Cowardice Misconceived as Prudence

15 November 2020 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Mathew 25:14-30

Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau

The talents do not indicate the qualities that every man has received from God. Verse 15 where the talents are delivered “to each according to his abilities.” The master entrusts his possessions to the most trusted servants. He knows the abilities, attitudes, competences, and according to these, he establishes how much to assign to each. This master is clearly Christ.

These goods are what Jesus has given to his church: the gospel, the message of salvation intended to transform the world and create a new humanity; His Spirit “who renews the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30), and even himself in the sacraments; and then his power to heal, to comfort, to forgive, to reconcile with God. The three servants are members of the Christian community. To each of them is given an assignment to be done so that the wealth of the Lord may be put to good use. Two servants are enterprising, dynamic, hardworking, while the third is fearful and insecure.

In the third part of the parable, the servants are called to render their accounts. With justifiable pride, two servants say to the master of having doubled their possessions. Then the third servant appears. “I know—he says to his master—that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours.”

The central message of the parable is in the master’s rebuke of the slothful servant: the only unacceptable attitude is the disengagement; it is the fear of risk. He is condemned because he let himself be blocked by fear.

There were neglectful and diligent disciples in Matthew’s time and they continue to be in our communities. There are dynamic and enterprising Christians who are committed to give a new face to the catechesis, liturgy and pastoral work, who are passionately committed to the study of God’s word in order to grasp the true and deep meaning, who are generous and active. Other Christians are rather lazy and afraid of everything.

It is unbelievable but true. One can be paralyzed by the fear of Christ. A certain spirituality of the past urged to act but especially recommended not to engage in active service for fear of breaking commandments and precepts. Transgressors are threatened with terrible punishments. This spirituality created the third type of servants, that is, the Christians who, in order to avoid sins, always played it safe. They could not risk it, because those who try, those who commit themselves inevitably expose themselves to the risk of being wrong. Those who preach this fear, without realizing it, are the cause of the lack of love, sterile goodness, and spiritual lethargy.

Translated by Fr. John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Fr. Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF