November 16, 2011 - Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Our Gospel today is very similar to the parable of the talents. Ten minas to ten servants versus eight talents to three servants. Is there really such a difference? There are some differences. The business man gone on a journey becomes a nobleman who wants to be a king. The enormous amount of money characterized by a talent, about 20 years of income, is reduced to the mina, which is a much smaller amount, about 4 months of income. Most importantly, and the reason we need to consider the parables independently, is that although the business man was strict but fair, the nobleman is a cruel, terrible man: “Bring them here and slay them before me.”

We might think at first, especially with the introduction that Luke gives, that Jesus is the nobleman who is going away in order to become the king, but this must not be true, for that nobleman is awful. Many historians have pointed out that a real king, Herod Archelaus, actually did these things. He went on a journey to Rome when his father, Herod the Great, died. Some Jews wrote to the emperor asking him not to make Herod the king, but he did anyway. Herod was so bad that he only lasted nine years before being removed, and he often did things like have enemies slain at his feet.

Perhaps Jesus is reminding his disciples how cruel people are. The disciples think that the Kingdom of Heaven will be established immediately, but they are naïve. They do not remember what kings and governors do to people who they see as a challenge to their authority. Herod Archelaus had people executed at his feet. The Pharisees and Pontius Pilate had their rival nailed to a cross.

Our first reading today shows this evil so clearly. It is heavily edited: all of the explicit details of torture have been removed. You can read it yourself or just trust me – it is horrible. And why did the king kill a mother and her seven children? Because they refused to eat pork. Those in power cannot stand to have anyone tell them “No”. The powerful in Jerusalem are certainly not going to put up with Jesus establishing his Kingdom. Mind you, the Kingdom will be established but not easily and not quickly. It has been nearly 2000 years so far. Consider how far the world has come in that time, and how far the world has yet to go.