Gospel Reflection for Nov. 15, 2020, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In yet another kingdom parable, Jesus speaks of a wealthy man who entrusts three of his servants with varying sums of money of which he expects an accounting upon his return from an extended journey. Two of the three invest the money wisely and each manages to double the investment. The third, concerned that he might fail and wishing not to lose any of the master’s money, buried it underground so that he might return it safely to his master.

Within the broader context of the parable section from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is instructing the crowds about wisdom with patience and patience with wisdom. As we know from our own experiences hasty decisions or actions can often leave us in difficult situations. Experience has also taught us that we need to be patient and to allow circumstances to unfold before us so that we can gain the bigger picture.

The first two servants in the parable took bold risks, utilizing the time they had and did well. We do not know timeline that the parable might cover. Generally speaking, it is hard to double one’s money in a short period of time. We can assume that Jesus does not want us to have the impression that they were somehow reckless with the money entrusted to them, but that they acted with foresight and prudence. It is they whom we are called to emulate.

It is also likely that each of these servants did more than hand the money to a broker giving no more thought to it. They paid attention to the investment and made on-going decisions about its growth. They received both a great gift and an opportunity and they were set on making the most of it.

The third servant acts more in accord with a prevailing custom. When someone was charged with tending to another’s money burying it was considered the safest choice. It made loss of the money through theft or unwise investing far less likely, but certainly not impossible. This risk harkens us back to the parable of the man who found a great pearl buried in a field and then bought the field to gain the more valuable pearl. That pearl was buried to keep it safe from theft.

The third servant is short-sighted and lacks a sense of courage and boldness. He does not perceive himself that way and seems to be genuinely shocked that he is judged to have made a wrong choice. He protected the investment and, by burying it, assumed no responsibility for it. Had the others failed he would have looked smart. He was counting on the failure of the others instead of investing in his own success.

This is not an unusual human response, and while it might work in some circumstances, this is not the way of the Kingdom. No matter how great or how insignificant the gifts the Lord bestows upon each of us might seem to us or to others it does not mean that those gifts are either great or insignificant in the eyes of the Lord. It is for each of us to make the wisest investment that we can with those gifts and talents.

As with the other demands of discipleship, this is no easy task. The nurturing of wisdom with patience, and patience with wisdom, always comes at a cost. It demands that we nurture both virtues equally. Wisdom does not come with patience; patience does not come with wisdom. While each are separate gifts, they do not come to all of us in equal measure, and for some they are gifts that we do not have. Yet, through steadfastness of prayer and a consistent desire to serve the Lord, we can take a small talent and allow it to grow into a greater gift.

We are challenged to be men and women of bold action, acting with wisdom and trust for the building up of the Kingdom of God. As we invest all for the sake of the kingdom – our talent, our wisdom, our faith – the Lord will achieve results that go beyond our imaginations. We are called to boldness in action, fueled with the wisdom that comes from a life of faith, as we proclaim the Gospel in the world. Let us pray for the wisdom to act with such courage.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.