Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 33 OT, Nov. 16, 2014 by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Today’s gospel is usually referred to
as the “Parable of the Talents.”
We’ve all heard countless sermons warning us
about burying our God-given talents under a bushel.
That interpretation is part of a long tradition in Christianity
that has its roots in interpretations
by the early Christian community
as they waited for Jesus’ Second Coming.
Over the centuries it has spurred many people
to use their gifts for good.
But there are a couple of problems
with looking at the parable this way.
One is mistaking the “master” in the parable for God.
Is this God,
who harvests where he doesn’t plant
and gathers where he doesn’t scatter,
who calls servants wicked and lazy
and throws people out into the dark?
Lots of the parables begin with “The kin-dom of God is like….”
This one doesn’t.
That’s because it’s not about God.
It’s about a man going on a journey.
Jesus is talking about human beings.
And Jesus is not talking about talents as we define the word:
not skills, abilities, gifts, aptitudes, expertise, proficiency—
however you name it.
He’s talking about money.
A talent was a lot of money in Jesus’ time,
equal to somewhere between $300,000 and a million today.
The Mishnah, which contains the written record
of the rules of the oral tradition
that would have been in place during Jesus’ life,
forbids the drawing of interest and dividends from investments.
In 1st century Judea,
earning double interest on money would have been sinful,
so this parable shows us a man
who rewards great sinfulness on the part of the servants.
He’s not practicing Jubilee justice when he concentrates wealth
in the hands of the few.
That makes the third servant the hero in the parable:
he knows the master’s evil and refuses to take part in it;
he engages in a courageous act of civil disobedience.
The parable says that the third servant acts "out of fear"—
but it’s not fear of the wicked master,
or he would have lent the money out at interest.
His fear is the fear of doing wrong.
When he gets thrown into the darkness
where’s there’s wailing and grinding of teeth,
that’s the place where, in other parts of scripture,
we find God listening to the cries of the poor and oppressed.
It’s significant that the scholars of the Jesus Seminar
voted this parable one that most probably comes from Jesus.
Theologian Ched Myers says the parable
would have been heard by Jesus' listeners
as a story about doing right
in the face of a cruel and wicked leader.
We can all relate to that.
We get torn apart when someone
tells us to do something wrong.
People have been murdered
for doing what was right about racism.
Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged
for opposing Nazism.
Workers are particularly vulnerable.
They can be put in a position
where they’re told to take money “under the table,”
or to hide things when the inspectors will be coming around,
to tinker with the numbers on the report.
Kids are bullied
for doing what is right about classmates who are different.
If you don’t take the boss’ order when you know it’s wrong,
you suffer the consequences—
you get beat up, you’re fired, you’re killed.
The lesson is clear:
we must refuse to do what we know is wrong,
no matter what the consequences are.
But being ethical, being moral, doing the right thing—
it’s not easy.
It’s not always clear what we should do.
Sometimes it’s not even clear that we’re facing a moral issue,
so we have to be attentive to the situations
that life puts in front of us
and take time to pray and discern what the right thing is.
It’s the cost of discipleship,
the cost of following the Way of Jesus.
He listened and learned and prayed,
and then he spoke truth to power
and died rather than walk away from doing the right thing. That’s our
call, too.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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