Jesus Coins a New Word
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Mattew chapter 25, verse 14

Were we to have lived in Jesus' time, the word "talent" would have referred exclusively to a Greek silver coin, the value of which was the equivalent of several years pay for the average person.

Within the literal context of what has become known as the parable of the talents, (Mt.25:14), its use implies that the three mid-level employees were entrusted with the discretionary management of a great deal of money. In other words, the employer in question took a substantial risk.

Were we to have been Christians of the Middle Ages, the word "talent" would have already become popular as a means of describing a natural ability that can be improved by practice.

This meaning of the word "talent" is still in vogue today, and can be traced directly to the Church's understanding of the parable as told by Jesus. In other words, Jesus gave the word a new and lasting meaning.

The Christians of the Middle Ages understood that this story was not about financial investment but rather about what we might refer to as moral investment...that investment made by our Creator in us when He gave each of us abilities, differing in both nature and quality, with which to receive and respond to His Gospel message.

Now, if God invested wisely, the Gospel would be lived. Conversely, if He put his talents into the wrong hands, they would be wasted and the Gospel would not be served.

Obviously, God cannot misjudge anything!...anymore than Jesus can be said to have showed bad judgement when He appointed Judas as an Apostle. And yet, how can an observer of society be blamed for noting that, metaphorically, God clearly has both good and bad investments?

The wild card in this scenario is free will. The same God who equips us all with latent talent also dignifies us with free will that enables us to choose to serve His ends or not to serve them.

God takes the same risk with each one of us. Will we put a premium on truth and goodness and on responding to the needs of others, or will we focus on our own whims and appetites?

But God is not the only risk taker for as the parable clearly warns us, we will be held responsible. God will judge us according to the use we make of the talents or abilities with which we have been entrusted. However, if that is the bad news, the good news is that two out of three passed the test with flying colours. That should be encouraging!

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