Visions of the Master

I am always delighted when I read or hear something that helps me to see a scripture passage in a new light. Especially when it is a Gospel passage I have prayed with or thought about a lot, I’m delighted when I hear a sermon that focuses it a bit differently than I’ve focused it before. That happened to me yesterday.

I attended Mass yesterday morning at St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Bloomington, where I have been giving a Monday morning series on prayers (the last session of which is this morning). Since there was an adult education program yesterday I wanted to attend, I attended the 9:30 there.

The Gospel passage yesterday morning was the parable of the talents in St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is a story we are all familiar with. The Master of the house gave different talents to each servant. (In the translation we heard at Mass yesterday, it was expressed as a number of silver coins.) The first two servants invested the talents wisely and made them grow. The Master was pleased and gave them more talents. The third servant hoarded his talents and did not use them, nor did he make them grow, so they were taken away from him by the angry Master.

I always speak of this parable when talking to people about getting in touch with their giftedness. We are each given a unique set of gifts from God so that we can use them to give greater glory to God; we aren’t given a gift to bury it and give it back in its pristine state to God. We are given our gifts to use them for the life of the world. Nothing wrong with that message.

But the priest suggested something that I had not considered before, and that is that the servants in the parable had very different images of their Master and that those images had an effect on their behavior. The parable reveals explicitly the image of the third servant: “Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter;so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.” The other servants, the priest posited, rather than seeing the Master as harsh and judging, saw him as loving and forgiving. That gave them the freedom to do something creative with the talents they had been entrusted with.

People have many different images of God. Some of those images are less healthy than others. Some constrict and others give us the confidence and freedom to be all that God intended for us to become.

Note: For a different, but very powerful, take on today’s Gospel, go listen to this reflection by my friend and hero, Aidan Rooney, currently working in the Vincentian mission in Bolivia.