command, and the master’s voice, and so does what he only knows how to do when he doesn’t trust, he buries.
Now if it’s not about money, there is something of greater value that is being buried by the third servant. If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we have been there. The greatest gift, of the greatest value, that we bury is the will of God, the voice of God, the divine indwelling, gets squashed. The voice of the master isn’t to be trusted because we have convinced ourselves and others have told us not to trust. Think how often the scribes and pharisees would have led others to believe that. It was only their voice that should be trusted, not the voice of God within. It’s what leads Jesus to the cross and ourselves at times as well.
Now I’ve been there. I sympathize and empathize with him, and so I’ve had to wrestle with the reading this week myself. Somehow this servant, and the third servant within all of us, whom we have learned to trust more than the voice of God, but slowly be let go of; a letting go of fear. Fear has such a tremendous hold on us in our lives and it keeps us from hearing the divine indwelling and prevents us from living the will of God in our lives. Unfortunately, we’re often ok with that. As Paul tells the Thessalonians today that we like comfort, we like just skating along in life, we like security and so on, because then we never have to change and seek conversion. When we allow fear to take hold of us, it’s as if we know something is missing in our lives, and yet, we feel paralyzed by it at the same time. I sympathize and empathize with this guy because I have been there. Yet, when the treasure is found, the talent of great value, the voice of God, there’s no turning back.
The other two servants are held up as the example to the other and to us because it’s what happens when we learn to trust and let go of these preconceived notions of who and what the master really is to us. They learn to take risk and whether we like it or not, faith is a huge risk; living God’s will is a huge risk because we are often led to places where we’d rather not go and so instead, all too often, we hunker down and bury it, the greatest gift of all. To be disciples, we must trust the master’s voice. We must be willing to take the risk in stepping out there, making mistakes along the way, knowing God’s there to pick and pull us up; but we did it and that voice will grow and the kingdom of God will grow within and around us.
My friends, this Gospel does pose great challenges to us, but not for what we might believe on the surface. It challenges us in our relationship to the master and our willingness to admit that at times I too choose fear over the voice of God trying to lead me elsewhere. I too choose to bury rather than trust and allow the experience to grow in faith. This gospel is an invitation to sit with it and allow ourselves to be and to be with this third servant and ask ourselves where are relationship with the master is these days. When we can finally admit it, then we can begin to break down the walls that separate and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Then we can learn to trust all over again and grow in faith rather than fear. Then we can allow the Kingdom of God to not only grow within us, but through our parish, this community, and ultimately, this world.