What sort of fairness is going on here? We are obviously not talking about fairness at all. What we are talking about is a higher level of consciousness where the normal rules just do not apply. This is a theoretical story told to make a point about three kinds of people. Each of the three responds to the divine good fortune differently. In neither case is the amount of money determined by the servant “earning” it. Neither of them deserves anything. We think that because we are good and work hard, it is only fair that we should be rewarded. This is fairness in the way of the world. However, Jesus is not talking about that kind of “fairness.” He is trying to raise our consciousness to a divine level. His Father who sent Him loves him (and loves us), unconditionally and without limit. Five talents or two talents or one talent are all irrelevant in this story. In this parable the first two servants got this point and were not afraid to risk losing their gifts. After all, the same source who gave them their talents out of a divine, unlimited goodness would continue to be good to them. They knew that. They might as well use this money as a way of being grateful. It had nothing to do with deserving or earning God’s goodness. It had everything to do with gratitude.
In the section which follows this parable just before the Passion, Matthew tells another story with the same theme. This is the story of Mary of Bethany who anointed the head of Jesus with costly ointment. She is strongly defended by Jesus when the others begin to criticize her extravagant expression of love. In both stories, we are dealing with a new level of logic. We are at the heart of the mystery we call the Incarnation. The world,and all its comparisons of good and bad, more and less, success and failure, have just been made irrelevant. The only one in the crowd who seems to have gotten the point is this woman, who extravagantly emptied her jar of perfumed oil all over the head of Jesus. The men of the world and the followers of the world’s rules are horrified. Jesus gives solemn testimony, not only to the woman’s spiritual wisdom and understanding, but also to her courage in daring to go way beyond the logic and the normal rules of human affection and courtesy.
Now, it is our turn. We are invited to risk everything and place all our trust in this divine level of life. Let us take the risk of believing in this mystery of unlimited, but at the same time, incarnate love, which goes way beyond all our pathetic human rules.
Photograph by Michael Rivera. Excerpts from Father Robert's homily for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time.