August 27, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Monica

Today's Readings

Back in the days of the Roman Empire, a talent was a pile of silver coins. It was equal, more or less, to what the average worker earned in 15 years, about a quarter million dollars. In the parable today, one servant is trusted with 5 talents, 5 large piles of silver coins. In English, the word “talent” has acquired a different meaning, precisely because of this parable. It is an easy analogy to consider that the servant who has received five piles of silver coins is a lot like us. We are God’s servants, and we have received generous abilities from God.

The traditional interpretation of this parable is that, just as the servants were expected to invest their talents and make more money, so too God expects that we will invest our talents and save souls. If we bury our talents as the one servant buried his talent, we will be punished severely. What does it mean to bury a talent? It means to waste time on television and other entertainments that could have been used to develop our talents or to use them for the greater glory of God, or worse, to use our talents for evil purposes, to use our gifts from God to make money or fool people or gain worldly advantages.

This interpretation is good and fruitful and true, but it is also possible to consider this parable in a simpler way. As the servants received silver, the currency of the world, we Christians have received love, the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven. God has loved us with an abundant love. We would not be able to love if God had not first loved us; God’s love is the initial investment that makes everything else possible. God has loved each of us and all of us; he is love.

In return, we must not bury the love of God away in our souls, or merely return it to him as we received it. He does want his love back; we must love God, but he expects his love to do amazing things while it is in the world. In this way, the amount of love in the world increases. Only love is creative. Money does not increase or decrease; we just move it around to give that impression. Love is always increasing unless we prevent it. We are loved and so we love and so we are loved.