Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time: November 19, 2023

Matthew 25: 14-25

Fr. John Tran

In the very next chapter of Matthew, Jesus predicts and begins his passion. Jesus is concerned with the ending of his earthly life, and where people stand regarding his message. What will they do with it when he is no longer there to teach and give encouragement, to give example by how he lives. Will they understand the meaning and truth of his death and resurrection?

What did Jesus mean by this parable of the servants who invested their master’s money? Jesus is speaking about the difference between those who hear his words and let them grow, and those, like the priests, scribes, and Pharisees who hear, but do not listen; they only want to protect the word of God as they know it. They are not willing to even conceive that God was speaking to them through Jesus during their very lifetimes.

In today’s parable, two servants are rewarded for doubling the value of the master’s money. One is considered unworthy because he does not increase the money at all, but simply returns the same amount given to him safe and sound, but with no growth. The attention is really all on this unworthy, useless servant. He is like the Pharisees who build a fence around the Law and are unwilling to hear new things God speaks through his only Son. This servant is controlled by fear.

We, too, can be controlled by fear. Do we listen carefully to what the Lord tells us at Mass or in prayer? Are we afraid of what will be asked of us. Isn’t it better to take comfort in the safe life that we have set up for ourselves? Do we really want to be bothered, even though we know that Jesus Christ did not rest comfortably in being God? If we really get close to the Lord, he will ask something of us that will not be so comfortable. God is calling us to listen and take action so that his kingdom can be made more fully real today; that way we can share in our Master's joy.

From the parable we learn that only the one who does not try is rebuked. We sometimes think: my talent is so small, that it will not matter; so it is better not to try. We also learn that God gives us different gifts, and the reward for work well done is more work to do; this may scare us to do nothing. But we also hear that “to everyone who has, more will be given...; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Tony Campolo, a Christian sociologist, told of meeting a woman who is confined to a wheelchair. Although Nancy had a handicapping condition, she developed a unique ministry to people who are lonely and hurting. Nancy ran ads in the personals section of the newspaper that read: “If you are lonely, or have a problem, call me. I am in a wheelchair and seldom get out. We can share our problems with each other. Just call. I’d love to talk.” From that simple ad, the results were truly amazing. Nancy claims that she receives at least thirty calls each week from persons who need someone to talk to and listen to their pain. Nancy spends most of her day comforting and counseling people. She has become someone to lean on, for hundreds of people with problems.

Campolo asked her how she became handicapped. Nancy’s answer surprised, even shocked him. “By trying to commit suicide,” she said. Nancy went on to explain, “I was living alone. I had no friends. I hated my job, and I was constantly depressed.” Nancy decided to jump from the window of her apartment “to end it all. But instead of being killed, she ended up in the hospital paralyzed from the waist down. While she was in the hospital, Nancy said, “Jesus appeared to me and told me that I’d had a healthy body and a crippled soul but from then on I would have a crippled body and a healthy soul. I gave my life to Christ right there and then,” she said. “When I got out of the hospital, I tried to think of how a woman like me in a wheelchair could do some good, and I came up with the idea of putting the ad in the newspaper.” Nancy does not have some of the opportunities you and I have. But she is making maximum use of the opportunities she has. She is among the blessed of this world. Today’s Gospel challenges us to show gratitude to God by making use of the talents which God has given to us.

After all, we do not want to be in the company of the scribes and Pharisees who end up with nothing, unless they decide to change their ways? We want to be the ones who take Jesus’ message and action to the ends of the earth using whatever small ability we have, and then we will share our Master's joy.