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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

33rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A

That third servant in today’s Gospel story is a rather pathetic figure. He does not take any initiative or risk, but more than that. He goes through life with a distorted or sick image of God. Yes, the master in the parable is an image of God. What paralyzes the third servant into non-action is his fear of God. For him God is a demanding, hard task master, one you’d better be on your guard against, because you never know how he is going to deal with you. Being unreasonable is supposedly God’s prerogative, and we have no defense against it. I think there is noting more offensive to God than this sort of warped notion of God.

The point of today’s parable is that we take good notice of what each one of has been graced with by God. I am not talking about material wealth or intellectual capacity. Of course, they can be beneficial, but we can also do ugly things with them. The particular talent that we all have been equally graced with is the ability to love, the ability to give life to the persons around us. After all, we are created in God’s image and likeness. What that means is that God has shared with us what is most unique to God: love, the ability to give life. I cannot think of a greater investment by God in us that that one.

What today’s parable summons us to is that we make full use of that God-given talent that we all have received. But then making full use of it not out of fear for the eventual account we have to give of it, not out of fear for a punishing God who will take no nonsense. That sort of fear paralyzes. And we turn into pathetic creatures, lacking all self-confidence and initiative. That sort of fear is an insult to God. Instead, God expects us to take pride in the fact that God entrusts us with this talent and that he chooses us as partners in his enterprise to establish his Kingdom of love and life in our world.

Did you notice the way the third servant responds to his master? “I hid your talent in the ground. Here it is, it was yours, you have it back.” He sees himself on contract with God, not in partnership with God. What he is saying is “I don’t want to have anything to do with it. It is yours, keep it, I refuse to make it my own and work with it. Thanks, but no thanks.” What a tragic, depressing figure, that third servant.

The two other servants had a sense of the immense faith that God showed in them. They were thrilled by God’s inviting them to enter into the space of his Kingdom. And for the sheer joy of it they started to work. They did not waste their time on worrying what account they would have to give of it in the end. For them, working on God’s Kingdom of life and love has its own rewards here and now.

Each one of us has that talent freely given by God. We have received it not to bury it, but to use it; not out of fear, but out of confidence and pride, knowing that by our doing God’s Kingdom of life and love can be brought a little bit closer.

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