Homily for 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time 2008
Did you hear about Diesel the dog who saved a three year old child from a venomous brown snake at Eumundi . That was a graced moment! Maybe dogs do not have all the traits of human beings and we do not know what goes on in a dogs brain. But we do celebrate such seeming generosity often displayed by dogs for their owners, even if they snarl at strangers!
It is a trait we can admire in a pet because we like to expect it in our fellow human beings. Jesus had not encountered much generosity of heart from the leaders of the people during his ministry. It was all the more harder for him because such generosity was a constant theme in the prophets and the whole tradition of the Torah, the Law of Moses. It is evident in the first reading from Proverbs 31:10-13 which is a poem in praise of a good wife. Generous, because women did not have much of a public standing in those days. It was very progressive for the time to have such a statement. There is no comparable poem about the good husband. May be they don't exist! Of course, the Scriptures were written by men so there was no opportunity for women to say much. It was disheartening for Jesus to find that the spirit of the Torah had been distorted. What was meant to give life had become an instrument to control lives.
It is against this background that Jesus tells the parable of the talents. We need to realise that a “talent” was a measure of weight. When applied to money it was a weight of gold or silver. While there is no exact measurement of it, it is sometimes seen as the weight of a man in gold. Are you worth your weight in gold! In other words, it is an extraordinary amount of money. It is more than a lifetimes wages for an ordinary worker in Jesus' day.
The man in the parable is demonstrating an enormous trust in his slaves. He entrusted all his property to them to care for while he is away for a long time. Jesus' point is that God has entrusted the Torah to his people only to be disappointed to find that some of the leaders have done nothing with that trust. They have made the Torah into a fossilized museum piece that is of no practical use for the people. In trying to safeguard God's gift, a worthy motive, they have rendered it powerless to give life. That is why the man in the parable deals with the slave who hid his talent so harshly. He may have been an exacting employer but he was very generous in his trust to people who after all were mere slaves.
The story echoes Jesus' frustration as he nears the end of his ministry. In the very next paragraph he tells the story of the sheep and goats who will be separated when the Son of Man comes in his glory at the end of time. And then Matthew goes on to tell how the chief priests and elders conspired to arrest Jesus. It was the beginning of the end for him.
God has entrusted us with everything, our life our world, our future. We tend to be suspicious of such generosity. We cannot believe God would do such a thing. It is easier not to believe in God. We might imagine God would want more control over us not less. Why does not God stop evil things happening, we ask? We are afraid that God is like the owner of the parable. The trouble is when we think like the chief priests and Pharisees is that we are afraid to trust God. We want to play safe. Even in the Church we find it hard to trust people. We can suspicious of people's motives and actions. We can find it hard to let God's Spirit work through others. We have a need to be in control. But God's love is a love that takes risks. It was a risk Jesus accepted. Where will such love take us?
Trust is one of those things that the more you have the more you will be given, and if you have none, even what you have will be taken away.
Diesel the dog was prepared to risk everything, even if he didn't realise it. That is our challenge too, but our trust is not ill founded. We trust as children of the light as Paul says in First Thessalonians today (1 Thess 5:1-6). We know that God will come. We are not afraid about the future. We are able to do this because God trusts us so extravagantly. Our response then, to this initiative of God is our mission, and our morality.