Our Responsibility to be Fruitful

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | YEAR A

Gospel:  Mt 25:14-30

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘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.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


Readings 
Proverb 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thess 5:1-6; Psalm 23

REFLECTION

ON this 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are invited to reflect on our identity as Christ’s followers and the responsibilities that go with it.

parableoftalentsWe are very familiar with this Sunday’s gospel parable—the Parable of the Talents. Usually we hear and accept this parable as a teaching on encouraging us to share our talents and abilities, to make the most of them, for our own advantage and to the enhancement of the life of our fellow human beings and our community. This is all good. But is this really what Jesus meant when he told this story? Was he really referring to the word “talent” as the innate and/or practised abilities such as singing, sporting skill, mathematical ability or juggling? Or was he referring to something more serious? For one, when our Lord spoke about talent, it —as obviously stated in the gospel—simply refers to a large, substantial amount of money. And given the actions of both the master and the servants in the passage, it is more accurate to say that his purpose was not to encourage people to use their abilities for the benefit of society.

talentsRather, I believe, that Jesus was teaching a dramatic lesson about the judgment that will fall upon Christians. When we were baptised into the Church we were given a very special gift; that is to be adopted sons and daughters of God. As followers of Christ, we no longer just call God “our Lord” but also as “Father.” Furthermore, just as Jesus—the incarnated Word of God—shared in our humanity, we are promised to share in his divinity and become co-heirs to eternal life. However, receiving this gift; this Christian identity also means that we have a responsibility; an obligation even. Just like the servants in the parable, we have been entrusted with something of extraordinary value. We are not speaking here of being a good footy player, a violinist or a singer, but of the treasure of grace and mercy that is entrusted to every Christian. As one theologian puts it: “these ‘talents’”—these great treasures—“are nothing less than a share in the very life of God himself.” Yes, just like in the parable, this share in God’s life is indeed granted to some to a greater extent than to others—a recognition of the reality that our human condition makes us different from others. But even the least of the children of the Kingdom is greater than the greatest of the Prophets. The truth of the matter is that all of us have been granted something absolutely extraordinary. And therefore all of us have the responsibility to be fruitful; to spread the Good News and the Kingdom of God; to carry others to God not only through our words but most importantly through our actions.

True that God does not force us to do his will. He is not a puppet-master who pulls the strings. We are perfectly free to ignore our responsibility—yes, God will allow us to do nothing and let that gift of life become fossilized and petrified. But just as in the parable, there will come a time when the reality of God’s reign becomes apparent. There will be a time of reckoning as the saying goes. And if we allow ourselves to listen to the voices of fear, to the murmurers who tempted us to give in, to do nothing instead of participating in the coming-to-birth of the Kingdom—of being fruitful in spreading the Gospel, then truly there will be crying and gnashing of teeth—realising that we have neglected something of extraordinary value.

sharethefaithThe Parable of the Talents reminds us of our identity and of our responsibility as Christians. We are being encouraged to take an active participation in the life of the Church. As Pope Francis recently said, each one of us is called to “enter” the Church and not remain at the threshold so “that the Holy Spirit may live in us.” By doing this we can expect the Lord to say unto us: “Well (done), faithful servant, good and trustworthy! Enter into the joy of your master.”

 

 

God of the Living and the Communion of the Saints

The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Other Readings
Wis 3:1-6. 9; Romans 5:5-11; Psalm 26:1. 4. 7-9. 13-14. R v.1


REFLECTION

TODAY we commemorate all the Faithful departed more commonly known as the Feast of All Souls or All Souls Day. As a community from different cultural backgrounds, we all have different beliefs and customs in celebrating this day.

IMGP4401For example, in my culture, we actually combine this feast with All Saints Day, which we observed yesterday. In fact for us, Filipinos, All Saints Day is the day we go to cemeteries and pray for our dead relatives and loved ones.

We have such varied ways of observing these feast days because, again as a community coming from such diverse cultures, at the root of all these customs and practices is our different beliefs about death and the dead. Much as we love to live in this country, we may find that Australia, being founded on western culture, has different views about death and the dead.

What do I mean by this? Just try reading the obituary pages of your favorite newspaper. You will be surprised that while these pages are intended to announce the death of a person, they rarely use the word “death” or “died”. Instead we read words or phrases such as: “Passed away”, “Moved on”, “To depart this life”, “At rest”, “At peace” or even “Assume room temperature,” “Bite the big one”, “Bite the dust”, and “Kick the bucket.”

deadIt is a reality that unlike other cultures, in the Western culture, death is a taboo as a subject. Death is seen in a negative perspective—a topic that is being avoided, whether consciously or unconsciously. Worse, death is usually associated with evil. I’m sure those of us here who attended Halloween costume parties probably dressed up as Dracula, zombies, even as the devil himself. This negative, undesirable notion about death is being reinforced by the media and entertainment industry. For example, anybody here who has seen the horror film Poltergeist? It’s about a housing project that was built on top of a Native American burial site. This led the residents of these houses to be haunted by “bad” spirits and brought them great evils.

If we revisit our Christian beliefs; our faith as stated in the Creed, the notion of death that is associated with decay, evil and other negative connotations is simply and completely wrong. For one, the places where we bury our dead relatives are blessed places. One priest asserts that the presence of a burial site should actually lead to a premium on the houses’ value; because the site is sacred.

More importantly, as Christians, we view—and should view—death in a more positive sense. Not that we are going to wish death to our neighbours nor are we going to seek death recklessly. But think about the reality that comes with death—that is new life!

The Gospel of John gives us a beautiful imagery. “Unless a grain of wheat falling to the ground dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it carries much fruit” (Jn 12: 23). What a better way to demonstrate this than what Jesus had undergone himself. From his death springs everlasting life for all those who believe in him. For us, Christians, death is not the end; “all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death” (OCF, 27). This is because we believe that God IS the GOD of the living as scripture says!

soulspurgatory_0001Moreover, when we commemorate the dead, we are not just recalling past events of people but we are living that reality that the dead are present with God. I said before that we Filipinos celebrate All Saints Day than All Souls Day. This is not because we do not want to face the reality of death but because we believe that our dead relatives and friends are indeed in heaven with the Father as we heard from the first reading: “The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God.”

If the dead are present with the God, then should we not also believe that they are present among us? Since whenever we are gathered to pray, Jesus is present with us—God is present. God—and God’s love—is the one that unites us. Again, this points to one of our fundamental beliefs that is the communion of saints.

A Dominican priest preached these words to his community: “The prayers of the Church on earth, united with the prayers of the saints in heaven, embrace the souls of our brothers and sisters in the love of Christ. Our hope is not deceptive, our prayers are not solitary or unheard, the Church is not separate but one, as the saints triumphant unite with us in Christ. The commemoration of the holy souls should renew in us an understanding of the unity of Christ’s Church, while at the same time confirming in us our sure and certain hope in the resurrection.”