The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25: 14-30
1 Cor 1: 26-31 / Ps 33: 12-13, 18-21

For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.
(Matthew 25:29)


For the talents You’re entrusting
May we gainfully parlay,
So that we may be deserving
Of Your joy on Judgment Day.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went away. The man who received five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with small things; I will put you in charge of greater things. Come and share your master’s joy!’ The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with small things; I will put you in charge of greater things. Come and share your master’s joy!’ Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Should you not then have put my money in the bank, so that when I returned I could have got it back with interest? Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw this useless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30)

Reflection

Jesus related this third parable two days before He was to enter Jerusalem to fulfill His life’s mission, and leave His apostles to continue His work of redemption. In truth, He was the Master going away, and His return to settle accounts with His servants would be the Last Judgment (His last parable), where He would “separate the sheep from the goats” (25:33).

Like the two earlier parables (Faithful and Unfaithful Servants, & Parable of the Ten Virgins), the predominant message is diligence in service. In this third parable however, Jesus adds the value of talents. In ancient times, the talent was a measure of gold or silver, roughly weighing 30 to 40 kilograms. Although its actual worth would be hard to guess today, the talent in the parable clearly represented a large amount of money. The prudent master gave his servants varying amounts according to their abilities, and sure enough, the servant with the least ability did not produce anything with his talent. It is clear to see that the talents in the parable do not represent our God-given gifts or abilities. Instead, they are simply the equivalent of opportunities that God sends our way for us to make full use of our talents.

As servants in God’s household, we are all given different opportunities according to the call of our ministry. Some of us are gifted with a melodious voice or prowess with a musical instrument, so God gives us the opportunity to praise Him in harmonious songs. Some of us are gifted speakers, and so we have the privilege of giving testimony to God’s saving grace in our transformed lives. Some of us have the ability to give good counsel, so we should not wonder when people with emotional troubles find their way to our doors. Even problems not of our own making may turn out to be opportunities for our spiritual growth. So, if ever we feel that we are taking on more responsibilities than the next guy, we should not complain, but instead, we should rejoice, “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” With faith in His Word, we can only share in our Master’s joy!

Lord, it is because of Your love, and the talents that You have given us that we serve You in our ministry. Teach us to be more discerning in every event that comes our way, to know whether it is an opportunity to propagate Your love, or merely for our own glorification. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Be Prepared

Matthew 24:42-51
1 Cor 1:1-9 / Psa 145
 

 
If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.
(Matthew 24:43)


Let not our will by sin be swayed,
Be resolute and firm in Christ;
His judgment will not be delayed,
Be steadfast to receive His prize.
 

(Jesus said to His disciples,) “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed be that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour, and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24: 42-51)

Reflection

Jesus chose not to reveal His Second Coming in order to test our fidelity, and so that all His followers will be constantly prepared – not necessarily to watch for His return – but to guard against complacency and negligence, and against the devious schemes and traps of the evil one. All Christians believe in the Resurrection at the last day, because this is the hope nurtured by our faith in God’s Word. But God does not want us to just sit and wait; He wants us to be on our toes, ready at all times to spring into action when it is called for.

How are we expected to be vigilant at all times? First of all, by our daily meditation with God in fervent prayer. Temptation does not come near to a person who is absorbed in deep prayer. Secondly, by meditative reading of the Word of God, especially the Gospels. We may not be conscious of it at first, but the indwelling Spirit will bring the power of the Holy Scriptures into our lives once we make reading the Bible a daily habit. Thirdly, through the reception of the sacraments. The sacraments are a strong deterrent against evil influences. For instance, the sacrament of Penance reconciles us to God, and gives us a stronger resolve not to sin again. Then the Holy Eucharist nourishes our spirit, and fortifies us to be more vigilant. Last, but not the least, God wants us to be active in our renewal community. He wants us to take care of all those entrusted to us (to give them the food of God’s Word) so that we may be found worthy stewards of His household.

Let us be prepared and strive for perfection at all times, not only to withstand the trials and temptations of this world, but also to acquire the discipline and formation necessary to be worthy of God’s kingdom. We have the example of the great Olympians, like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, who gave their best in discipline and training in the pool and in the running track. Their hard work reaped so many gold medals. The highest prize is reserved only for champions. What soul then, knowing he only gave a token of his time and talent to serve God’s kingdom here on earth, and was never really vigilant in his Christian responsibilities could boldly claim the greatest prize in eternity?

Teach us, o Lord, to make each day count that we may gain wisdom of heart. (Psalm 90:12) Make us always aware of our weaknesses, and be guided Your Holy Spirit, so that we may grow and be worthy of Your love. Shield us from the enticements of this world, that we may remain alert for Him until the Last Day. Amen.

The Call of Nathanael

John 1:45-51
Rev 21:9-14 / Ps 145

 

 
You will see greater things than this.
(John 1:50)

 
Like Nathaniel I was in doubt
At first about His invitation;
But in the end I would find out,
God used a friend for my conversion.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip answered, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You shall see greater things than this.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:45-51)

 

Reflection

Today’s Gospel relates how our Lord began to recruit the core group of His ministry. Jesus first came upon Andrew and his brother Simon, whom He later called Peter. Going on to Galilee, He found Philip, and told him also to “Come, follow me.” Philip then got hold of Nathanael, who at first sounded skeptical, with the words, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” And Philip replied: “Come and see.” (1:46)
 
When Philip brought Nathanael before Jesus, our Lord did not rebuke him for his skepticism, but even praised him, saying, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (1:47). These words were enough to melt away whatever doubts or skepticism the future apostle may have had about Jesus. In fact his skepticism turned to wonder: “How do you know me?” When Jesus gave a simple reply, “I saw you under the fig tree,” a great transformation occurred to Nathanael. He said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn. 1:49).
 
It would have been so easy for our Lord to teach the smug Nathanael a lesson in humility for belittling His hometown of Nazareth. Instead, our Lord seemed to do exactly the opposite– exalting him, calling him a “true Israelite”. (But do we detect a hint of sarcasm in His words – “no duplicity in him”?) The very first named “Israel” was Jacob, but it was his duplicity that robbed Esau of his birthright (Gen.Chap.27), as well as outsmarting his father-in-law and uncle, Laban (Gen., chap.31).
 
When a friend invited you to join a renewal community, like Nathanael you probably replied, “What good would come out of it?” And he must have simply replied, “Just come and see. If you don’t like it, you can always leave.” But you have decided to stay. Have you come to regret staying on? Or have you seen greater things that have made you stay? For those of us who have committed to this new life in Christ by becoming active members of our community or Brotherhood, there is no greater joy than to be able to win a soul for Christ as our sponsors did for us. We have also seen a great transformation in our life, such as losing our “duplicity”, by embracing the values of honesty, fidelity, generosity, and servant leadership. Best of all, our community has helped us to understand and deepen our faith in Jesus Christ.
         

Lord God, like Nathaniel before us, we were once full of doubt and duplicity. Thank You for making us see greater things in our new life in the Brotherhood.

Clean Inside and Out

Matthew 23: 23-26
2Thes 2:1-3a,14-17 / Ps 96

You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, but have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.
(Matthew 23:23)

It’s the height of sheer hypocrisy
When we flaunt our own integrity;
More than justice, kindness, honesty
Is the virtue of humility.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, but have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. These things you ought to have done without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may also be clean.” (Matthew 23:23-26)

Reflection

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect model of a man who was true to His nature, both in His appearance and in His thoughts, words, deeds and feelings. In fact, He was totally faithful to all that was written about Him in Scriptures, as well as in the mission that He promised to accomplish. We can say that His life was an open book. He was frank and straightforward, and was never afraid to condemn the hypocrisy of the religious authorities, even if it meant certain death.

The Pharisees on the other hand, resorted to hiding behind masks of virtues that clearly did not match their true nature. They were content to just appear righteous in the eyes of the Jews. That was because it was easier for them to manage their externals than deal with their flaws that they would rather prefer hidden. But our Lord saw their hypocrisy and evil motives. So did St. John the Baptist, who called them “brood of vipers.”

Perhaps it is just part of human nature to keep our true feelings to ourselves. After all, nobody wants to be seen in a bad light. Or in the case of Mother Teresa, whom people regarded as a “living saint” when she was still alive, she did not want people who knew her to be “scandalized” by her true feelings. According to her letter to her confessor, for almost 50 years she was “living out a very different spiritual reality privately, in a landscape from which (God) had disappeared.” At one time, the “dryness,” “darkness,” and “torture” she was undergoing almost drove her to doubt the existence of God. Being aware of this discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor, she wrote that her smile was just “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything,” and as she told an adviser, “If you were (there), you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.’” (Time Magazine, August 24, 2007)

And yet, what made Mother Teresa truly a great saint was that despite her spiritual torments, she never neglected the weightier things of the law, judging herself severely, lest she fell into self-righteousness, continuously practicing works of mercy for the poor and the dying, and being faithful to God and her vocation even in her “darkest night of the soul.” She remained clean inside and outside the cup and dish.

Mother Teresa has shown us that human as we are, there will always be doubts, just as there wiill always be flaws in our character. But as long as we judge our own behavior (not other people), show mercy to others, and be faithful to Christ come what may, then our outer physical appearance will be as clean as our soul within.

Lord, You have probed me, You know me: You know when I sit and when I stand; You understand my thoughts from afar (Psa.139:1-2), far better than I know myself. Deal with me then as You will, so that my cup and dish will always be clean. Amen.

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1:26-38
Isa 9:1-6 / Psa 113

The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.
(Luke 1:32-33)

Her virtues that we emulate
Shield us from all tribulation;
Today let’s pause to celebrate
Our Queen Mother’s coronation.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.” Mary asked the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Reflection

Our Catholic Church celebrates August 22, as the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast day was established by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical, “To the Queen of Heaven” (“Saint of the Day” by American Catholic Org). Pius XII declared in his May 13, 1946 message, “He, the Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of His kingship, for, having been associated to the King of Martyrs in the … work of human Redemption as Mother and cooperator, she remains forever associated to Him, with a practically unlimited power, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption. Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular choice [of the Father].” (“Mary’s Queenship”, Our Lady in Doctrine and Devotion, by William G. Most, 1994)

As the angel Gabriel announced in today’s Gospel passage, the kingship of her Son, Who would “reign forever”, so she, the mother of the King deserved to be called “queen”. This is the reason why when we pray the holy rosary, we always address her in its concluding prayer, “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy. . .” This we also emphasize in the “Litany of Loreto” after the Rosary—“Queen of the Angels”, “Queen of Patriarchs”, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, etc. . . up to “Queen of Peace”. In the Book of Revelation we read: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev.12:1). This was St. John’s vision of the Queen Mother, as God Himself had revealed the Queenship of Mary. As Scripture has confirmed, and as all the saints and popes have attested to, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth, and deserves the honor and devotion of all God’s creation.

Hail, Queen of Heaven and earth, in the Holy name of your beloved Son, Jesus, our Lord and King, we praise and give you thanks for your loving intercession, drawing us closer to Him, Who is our hope of salvation. Amen.

Example of Leadership

Matthew 23: 1-12
Ez 43: 1-7 / Ps 85: 9-14

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)

When our world seems to be crumbling,
Or all our prayers are denied,
This is just a little humbling
To keep us from the sin of pride.

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 1-12)

Reflection

Our Lord’s message in today’s Gospel passage concerns how stewardship must be regarded by all who wish to follow Him. He exposed the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who used their authority to burden the Jews with preposterous laws which they themselves cleverly avoided. And yet Jesus urged them to “obey them and do everything they tell you” – if only to practice the virtues of obedience and humility – but not to imitate them, “for they do not practice what they preach.” Jesus set the standard for all His true disciples to follow. He walked His talk, and practiced what He preached. As He was faithful and obedient to the Father’s plan, so must His disciples follow His example of servant leadership, the antithesis of all that the scribes and Pharisees stood for. They were to be humble as the Pharisees were proud; to be obedient to God’s Word, unlike the scribes who circumvented the Mosaic laws according to their interests; and seek to be servants, rather than strive for places of honor or high positions that the scribes and Pharisees desired. The more important our tasks and goals, the more we should assume the role of a servant or slave. As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Let each of you humbly consider the others as more important than yourselves” (Phil.2:3).

Today’s Gospel speaks eloquently about many things that we, leaders in the renewal, may find useful in the course of our service to the Lord. The first is: do we lead by example? As head of a ministry, do we put in more effort, time and resources into our service without counting the cost? Or are we forever harping on the load that we are carrying? The second question we must ask ourselves is: Who are we trying to please? Have we joined this Community because we seek recognition for our efforts or acceptance from our peers? Do we feel offended when our contributions have not been acknowledged? Do we feel slighted when some brother or sister is chosen for some service in which we feel we are more qualified? Finally, let’s ask ourselves this vital question: Do I want to be a leader because I want to lead, or is it because in imitation of Christ, I want to be the servant of all?

Teach me, Lord, to be meek and humble, let Your blood on the cross wash away my sins. If I should be asked to perform a task I consider below my station, let me rejoice in the opportunity of growing in Your grace of humility. Be my Model always, Lord, that I may be worthy of Your commission. Amen.