Today's Gospel is from Matthew 25:14-30. As in the past several weeks, this week's reading has Jesus relating another parable. This parable has a man who, while he travels on a journey, entrusts three of his servants with a certain amount of talents. (A "talent" is a unit of currency). To one servant he gives five talents, to another two, and to the last servant one. When he returns he finds that the servants to whom he gave five and two talents have invested their money and returned to their master double what they were entrusted with, ten and four talents respectively. The third servant whom was given a single talent buried it in the ground, and returned the same to his master.
The master was furious. "Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?" he asks. He then takes the talent and gives it to the servants who had wisely invested his money. "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."
At first glance, today's gospel reading might seem like a sermon on financial investment. Or it might seem like a condemnation of the whole "I am the 99%" movement. We complain because the rich grow richer while the poor grow more poor; yet isn't that exactly what Jesus says will happen in today's gospel?
Not quite. For only on the surface is today's parable about money. I'm convinced that Jesus had more in mind. We get clues as to what from the other readings today. This first reading is from Proverbs 31. It is about a worthy wife, one who "fears the Lord." It speaks of such a wife as an "unfailing prize" and her value as "far beyond pearls." "Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates."
The Psalm has a similar message. Psalm 128 tells us "Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruits of your handiwork..." It concludes, "Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life."
The rewards and prosperity spoken of in these two readings have nothing to do with investing money in a bank. Rather they have to do with living lives in fear of the Lord. Now, this does not mean being afraid of God! When the Bible speaks of "fear of the Lord," it means having respect and awe for the Almighty. It means proper reverence and admiration -- and yes, this may mean a little trembling on our part.
What it all boils down to is investing what God has given us, so that we may yield an increase, as the two wise servants in today's gospel parable. What has God given us? A sum of money? Or something else?
In truth God has given us everything. Our lives, our bodies, our souls, every breath we take is a gift from the Lord. What are we doing with these treasures he has entrusted us with? Are we investing our lives in such a way as to see an increase in that investment? What would such an increase look like?
The answer, I believe, is found in the closing prayer from today's Mass:
We have partaken of the gifts of this sacred mystery, humbly imploring, O Lord, that what your Son commanded us to do in memory of him may bring us growth in charity. Through Christ our Lord.
We pray for growth in charity, which is to say an increase in love. This is how you should be investing your talents. God has invested in your life. He wants to be paid back, with increase, in love.