The parable of the talents is an open-ended story that lends itself to be read in various ways. In fact, commentators and preachers have frequently interpreted it in an allegorical sense, directed in different directions. It’s important that we concentrate on the action of the third servant, since he occupies the greatest attention and space in the parable.
He conduct is strange. While the other servants dedicate themselves to make the goods the master has entrusted them with bear fruit, the third one thinks of nothing else but to “hide in the ground” the talent he received, in order to keep it safe. When the master arrives, he condemns how the «wicked and lazy» servant hasn’t understood anything. How to explain his behavior?
This servant feels no sense of identification with his master or with his interests. At no point does he act motivated by love. He doesn’t love his master, he’s afraid of him. And that fear is precisely what brings him to seek his own safety. He himself explains it all: «I was afraid and I went off and hid your talent in the ground».
This servant doesn’t understand what his true responsibility consists of. He thinks that he is responding to the expectations of his master by preserving his talent in safety, though unproductive. He doesn’t know what an active and creative faithfulness is all about. He doesn’t get involved in his master’s projects. When the master arrives, the servant says so clearly: «Here it is, it was yours, you have it back». We need to listen attentively to Jesus’ parable when it seems that Christianity for many has arrived at a point in which there’s priority «to preserve» and not so much seek courageously new paths to welcome, live out, and announce the project of God’s reign. Today he’s speaking this parable to us.
If we never feel called to follow Christ’s demands beyond what’s been endlessly taught and commanded; if we risk nothing to make a Church that is more faithful to Jesus; if we keep ourselves far from any conversion that could complicate our life; if we don’t assume the responsibility of the kingdom as Jesus did, seeking «new wine in new wineskins», then all the more we need to learn the active, creative and risk-taking faithfulness to which this parable invites us.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf