Do you know what a talent is? This is a question that Mary McGlone asks in her reflection on today’s Gospel parable. A talent is a measure of weight, specifically the typical weight of a soldier’s pack, something in the range of 75 to 100 pounds. As it is used in this parable, it refers to the weight of the coins entrusted to three servants. The talents the master gave his servants made a heavy load of very valuable coins; one talent is estimated to be worth something like a million dollars in today’s money. So the man is giving a sizeable amount of money to each of the servants, but there is no directions given as to what they are to do with the talents.
The first two servants immediately go to work and double the money. What attitudes motivated their actions? Clearly, all three servants had seen the owner at work. They understood how he operated and what he had done to earn his wealth. The first two emulated their master. They did what he did. The third actually repudiated the master and his occupation by hiding the money and ignoring everything he had learned in his service. By burying the money he brought shame on the master; by doing nothing he actually made a scathing critique of the master’s whole enterprise. Given the master’s affluence, that insult was far worse than the loss of potential profit from one’s mere talent.
This parable urges us to evaluate our own service, to consider our attachment to Christ’s enterprise, our investment of God’s gifts and our longing to have a share in Christ’s own joy. Our demonstration of that service need not be as dramatic as the task of managing millions. Today’s reading from Proverbs presents an ancient description of a model servant of God: the valiant woman who is a “worthy wife.” We encounter a model we can imitate – a simple honorable woman of industry and character. No Joan of Arc or Teresa of Avila, she simply fulfills the human vocation, transforming nature’s bounty into goods for both her family and the poor for whom she cares as her own. Her life and her works speak for her, encouraging those who know her to follow her example.
That valiant woman is, borrowing from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, a daughter of the day, a woman “awake” like he encourages the Thessalonians to be. The Thessalonians are concerned about “the end,” whether that be their own death or the end of the world. So Paul writes to reorient their concerns.
One way he does that is to make them think about the meaning of the time they have in life. They are asking questions about the “when” of Christ’s return, and Paul wants them to think about what they and Christ want from that moment. He tells them that their concern about dates is relatively unimportant. Nobody can know the time or the hour. So what?
The important thing is kairos or quality time. Kairos involves time’s meaning and goal, the time we spend being conscious of and enjoying God’s presence. We experience quality time when the clock stops, when a sunset captures us, when lovers lose themselves in one another. It’s the time when we feel the presence of grace. Paul is telling his community that such time is the only thing about which they need to be concerned. It is that to which they must stay awake.
As we come to the end of another liturgical year our Scripture readings prepare us for the end of time by focusing our attention on how we live today, how we see God in our lives, and how we live as Jesus lived. (Taken from Celebration)
I hope to see you at the Mission for Holy Spirit, St. Margaret, and Presentation parishes this Sunday (Nov. 16) and Monday (Nov. 17) starting at 7 p.m. at Presentation Church.
Nov. 16 & 17: Lee’s Summit Catholic Parishes Mission – begins at 7:00 p.m.