The Parable of the Talents

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) – Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; First Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30 or 25:14-15, 19 This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography by Carmelite Sisters

I’ve seen it time and time again.  Someone decides to seek a better paying job, or pursue and investment strategy, or launch a new business.  Invariably some pious person in the parish objects that maybe this is too worldly, that it will be a distraction from Church and family priorities, that one should be satisfied with what one has.
 
You’d think from this that faith equals passivity.  That the only perfect Christian is the cloistered contemplative.  That mildness is the greatest of Christian virtues. 

There are a number of Scripture texts that shatter this picture.  One is the image of the ideal wife in Proverbs 31.  The Blessed Virgin Mary read this passage and, as the most perfect of Israelite wives, most probably modeled herself after the woman portrayed here.  Does the Proverbs 31 woman sit around passively, praying a lot, and wearing beige?  No.  The first few verses of the chapter poetically tell how she is more valuable than pearls, a true prize.  The rest of the passage tell us why she is such a catch–she knows how to roll up her sleeves and hustle.  The passage tells of her side business ventures that increase the family’s wealth, which she shares with the poor.  Of course if she hadn’t worked so shrewdly and diligently, there would not be anything to share with the poor. 

Another Scripture that shatters the picture of Christianity as passivity is the famous parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  Note that it is money (yes money!) that the master entrusts to his various servants, different amounts according to varying abilities.  Two servants realize that the master wants a return on his capital, so they invest it and each double it.  The master does not expect to get the same sum back from these two because they started with different amounts.  But they both received the exact same praise because they both gave him a hundred per cent return. 

The servant of least ability, on the other hand, buried the money for fear of losing it.  Instead of praising him for being conservative, the master is outraged.  If you entrusted your retirement nest egg to a stockbroker, and years later it had not grown at all, would you be happy? 

The master was angry because the servant had allowed fear to paralyze him.  So afraid was he of losing money that he did not even take the very modest risk of depositing the money in the bank (there was no FDIC insurance in those days). 

The Lord has entrusted lots of things to us: money, natural talents, spiritual gifts, the saving truth of the Gospel.  He expects us not just to conserve these things but to grow them.  In the last supper discourse (John 15) he speaks of the disciples as bearing much fruit.  In the Parable of the Sower and the Seed he speaks of grain that bear 30, 60, and 100 fold.  Whatever labor we are involved in–economic, family, apostolic–the goal should be to develop, increase, and grow what God has given us, for his honor and glory. 

This inevitably involves taking risks.  It means not letting the fear of failure and ridicule stop us from pursuing success. 

One of the greatest Catholic thinkers of the 20th century was a Swiss priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar.  He once pointed out that one of the most frequently used words in the book of Acts was the Greek word parrhesia, meaning cheerful boldness in the face of danger or opposition.  Without such boldness, Christianity would have stalled in Palestine.  It never would have made it to Antioch, Greece, and Rome. 

Faithfulness to God means having the courage to take bold initiatives, in pastoral life, family life, and business, to be creative, even entrepreneurial, to express our gratitude to God for all that He has given us by making it grow.


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Mass readings 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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