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Of cowardice and prudence

In reflecting on the parable of the talents, we need to clarify some common misconceptions. It is not a moral lesson on honesty or how to invest the money, but rather on the commitment of putting to good use the treasures that belong to everyone.
Jesus did not have low esteem for the one who was given only one talent.
If we keep this in mind, we can understand that the master entrusts his possessions to the most trusted servants. He knows their abilities, attitudes and competencies, and keeps them in mind in establishing how much to assign to each.
This man is clearly the Christ who, before leaving, handed over all his goods to his disciples.
These goods are what Jesus has given to his Church: the gospel, the message of salvation, which is intended to transform the world and create a new humanity; His Spirit “who renews the face of the earth” (Psalm 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 completed so that the wealth of the Lord may be put to good use.
According to each one’s own charism (1 Corinthians 12:28-30), everyone is called to produce love. Love is, in fact, the gain, the fruit that the Lord wants. 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 tell the master they have doubled their possessions.
Then the third servant appears. “I know,” he says, “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 disengagement; or the fear of risk. He is condemned because he let himself be fettered by fear.
There were neglectful and diligent disciples in Matthew’s time and they continue to remain in our communities. There are dynamic and enterprising Christians who are committed to giving 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. We can be paralysed by the fear of Christ. A certain spirituality of the past urged action, but also non-engagement with active service for fear of breaking commandments or precepts.
Transgressors are threatened with terrible punishments.
This spirituality creates the third type of servant, that is, the Christians who, in order to avoid sin, 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 realising it, are the cause of the lack of love, leading to sterile goodness and spiritual lethargy.
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications