33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
My dad always told us that coins were made round and not square because money was not meant to be hoarded. It was meant to circulate. Jesus today tells us that this is a spiritual law as well. The servant who invested well was given more and the one who hoarded was punished. This is because the law of risk and giving is written into the universe.
The first thing to notice is the master himself. See the spontaneity with which he gives his possessions to the care of his servants. He gives it to them, signs no contracts which means he trusts them with his precious possessions and then he goes on a journey. He does not build a cabin on the mezzanine where he can micromanage them. What we learn about the Master is that he is a giver and he trusts others spontaneously.
There is only one Master who is like this and it is the Father Himself. Giving is the law of the universe because the Father loves to give. In fact He is giving Himself. He is the origin of all giving and the Blessed Trinity is mutual giving. Each Person pours Himself out into the other with no barriers between them. This is why when it comes to His creation, God gives freely. It is His nature to give. Creation itself is a symbol of God’s crazy love. Jesus speaks of the Master’s joy ‘come share in your master’s joy’. This is joy of God who can only give. At the heart of the universe then, there is not a resentful and grudging God who is fretful because others may take advantage of him. At the heart of the universe there is the joy of the giving God.
With this in mind, we should then look at the first two servants. Why are they important? Because they reflect the Master. Hardly has the Master given his possessions to them than they are off taking a risk with it. They invest it. They do not think what’s in it for me. Their spontaneity tells us something important. They take risks because they trust the master, they do not suspect him. And the Master’s trust and love in turn has made them confident and loving persons – confident to take risks. They work hard and double what they have. What is even more wonderful is what happens when the Master returns. They spontaneously and with a touching childlike pride tell the Master what they have done and never once do they tell him that they want a reward for their industry. Neither do you see the Master take the money from them.
The Scriptures are silent on this. The servants still have the money but they do not consider it theirs but the master’s. The master does not take the money even though by right it is his. This tells us something important. There is a communion of life and love between the master and servants. What is his is theirs and what is theirs is his. No one needs to hoard and label what is theirs because they trust each other. As we know – no community whether it is a religious community or marriage works if trust fails and the hoarding mentality prevails. Hoarding is a sign of mistrust. Community cannot work on contracts. It must be based on trust and giving. This is the source of joy and life.
Which brings us to the third servant the hoarder. He is the only one we see returning the talent. ‘Here it is back.’ When he received the talent he probably carefully labelled it, ‘the Master’s’, then he carefully labelled everything else ‘mine’ When the Master returns, he is able to make sure he just returns that very talent and nothing more to the Master. He finds the talent an imposition on him. Remember he is the hoarder. He hoards his time, he hoards his energy. He does not want anyone to intrude into his life. When the Master gives him the talent, he groans inwardly. Now he will have to work for someone else. He will not be his own master, he will have to answer to someone else.
This is the one person who gets it all wrong. The Master does not just call him lazy. He calls him wicked before he calls him lazy. ‘You wicked and lazy servant’ The Greek word means evil, bad, malignant. This is a strong word. This is important. He is wicked because he is the one person who has forgotten that everything we have and receive, is a gift. Even our energy is a gift, our very talent for making money is a gift. And what is freely given must be freely given back without grudging resentment. Our sin is when we receive God’s gifts and then treat them as if we own them exclusively, as if we were the creators of those gifts. There is nothing as terrible as when we are ungrateful and resentful towards God. The servant was punished for this – even the little he had was taken away from him.
There is but one way to respond to God the Giver, generosity and gratitude. This is the way to joy and true happiness.