November 15, 2020; Matthew 25:14-30; 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel parable, a master goes on a journey and trusts his wealth to his servants. It is important to note that the servants do not all receive the same amount. One receives five talents, the other two, and a third one. Now it is customary to see the master as God and the talents as the abilities and gifts that God gives to each one of us to do God’s will. In this understanding, the varying amounts reflect the truth that we are not all equally talented. Some of us have more abilities than others.
This is a good interpretation of the parable, but it is not the only one. Instead of seeing the talents as abilities we have received, we can see them as opportunities that are available. When you look at the parable in this way, it is telling us that we do not all have the same opportunity to do God’s will. Some people have a variety of avenues to follow God’s commandments. They are the ones with five talents. Others see their opportunities diminish and struggle to find a way to act. They are the ones with one talent.
There are many ways for opportunities in our lives to be reduced. All of us are dealing with the coronavirus. Because it is wise to remain isolated, we lose the opportunity to be with family and friends. We are less able to work to serve the poor or to achieve justice in our society. Those among us who are sick or who are dealing with advanced age lose the opportunity to act in the ways they would like. There is less energy to share their wisdom and support the people around them. If your family is ruptured, if people are not talking to one another, you lose the opportunity to be the mother, father, brother or sister that you want to be. The opportunity to be a real family becomes embarrassingly small.
When we find ourselves in such reduced circumstance, this parable is telling us we should use the opportunity that is given, regardless how limited it might be. In the parable, the servant who received one talent did not use it. He buried it out of fear. What was he afraid of? I suggest to you that he was afraid that his talent was too small to make a difference. This servant is criticized for his decision. The parable is telling us that whatever opportunity God entrusts to us is a gift we are to use.
So even if we are isolated because of the coronavirus, we still have the opportunity to reach out by phone or Zoom to the people in our lives. We can still remain aware of the actions in our society to uplift the poor and protect the environment. Even if we are sick or dealing with old age, we still have the opportunity to use the little energy we have to support others and say the things they need to hear. Even if our family is broken and divided against one another, we can still find some opportunity to take a step forward. We can ask, “Can I give you a phone call?” We can text, “I am thinking of you.” These opportunities might seem incredibly small but they are still gifts entrusted to us by God.
When we find ourselves standing with one talent, it does us no good to wish we had five. But each talent, no matter how small, is a gift entrusted to us by God. So when such an opportunity appears, we should not dismiss it, doubt it, or bury it. We should use it. That is the only way we can be the good and faithful servants who follow our Master’s will.