16th Sunday of Matthew
(Parable of the Talents)
As we have said on other occasions, man’s role here on earth is to be the priest of creation, the one who, having received God’s grace and gifts, cultivate and transforms what he has received, and offers it back to God in thanksgiving. The message we are confronted with in the well-known parable of the talents that we just heard, relates to this basic and essential work of the human being.
God, however, does not look at how much you have to offer, but rather how much effort you put in in order to bring it; he doesn’t look at where you are, but what you had to do to get there. In the parable, the lord does not distinguish between the servant who had been given five talents and gained another five and the one who was given two and gained another two. The lord says the same thing to both of them: “Well done, O good and faithful slave! Over a little thou wast faithful, I will appoint thee over much; enter the joy of thy lord.” Their offerings differed in size, but were the result of the same amount of effort.
Another thing we learn from this parable especially, since it employs the image of financial investment, is that the spiritual life involves a degree of risk. At certain times, we’re not exactly sure what we’re supposed to do, what God’s will is for our lives. At times, we make mistakes. But we have to take the risk, because a mistake can be corrected, and someone can rise again after falling. What is completely unacceptable to God, however, is that we do nothing, that we don’t even try, that we completely neglect what God has given us, that we let our fear of failure separate us from God.
In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, God says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (3:15-16).
To be lukewarm means to be without faith, to act as if there is no help to be had from God the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is what the Lord is referring to when he speaks of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31). When the Lord says here that this particular sin cannot be forgiven, he does not mean that God is unable or unwilling to forgive, but rather than forgiveness is not enough, because a person in this state, who doesn’t dare to take a step forwards nor backward, are going to remain where they are and perish there. There is no forgiveness for this sin because it doesn’t need forgiveness, it needs correction.
And this correction begins with the little things. “Over a few things thou wast faithful, I will appoint thee over much”. If we are faithful in small acts of love and charity, forgiveness and humility, small moments of self-control and ascesis, if we don’t neglect the things of God in the little things of everyday life, then God will guide us in the difficult and great things.
Whether we have much or little, we must use what we have. Let us not fear. Let us take the risk. If we proceed with humility, faith, and good intentions, then even the mistakes we make can be transformed into something good. If we do nothing, however, if we stay in our state of inertia and inactivity, then we are sure to lose it: “For to everyone who hath, it shall be given, and he shall be in abundance; but from the one who hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.”