We should reflect more on the sin of wasting time

Homiletics of the Fathers of The Island of Patmos


However you want to understand them, since every parabolic tale is open to a plurality of interpretations, talents will remain a free gift that cannot be kept for oneself, nor does it hide, but it must be multiplied. They reveal that God, more than a master, he shows himself to be a Father towards us children and over time offers many of these graces to each of us and to our communities.










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A gift can be offered with a thousand reasons, even non-noble ones at times. But it has an unmistakable characteristic on its side: it reveals the identity of the one who offers and the one who receives it. The Gospel of this Sunday presents a very special Donor, who does not bestow a single gift, but rather all his good. Let's read:

"During that time, Jesus told his disciples this parable: «It will happen as to a man who, going on a trip, he called his servants and gave them his goods. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, According to the capacity of each; then he left. Immediately the one who had received five talents went to use them, and earned five more. So did the one who had received two, he earned two more. The one who had received only one talent, he went and made a hole in the ground and hid his master's money there. After a long time the master of those servants returned and wanted to settle accounts with them. The one who had received five talents showed up and brought five more, saying: "Man, you gave me five talents; there, I earned five more”. "Good, good and faithful servant - his master told him -, you were faithful in little, I will give you power over much; take part in your master's joy". Then he who had received two talents came forward and said: "Man, you gave me two talents; there, I earned two more”. "Good, good and faithful servant - his master told him -, you were faithful in little, I will give you power over much; take part in your master's joy". Finally the one who had received only one talent also showed up and said: "Man, I know you are a hard man, who reap where you have not sown and gather where you have not scattered. I got scared and went to hide your talent in the ground: here is what is yours". The master answered him: «Evil and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered; you should have entrusted my money to the bankers and so, returning, I would have withdrawn mine with interest. So take away his talent, and give it to him who has the ten talents. Because anyone has, it will be given and will be in abundance; but to those who don't have, even what he has will be taken away. And throw the useless servant outside into the darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth". (Mt 25,14-30).

This Sunday's evangelical song adds a specification to the meaning of vigilance which had already been presented in the parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25,1-13). There, being vigilant meant being foresighted, to be ready, preparations, equip yourself with what you need, taking into account a long wait. Now, in the parable of the talents, vigilance is specified as attention and responsibility in everyday life and expressed as loyalty in small things ("you were faithful in a little": Mt 25,21.23).

First of all, let's remember what function the parabola has. This form of communication often involves the use of hyperbolic language, a paradoxical setting, with deliberate exaggerations that can even scandalize due to the violence involved. It affects us, who, the punishment of the wicked servant. But the ending is also surprising, as often happens in fictional parabolic tales, presents a real twist: talent is taken away from those who only have one and given to those who already have many. The question arises in the reader: what a master is he who allows himself to humiliate his servant in this way, who ultimately acted prudently?

It was said that vigilance it does not only concern the eschatological expectation but fully affects the relationship with everyday life, with its everyday realities. Matthew's parable, which has a somewhat different and more complex parallel with Luca 19,11-27, it is certainly inserted in an eschatological context - the v.30 places it on the horizon of the final judgement: «Throw the useless servant into the darkness, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" - but this only reiterates that this final judgment is being prepared here and now, in the present day of history, something that will be shown in all its evidence in the parable of the Last Judgment (Mt 25,31-46) next Sunday. There the eschatological authority of the little ones and the poor will clearly appear. The final judgment will be based on the actions of charity and justice carried out in their favor or omitted. The everyday thus reveals itself as the eschatological place par excellence, because it is the time we are given. Thus the parable after the distribution of talents[1] in a personalized way, commensurate with the capabilities of the recipients, unfolds between the "immediately" (v.15) of those who make them profitable and the after "a long time" (v.19) of the master's return. Besides, it doesn't seem important, at least in this story, the quantity of gifts received, since the two hard-working servants, although they received talents to varying degrees, however, they will receive the same reward. Rather, what is important is the time whose duration brings out the truth of people, of their behaviors, of their estate and their responsibility. The passage of time is revealing; in fact the first two servants were able to immediately grasp that it was the first great gift they could take advantage of and did not waste it by throwing it away.

We should reflect more on the sin of wasting time. If the third servant had thought about this he would have taken advantage of it, because in the end the reward would be the same as the first two servants who had received more. But as was said above, the gift is, as well as the time spent, revealing the characters in this parable. So does the donor, even if Jesus initially hides it behind an anonymous man (v.14), it is clearly God who will in fact later be called 'Lord' (Kyrie, Lord God v.20.22.24). Only He is capable of giving all of his things as a gift [2], in a preventative and unexpected way, especially towards recipients who, however enterprising, are still servants. Some church fathers wanted to see behind the gift of talents that of the Word of God, in memory of the parable of the good seed that bears fruit according to the soil it finds. Irenaeus of Lyons, d. 202 d.C., he saw there the gift of life, granted by God to men. However you want to understand them, since every parabolic tale is open to a plurality of interpretations, talents will remain a free gift that cannot be kept for oneself, nor does it hide, but it must be multiplied. They reveal that God, more than a master, he shows himself to be a Father towards us children and over time offers many of these graces to each of us and to our communities. The ability to recognize them and make them bear fruit is the quality of fearless servants who also know how to take risks.

The point of the parable but it is not of an economic nature, that is, in the ability to derive profits from the investment of capital, because the reward, in this sense, it should have been commensurate with the merit and size of the accumulated assets. Instead, it focuses on acting instantly and not remaining inert in the time given. Taking into account that the master-Lord will return and ask for reason («he sets out the reason» translates the Vulgate) of how the servants will have acted. They will discover that in his eyes what mattered was goodness and faithfulness in action and what seemed like a lot was actually very little compared to the reward: "Good, good and faithful servant - his master told him -, you were faithful in little, I will give you power over much; take part in your master's joy".

The parable thus becomes an invitation to the disciples and for communities not to remain immobile and enchanted in the face of the difficulties of the current times, ready to act at any moment, aware of the gifts received and that this which is given to us is the propitious time. The challenges it poses and the changed cultural conditions should not frighten us or make us remain happy only with what is already done or intoxicated by activism as an end in itself. The parable asks Christians for awareness, responsibility, audacity and above all creativity, all realities condensed in words: be good and faithful.

Finally we asked ourselves first because the master, protagonist of the parable, he treated the third servant so badly. What is striking in this story is precisely the idea that the servant had of him. While the first two servants didn't need to think about this, almost as if it were automatic for them that if the owner gives you a gift it should immediately be made profitable, the other servant instead develops his own idea, we could say his theology, which blocks its action, because the idea of ​​fear dominates it. Trapped in this image he has of his master, that of a hard and pretentious man, despite having the great gift of a talent at his disposal, he is unable to trust him. And this will be his real drama.

His inaction he will be judged in a parallel way to the good and faithful, but as evil and lazy. If he had at least opened a savings account he would have received the interest income, but he preferred to bury his gift and for this reason, when there is no more time to act, at the time of judgment, it will be delivered to weeping and gnashing of teeth, a biblical expression that indicates the failure of one's life[3].

Faith that works is important in the vocabulary of the first Gospel. Jesus speaks of the faith of those who believe in him to be healed, that of the centurion (8,10), of the paralytic (9,2), of the hemorrhaging woman (9,22), of the two blind men (9,29), della Cananea (15,28), and encourages his team, never criticized for having "little faith", to have more (cf.. 6,30).

Our parable it could therefore mean something about believing or not believing in God in the intermediate time that separates from judgment. The third servant, evil, he no longer has faith, he lost it over time: he forgot that what had been entrusted to him had to be invested so that it would bear fruit for the master, but also in his favor: it has therefore become useless (v.30). That the parable deals with the gift of faith, it can also be indirectly deduced from another text of the New Testament, where St. Paul says that this gift is mysteriously personalized, just like in the parable that Jesus tells:

«For the grace that was given to me, I say to each of you: do not value yourself more than is appropriate, but evaluate yourselves wisely and justly, each according to the measure of faith that God has given him" (RM 12,3).

To conclude we could ask ourselves: What vision do we have of God? The vindictive one, demanding and harsh that instills fear or the liberating one, positive that makes us act with trust and without fear, how Jesus lived it and taught us?

From the Hermitage, 19 November 2023



1 The talent, which also meant «that which is weighed, it was a unit of weight of approximately 30-40 kg. corresponding to six thousand denarii. Because a denarius, according to what Matthew himself explains in 20,2 (Matteo is very precise in his use of coins, and in his gospel several types are listed), it is the amount of pay for one day of work, here we mean a large sum given to the servants for management

2 In the parable of the murderous tenants He does not hesitate to also send his Son (Mt 21,37)

3 "Still, the kingdom of heaven is like a net cast into the sea, which collects all kinds of fish. When it's full, the fishermen haul it ashore, they sit down, they collect the good fish in the baskets and throw away the bad ones. So it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the evil from the good and throw them into the fiery furnace, There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth " (Mt 13,47-50).




Sant'Angelo Cave in Ripe (Civitella del Tronto)



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1 reply
  1. orenzo
    orenzo says:

    – A man delivered (delivered: give someone something to keep, use it, take care of it ) his assets
    – to three servants (slaves: someone who puts another's will before their own)
    – according to capacity, obviously to make his assets profitable, which he knew well.
    – When the master demanded an account from the servant to whom he had given the payment to be made 19 years of salary of a day laborer,
    – this, instead of at least trying to apologize and beg for mercy,
    – he found nothing better to do than to remind the master of his being “a hard man, who reap where you have not sown and gather where you have not scattered”, and gave him back the talent he had received…
    – The owner's anger seems obvious to me because he feels he is being ridiculed!!!

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