Reflection for Sunday – November 19, 2017

Readings: Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30

Click here to download PDF of this homily.
Preacher: Sr. Barbara Moore

Let me make one observation about our first reading and then turn to our Gospel
from Matthew.
As I reflected on the first reading with Advent soon to come, my mind went to
Mary, the worthy wife who held the heart of Joseph, which he entrusted to her as
she entrusted her heart to him.
Imagine the work of her hands as she and Joseph raised their son, and the
witness she gave to her family as she extended her arms to the needy.
And now the Gospel…
There is one phrase in the Gospel that sticks in my mind every time I reflect on
this parable.
In this story, we hear a slave say to his powerful master when he was reporting
back, and giving an account of his work…“Master, I knew you were a demanding
person, harvesting where you did not plant, and gathering where you did not
scatter.”
The master heard him and repeated his slave’s damming comment.
“You wicked, lazy servant! You knew that I harvest where I did not plant and
gather where I did not scatter?” The wicked master admitted his unscrupulous
behavior, but wanted his servants to produce profits for him.

Rarely do we see such honesty by such a dishonest person!
Note, Jesus begins the parable with the phrase,” A man going on a journey….”
Often parables begin with the phrase, “The Kingdom of God is like….” But this
parable does not start that way, and that reality can influence the way we hear
and read the text. Not “the Kingdom of God is like….”
For years, preachers have, in my mind, interpreted this text as a statement about
the Kingdom of God, but it does not say that! Talents in the minds of some,
became gifts to be used to build up the kingdom. But the text does not say that
either!
The talents—a substantial amount of money—were distributed to build up the
earthy kingdom of the master. The servant who buried his talent (money) out of
fear, made a conscious choice. He knew what the master was like, and what he
wanted was profit. And so often that profit came at the expense and oppression
of the poor.
“Look, you gave me five talents and I made five more.”
Might this “lazy” servant be exercising his right to resist, to refuse to make money
off others? Might he, as in the words of the Scripture scholar Barbara Reid, be the
one “who blew the whistle on the wickedness of the master?” Indeed he paid a
heavy price.
Might the slave have understood that those, “who have more, continue to get
more?”
There is another word that the master uses in this parable that is familiar to many
of us. The one who did not produce in the eyes of the master was labeled, “lazy.”
That word is often an unspoken attitude that underlies public policy debates
about social programs and health care for the poor. Certainly, we all are open to
finding many meanings in this parable and that is what they were intended to do.

But the social and excessive profit motive and the punishment for those who try
to expose it are quite contemporary. May we be aware of this reality as we try to
live out the challenges of the Gospel on a daily basis.
Amen

Sr. Barbara Moore, RSM

Sr. Barbara Moore, RSM

Sister Barbara is the director of the Program for the Study of Women and Gender in Church and Society, and Professor of Preaching and Practical Theology, at Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School.
Sr. Barbara Moore, RSM
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