What kind of a reputation would you like to have at the end of your life? One who pushed his way through life? Or one who was grateful and served his way through life? The answer to either one will also determine where we find ourselves at the end of life.
We are or will be accountable for what we become and how we got there.
Make no mistake about it– in today’s parable, it is not the man who doubled his five talents who is the winner.
It is the person who hid the one in order to give it back, who would not participate in any kind of corruption to force anything or anyone and who would not cheat or steal or extort anyone.
The man who went on the journey was a criminal who leveraged money, who charged exorbitant interests, who forced others into poverty, who invented pyramidal schemes. How does the parable describe him? “A demanding person,” “harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter…” In other words, he steamrolled over people.
The man who went on a journey expected to lure the three to whom he gave money into his trap to do with it what he would do with it to make more.
Only one of the three does not fall prey to the temptation to corruption.
The talents in the parable do not refer to personal characteristics or abilities but rather to large sums of money, from having large quantities of gold and silver. One Biblical scholar reported that one talent would be worth $2.1 million dollars today.
The point is not how much the talent was worth but how it was obtained and how many laws and people were violated.
“Well done, good and faithful servant” from a crook’s point of view is very different from Jesus’ point of view.
Today’s parable invites us to take a good look at the corruption with which we have become friends, with which we have become complicit through our actions, decision making and crooked thinking in our lives.
The one who did nothing with the one talent did not ask for it and did not become corrupted or complicit by the largesse. It would be like joining a gang. Perhaps the giving of the talents to each of the three was a test to see whether each could be trusted.
The one talent man barely survived the test. As far as the owner was concerned, he was useless and thrown out.
There are several other stories, temple stories, where miracles took place. Those whom Jesus defended were also thrown out from the Temple. Later, Jesus would find and invite them to come along with him.
Today, we are talking a lot about “the times and seasons” as St. Paul’s reading comments in his day. It takes more than money and influence and power to entice a follower of Jesus.
“Brothers and sisters, you are not in darkness for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day.”
St. Paul’s final words, the last phrase of today’s reading stares us in the face: “Let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.”
The “man going on a journey” wanted to make deals, to get the most out of others and of life as he could. Like all people who cheat their way through life, he oppressed “the one who would not play his game.” But Jesus found “the one” and led him out of darkness to a new spiritual place of safety and protection.
In contrast to the man who was throwing his money around to make more at any expense, our first reading from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs talks about a worthy wife and a loving husband. Both are figures of speech for the wisdom of God, a value far beyond pearls — far, far beyond all the talents possessed by the man in the parable.
The wise person can discern a trick and is not about to play into it. The wise person can sense who is real or who is pushing their own agenda. A wise person trusts a true person, who “shows good and not evil, [and] works with loving hands.” A wise person reaches out to the poor and extends their hands to the needy. Charm is real and not manipulating. A wise person receives the reward of a wise person. A wise person receives the praise from who they are and what they have done.
Today, let us remember in our prayer all who have been cheated, all who have been scorned, all who have been used or violated by others who have used them.
As the last sentence of Matthew’s Beatitudes says “Rejoice and be glad for their reward will be great in heaven.”
St. Paul’s last words to us today are “Let us stay alert and sober… The day of the lord will come as a thief at night.”
We can put all kinds of lights and sensors to protect our homes but they do not protect us from being corrupt or scheming. Jesus invites us today to continue to be and work at being “children of the light and children of the day.”