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Surprise, Laughter, and Wonder: More Parables of the Kingdom of God
Sr. Patricia Bruno, OP
Stories Seldom Heard
264th Edition Mt 25: 14 July 2021
Surprise, Laughter, and Wonder: More Parables of the Kingdom of God
Come, join us! The travel restrictions are lifted — at least in the Kingdom of God.
Online Retreat with Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP and Sr. Patricia Bruno, OP
July 15–August 5, 2021 (Pre-recorded videos and a one-hour online zoom session, once a week)
Click on or copy the link below for more details. santasabinacenter.org
Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard. We hope you will be joining us for the upcoming Zoom Retreat sponsored by Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, CA. I thought in preparation for our Parable and Poetry Retreat, I would offer you this article on the Parable of the Talents.
Jesus is known as a master storyteller. Like other storytellers, his times and culture affect the stories he tells. Even though we live at a very different time and culture, the parables capture our imaginations. Most of them seem quite ordinary and simple. But, in truth, the parables are not ordinary stories, are they? They are not like Aesop’s Fables that tell us how to interpret them. Rather the parables of Jesus are religious riddles: wisdom stories. There’s always a twist or a turn – something out of order, something we didn’t expect. Jesus, the storyteller, hopes we, the hearers, will grapple with the questions that the parables present. As we reflect on the parables over the years, our life experiences influence the way we hear them. New insights and moments of grace can awaken us to God working in our lives and world.
Even though the Parable of the Talents, doesn’t describe a peaceful Middle Eastern scene, as many of Jesus’ parables do, it does reveal some of the customs of Jesus’ times. Jesus tells a parable of three people who receive unequal amounts of talents. One receives ten, another five and the third person receives one talent. In Jesus’ day talents referred to money–-currency. However, even though the parable speaks of money and investing our money, our talents, we know Jesus isn’t really talking about financial investments or portfolios. But he’s talking about investing–-for sure-–in a slightly different context. The parable is about investing ourselves as he did. Jesus invested himself and everything he knew and believed into his ministry for us.
Matthew’s placement of the parable is not a casual decision. This parable comes as Jesus is moving towards Jerusalem, the place where he will be put to death. It’s a time of high risk for him. Yet Jesus is as fully invested, fully committed to the truth of who he is and who God is, as he was throughout his entire life. He placed all his actions and works into God’s hands. He held nothing back. Now, as he approaches the last days of his life, the scripture says he turns his face toward Jerusalem like flint. Nothing can distract him or redirect his actions.
Matthew places this parable near the end of his Gospel close to the parable of the Last Judgment scene with the sheep and the goats. There’s no missing Matthew’s point. He wants us to pay attention to what the Master is asking of us. What Jesus has done for us, he is asking us to do for others. Live life fully. Be fully invested in our families and communities. Seek the common good of all.
The greatest risk according to this parable is not to risk anything…not to care, not to give our hearts away. Indifference is the greatest loss of all. Playing it safe according to this parable is like being banished into the darkness of isolation, the darkness we hear of at the end of the Gospel passage.
Jesus’ prayer and hope for us are that what he has done for us, we will do for others: friends and strangers, well-accepted people, and those who are overlooked by society. In other words, a clear sign of a disciple of Jesus is to walk with those who are marginalized.
This parable echoes many of Jesus’ other parables about giving ourselves fully and not being afraid to take risks. “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.” “No one hides a lamp under a bushel basket.” Yet, laying down our lives, investing our talents, whether they be compassion or currency, requires sacrifice on our part.
We have all lived long enough to recognize ourselves in each of the characters in this parable. For most of our lives, we have been like the first and second servants. We have risked everything, given our all, our ten and five talents. But my suspicion is that we have also experienced times, like the third servant, when we have been too fearful to act. Perhaps we have experienced a difficult divorce, a loss of a job, or a college application rejection. Not knowing what to do and feeling paralyzed, we have needed others to reach out and help us move forward.
“Life can change on a dime.” That is what a friend told me after last year’s destructive fires in California. Lightning and winds forced his family and their neighbors out of their homes into a “tent city.” There was no way to describe the profound grief and pain that he, his family, and the whole community experienced. But what he speaks of now, is how strangers and friends reached out to them. These “outsiders,” so to speak, shared their knowledge and resources with my friend and the whole community. Because of these people’s support and encouragement, those who had lost their homes, family memories, civic and faith communities, began to move forward and breakthrough the trauma of fear and loss. Sometimes our life experiences require a helping hand to enable us to move forward.
This parable is an invitation to use our talents, whatever they might be, to encourage others, like the third servant, who are too afraid to risk even the free gifts they have been given. Our contribution might seem small to us, but companioning another to a doctor’s appointment, listening to a story of disappointment, or thoughtfully contributing a small or large monetary gift could help change a person’s life. When we find ourselves pondering the questions and concerns of others, we know that God’s Spirit lives within us. It is this Spirit who animates our decisions and directs our steps. This is the Spirit who lives within us now and continues to surprise us with grace, which means surprise us with strength enough, courage enough, enough insight to meet the challenges we face each day and to be able to reach out to those who need our support.
You might want to reflect on the following questions.
- Which servant best describes your attitude towards life at this time?
- Are there people you know who are stuck or afraid? How can you reach out to them?
- Where or how do you see the Holy Spirit fully invested in your life?