We continue with a general theme about preparing for the coming of the Lord at the end of time. However, the Gospel for this Sunday gives us the parable of Talents that draws our attention to how we use the gifts that God has given us. In this reflection I invite you to look at the parable through the eyes of the third servant. How does this perspective of the lazy servant nourish our faith?
Bible Readings Proverbs 31:10-31 Psalm 128: 1-5 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-6 Matthew 25: 14-30
Is he necessarily lazy servant?
Here again we have a parable that we know very well. There are two hard-working servants who have invested the talents and have made good profit for their master. They are in good books. We know also the third servant, whom the master scolds as lazy, good-for- nothing chap. He’s the black sheep, a fellow we probably don’t want to associate ourselves with. Nevertheless, I wonder, is this servant just lazy? Won’t there be another way of looking at him? Let’s not look at him from a distance or from another person’s eye but let’s try get into his shoes.
Actually he doesn’t say: I didn’t feel like working, he has other reasons. If we get down to that we may find that perhaps he doesn’t deserve a reproach but rather our empathy and encouragement.
After the first two servants give accounts of their shining achievements, the third servant steps forward and says: “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
He was afraid. And we know how crippling fear can be. The fear not only paralysed him but distorted also the image he had of his master. Consequently, he couldn’t even appreciate the good-heartedness of the master who didn’t hesitate to entrust talents into the hands of servants. We don’t have to agree with what he says about his master but perhaps we can understand the internal conflict inside him. He isn’t just sure of what will come out from the effort of investing the talent. And what if he gets a loss, how will he face the master? It’s safer, he resolves, to keep the talent so that he can hand it back when the owner comes. He doesn’t take the risk.
In lazy servant’s boots
Fear is not foreign to us. Firstly, we too may have known certain responsibilities which we found so daunting that handing the “talent” back to the own may be the safest thing to do. Here we can think of anything of our experiences in life that may have made it difficult to make a decision or to move forward. It’s rare not find something. But we may not necessarily be lazy.
In this third servant, I see many young people today, full of good will, but who have hard time to take a decision for their lives. There are those who may want to join religious life or engage themselves in a marriage relationship but fear and doubt make them wonder –will it work? What happens if it doesn’t? I will not call these young people lazy. I empathise with them.
That’s why many times Jesus would say, why are you afraid, men of little faith. Here Jesus touches the important point –trust. Without it, there’s simply no way to move forward. You are crippled. Indeed, what the master expected from his servants is not the abundance of profit, but rather a response of equal trust that he showed them by entrusting them with his wealth. The third servant seems to doubt the good intention of his master. He’s preoccupied by the punishment that he may have to suffer if things don’t work out well.
That’s how false ideas we may have about God can handicap us. Indeed, how many people are so troubled about the coming of the Lord at the end of time, seen as a day of wrath? How many people are trying hard to do good not out of love but out of fear of punishment? There we are in the boots of the lazy servant!
So what’s the good news from the parable of talents?
The parable helps us to be aware of the gifts we have received and how we are using them. No matter how small they may appear, no matter how weak, fragile, tired we may feel of ourselves –something great can be created out of that. No need to say, I wish were still young or in good health so that I could do this or that. Such thoughts can only confine us in a box of inactivity, weeping over missed opportunities or waiting perpetually for a better tomorrow that may not come.
The parable, through the third servant, connects us to our own anxieties, making us aware of the possible fears that may be nagging us: it won’t work! Oh yes, it can!
This parable is not sending us back to what we haven’t done well in the past; no! It’s rather inviting us here and now to look at what we have and find the way to use them. Most especially, it helps us to see that we have no right to live in fear for whatever we have received is a sign of trust that God has in us; he wants us to take part in his action of creating –making a better, fraternal world. That demands a bit of courage.
There’s a French saying which goes like this: Qui ne risque rien n’a rien (No risk no gain). So I should ask myself, am I taking the risk to invest? Or am I paralysed by thought of possible failure? Anyway, if I don’t use the gifts I have been given I will just lose them, even without anyone else taking them away from me. But the one who makes use of them, develops them.
Mission towards my “lazy” brother/sister
The modern society, with its mentality of high business competition, can easily drag us into relationships with others marked by attitude of racing. As a result, we risk not only discrediting as useless the one who can’t produce as much as we can but also we may capitalise on his low profile to put ourselves in the limelight.
The third servant invites us to look with kindness at a family member, a friend, or co-worker who may have difficulties to take a step forward or may seem to have less talents. He may not be a lazy fellow as he may appear but perhaps a suffering person in need of our helping hand. The letter to Thessalonians has a word for us in this regard.
The text of the Second Reading for this Sunday, Letter to the Thesaloninas, ends in verse 6. But I invite you to read on till verse 11 where you the following phrase: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up” That’s the attitude proposed to the Thessalonians as they await the coming of the Lord. Similarly, let’s not abandon ourselves to rivalry where the weak and the little ones are pushed aside; rather, let’s advance together as brothers and sisters, rendering one another support. Look around, there be just someone there waiting for your helping hand.
Join our mailing list so as to be receiving new post in your email box.