15 November, 2020. 33rd Sunday, Year A

15 November, 2020. 33rd Sunday, Year A

Today’s gospel focuses on the kind of behaviour that will be tested in Final Judgment. We are here and now writing the book of evidence for that judgement on the value of lives. A key element is the use of the talents and opportunities God has given us

1st Reading: Proverbs (31:10-13, etc

The ideally virtuous and industrious wife an Israelite husband hoped to find

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs a the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Responsorial: Psalm 127:1-5

R./: Happy are those who fear the Lord

O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper. (R./)

Your wife like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
around your table. (R./)

Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
in a happy Jerusalem
all the days of your life. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

Paul admits that he does not know when the second coming will take place. But be vigilant!

Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!

But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

The parable of the Talents is a challenge to use our gifts to achieve what God expects from us

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who, before going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”


Use them or lose them

At first sight, today’s parable seems to suggest that the third servant took a prudent course of action–“I heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown.” The scribes and Pharisees, towards whom it was directed, would argue: God demands perfection; the Law expresses his will; only a scrupulous observance of the Law can give us security. But God’s way is different: He wants an abundant harvest. Jesus wants us to know that salvation come to those who are prepared to risk their all for him. A talent is given to bear fruit, not to lie there unused. It may seem prudent not to risk, but in the end it is not what God expects of us.

In proportion to one’s ability

We know from experience that different people have different abilities. A person with an ability to listen to others may not have the ability to be a good administrator. Someone who is well able to mend a leak or fix a washing machine may have little or no musical ability. An effective teacher may be a hopeless mechanic. We learn from experience whose good at what, and we relate to people accordingly. We tend to entrust people with tasks that are in proportion to their ability. We also learn from experience what our own abilities are, and what our limitations are, and we tend to take on tasks that correspond to our abilities and avoid tasks that do not.

The rich man in today’s parable was well aware of the abilities of his servants. Before he set out on his journey he entrusted his property “to each in proportion to his ability.” He knew what each of his three servants was able for, and he only gave as much responsibility to each of them as each could carry. The man who received five talents of money was capable of making five more; the one who received two talents was capable of making two more; the one who received one talent was capable of making one more. The first two servants worked according to their ability. The third servant did not, giving his master back the one talent he had been given, instead of the two talents he was capable of gaining. What held this servant back from working according to his ability was fear. “I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.”

Many of us may find ourselves having some sympathy for the third servant, because, deep down, we are only too well aware how fear can hold us back and prevent us from doing what we are well capable of doing. Fear can be a much more powerful force in the lives of some than others. There can be many reasons for this. Those who have experienced a lot of criticism growing up can be slow to take a risk and may develop a fearful approach to life. We are familiar with the Irish proverb, Mol an óige agus tiochfaidh siad. Praise the young and they will make progress. The converse can also true. Criticise the young and they will be held back. Unfair criticism can stunt our growth and prevent us from reaching our God-given potential. We hide what we have been given in the ground. There it remains safe, but useless.

Jesus was only too well aware of the disabling power of fear in people’s lives. It is striking the number of times in the gospels he addresses people with the words, “Do not be afraid.” When Simon Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” Jesus replied to him, “Do not be afraid, from now on it is people you will catch.” When fear threatened to hold Peter back, Jesus called him forward into a new way of life. Jesus was present to people in ways that released them from their fear. In particular, he did not want fear of failure to hold people back. He could cope with failure in others. He knew that many people could learn from failure. There was little to be learned from staying put. There was much to be learnt from striking out, even if failure was experienced along the way.

The tragedy of the third servant in the parable today is that, out of fear, he hid what had been entrusted to him, even though he had the ability to use it well. We have each been graced in some way by the Lord for the service of others. If I hide what the Lord has given me, others are thereby deprived. Most of us need a bit of encouragement to place our gifts at the disposal of others. Part of our baptismal calling is to give others courage, to encourage others. A couple of verses beyond where today’s second reading ends, Paul writes: “Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” In these difficult times for the church, the ministry of encouragement is all the more necessary. There is much to be learned from the mistakes of the past, but the Lord would not want us to go to ground. Now is not the time to hide our Good News in the ground out of fear. Rather, it is a time to encourage each other to share this treasure so that the church may become all that God is calling it to be.

Talented but..

The basic message of today’s Gospel is that we all have talents. Maybe not spectacular or dramatic like other people who get national or international acclaim; just ordinary, but nevertheless important. Experts say that the average person uses only a fraction of their talents. Here are three statements to think about:

1. “I weep that there are so many missed opportunities for comforting, so many smiles withheld, hands untouched, kind words unspoken.” (from Sheila Cassidy’s Sharing the Darkness)

2. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” (John Milton: On His Blindness **)

3. “Take the talent from him and give it to the one with five.” In other words “use it or lose it.” (Jesus)

One of the main reasons why people do not use their talents is because they have been belittled in the past. To belittle is to put someone down, to make them feel small, lessen their sense of self worth. There are many ways of demeaning another person: cynicism, sarcasm, non-appreciation, taking for granted. The antidote to belittle is to lift people up, to encourage them to value themselves. (homily notes from Mgr. John O’Connell)

On His Blindness

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E’re half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which ’tis death to hide,
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d?”
I fondly ask. But patience to prevent
that murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his State
is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
and post o’er Land and Ocean without rest.
They also serve who only stand and wait.”



  1. Thara+Benedicta says:

    Key message:
    Positive Thinking will enable us to live the flourishing life, that God our Father has planned for us.

    Takeaway from first reading:
    The first reading describes the qualities of an ideal woman
    1. Trusts in the Lord
    2. Is not idle (does not eat the bread of idleness)
    3. Girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.

    All these show that the person is equipped with a positive drive towards life. Trusting in the Lord, gives us lot of confidence. Not being idle – start doing what God has placed in your heart. Girds herself with strength – taking care of our own spiritual, mental and physical health to do what we are required to do.

    Finally it’s said that she is called happy. Its just because she is accomplishing her duties wilfully. Here it’s not said that she is called happy because she has become the head of a nation or she has fought in a war. She has just trusted in God and performed all her duties which God has planned for her. Hence trusting God, staying positive gives us a lot of drive to accomplish God’s will live in our lives – resulting in happiness.

    Takeaway from second reading:
    Apostle Paul says even though we may not know when our time will be done, no need to worry since we are saved by our Jesus. The only action item he has mentioned for us is – ‘Be awake and be sober’.
    Being awake and sober means to be mentally awake and vigilant in performing our duties.

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:
    Our Lord Jesus has taken a beautiful lesson on the power of positive thinking through the parable of talents. The master gave all the three servants different amounts of money according to each one’s ability. The first one received five, the second received three and the third received one. The first and the second one thought positively that they can invest this money and increase it. The third one pondered negatively about the ‘What if I lose’ and allowed fear to dominate his decisions. The ‘small attitude’ difference resulted in big variations in the end results.
    Because the first two slaves considered the money positively both as a privilege and their responsibility to yield results, the master was happy with them:
    1. They obtained appreciation from their master: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant”.
    2. They received promotion or more responsibility: “You have been faithful in little things, I will make you in charge of big things”.
    3. The best one is the note that they have made their master joyous

    When we work with a positive attitude, in our daily lives, God our Father, will repeat the above for us too.

    Let us see the results of the negative attitude of the third slave:
    1. He was scolded as a ‘wicked, lazy, worthless slave!’.
    2. He lost the single talent he owned.
    3. He was thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (representation of hell).

    God reveals the same in Revelation 3:16 also – “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! …” The third slave would not have expected this judgement because he would have thought he was upright – he did not use up his master’s money for his personal usage or cheat him but returned it back to him.

    This is a timely teaching for us to question ourselves – Are we thinking positively or negatively?

    Tips to think positively:

    1. Scripture teaches us a simple way to be positive – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. Whenever our thoughts bend towards the negative side like “I will not be able to make it/It’s not for me. It’s for someone else who is much talented/I do not have the required talents, courage/I am useless” return your thoughts to Scripture – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”.

    2. When Jesus walked on water to meet his disciples on the boat, only Peter thought that he too could walk on water if Jesus was there. The rest of the disciples in the boat also would have liked to walk on water. But since Peter believed that if Jesus was there, then he too could walk on the water, he jumped out of the boat and walked towards Jesus on water. Instead of wasting time thinking that only others can achieve, let us take the big step of faith and get started now. Our Almighty Father did not bless us with talents just to be idle.

    3. Peter walked on water trusting in Jesus; when he feared he started drowning. But Jesus pulled him out of the water. So even if we make mistakes in our new undertakings, God our Father will be there to pull us out.

    4. When you are going through tough situations, give praise to our Almighty God. God will answer. If your heart is so down that you are finding it difficult to praise God also, just recall that God, our loving Father, never leaves us or forsakes us.

    5. Fear of failure induces negative thinking. If we get laid off from a job due to competency issues, then we need to try the next one. The lesson learnt from the previous one will enable us to excel in the next one.

    6. When the first one gave back the master ten talents, he appreciated him as “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” The same words of appreciation he used for the second one also, though he gave four talents.

    This shows that there is no difference in whatever work we do or how much we earn. When our time is done, we will be happy with our accomplishments that were possible for us, like raising children, special children, taking care of elderly, providing for family, helping neighbours. We will not be wondering why we did not become a great scientist, or a world famous person. So there is no need to be worried if we are not becoming famous or wealthy etc. Each one needs to work in their area of blessings. There is no need for us to feel jealous of another’s blessings.

    7. Fear gives way to laziness and laziness gives way to fear. If we feel lazy, we should immediately start to do something. Never allow laziness to become a habit.

    8. In the first reading, the woman in Proverbs does a lot of things. She buys land, plants vineyards, encourages everyone, uses kind words etc. If we look at this, she should be a person looking at life positively. It’s said here – her lamp does not go out – means that she is shining even through dark times. When trouble comes she is still positive. During troubled times we should remember that God will not allow us to suffer for a long time and remain positive.

    The best way to stay positive is to trust in our Lord Jesus.

  2. Kasajja peter says:

    I hereby appreciate all the socially coordinating colleagues who are entrusted with the Lord’s Grace to offer such a wonderful reflection on the days’ readings. Well, it is a very good thing to enlighten the spiritual writings that even when read by a believer, conceptionalisation of the sacred messages is perceived. God bless you all, and with great respect, kindly make me your compadre.

  3. Pádraig+McCarthy says:

    A dogmatic method of stating a teaching can be very clear, with no room for equivocation. It is a characteristic of stories that they can be multivalent, and the hearers or readers may see a variety of meanings or lessons in the story. It is easy to see today’s Gospel story as a teaching to use our various personal gifts and abilities well. This is especially so given the meaning of the English word “talent.” In the gospel, this is not what a talent is; rather, it is an enormous sum, about 70 lbs of silver (no paper or plastic money!), equivalent to about 15 years of wages of a labourer.

    The story can only be fully appreciated when taken in conjunction with the story immediately following in Matthew 25, which we have next Sunday. Today’s story tells of the return of a man from abroad and what he does. Next Sunday we have the second instalment, telling of the coming of the Son of Man and what he does.

    Today’s reading as presented in our Lectionary is prefaced with the words “The kingdom of heaven is like a man …” These words are not here in the gospel, but are transferred from 25:1, telling of the ten bridesmaids, as last Sunday.

    “Well done, good and faithful slave/servant … come and join in your master’s happiness.” What is that happiness? In the case of the first two, it is that they have learned well from their master’s example, who readily admits to the third that he is entirely unscrupulous: “You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered!” They have truly acted slavishly in their master’s footsteps. Is this the kind of person in whose happiness I want to join? It is in total contrast to the kind of life praised by the Son of Man next Sunday: “Come, you whom my Father has blessed. Take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you … For I was hungry and you gave me to eat …” There is not trace whatever of this in the master in today’s story.

    Today’s third servant is anything but slavish. He is a whistle-blower. And he suffers for it. “I was afraid, and I hid your talent in the ground.” If his fear was of his master, then he would have done as the other two. Rather, his fear is of being sucked into the unscrupulous corruption of his master, whose suggestion of the very least he should have done was to earn interest, forbidden by the Law of Israel. Instead, he took the course indicated by rabbinical law: “burying was regarded as the best security against theft”, says Joachim Jeremias (Rediscovering the Parables). For the cultural and historical background, see John Pilch at https://liturgy.slu.edu/33OrdA111520/theword_cultural.html. The third servant is the one who was “good and faithful.”

    He is declared “good-for-nothing”, and is sentenced to be cast out into the dark where there is weeping and grinding of teeth. In the following chapter, Matthew 26, the one telling today’s story is arrested, leading to his being cast out into the dark. But he is the one whose example we want to follow, in showing compassion for the hungry and for the “good-for-nothings.” No matter what the cost.

    This is a much more difficult teaching than that of using our talents after the example of a world where market values are prioritised, and results in 9 million hunger-related deaths each year – an epidemic far worse than coronavirus.

  4. Peter Kingori says:

    Very healthy sermon, ideal for every Christian

  5. Maurice Otieno says:

    We are being called upon to shun fear. That we should use our God given talents to add value to our lives and those of others.

  6. Soline Humbert says:

    Thank you very much Pádraig for this.Enlightening.

  7. Paddy+Ferry says:

    Pádraig@4, thank you for your words which, like Soline, I always find very enlightening.

    As I sat this evening at Mass in our parish — we are still allowed congregations of 50 — and as I listened to the 1st reading from Proverbs on what makes a good wife, I found myself wondering is this type of reading appropriate anymore in this more enlightened age in which we now live.

    I remember a number of years ago attending the wedding of my wife’s cousin and the infamous reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians, I think, where the qualities of a good wife — especially being obedient to their husband — are emphasized. I wondered at the time who could have chosen such a reading. Perhaps the minister as it was a Church of Scotland service. It sounded so outrageous that I tried to inject some humour into the subsequent debate on the reading which, I am afraid, did not go down well at all among the women in the family. (At that stage I had not read Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer SJ, or anyone else for that matter, so I was not aware that Paul probably did not write those particular lines. Of course, he may well have said much the same if he had written the letter.)

    I digress. My question is, Pádraig to you or perhaps to Joe if he is reading this or anyone else, has the deletion of what we may now consider as inappropriate sections of scripture ever been considered from the canon of scripture? The inerrancy of scripture is no longer a barrier as the late, great Franz Cardinal Koenig successfully debunked that previously untouchable doctrine so effectively at the 3rd session, I think, of Vatican II.

    And, of course, there are the outrageous things written in Leviticus about homosexuals which we could not accept as reasonable today.

    “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

    The words above also made me sit up and listen this evening. Surely our God given instincts programme us to fine charm and beauty desirable in a women which is essential for procreation and the continuation of the species.

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