Photo by Unsplash.
Photo by Unsplash.

In today’s gospel, Jesus continues His final parables before the beginning of His Passion in Jerusalem. Today’s reading comes from Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew (25:14-30), and the parable compares the industriousness and fates of three servants, each entrusted with a share of his master’s money. The first servant trades with the money and doubles it, returning 10 talents to the master. The second servant does likewise, returning four talents to the master. The third servant, however, fails to do anything with the money and instead simply gives back what he had been given. While the first two are praised and rewarded for their efforts, the third “useless servant” is instead thrown into the darkness outside.

It would be easy to focus on the stern rebuke given to the third servant by the master, because it is harsh and seems so “un-Jesus like.” If, however, the beginning of the parable is read attentively, it becomes clear that each servant is not just given money. Each one is accurately “entrusted” with the master’s talents “according to his ability.” The father of the household is aware of what each servant can do. He does not expect from them more than what is reasonable. Moreover, he does not simply throw out money willy-nilly. The talents are entrusted to the servants, meaning that he bestows upon them not just responsibility, but trust. He shares his possessions with them as a sign of his confidence in them. The manner in which they assume that responsibility and respond to the master’s trust bespeaks the type of relationship they have with the master himself. Their personal responsibility, therefore, is a manifestation of their fidelity to the master. It also shows whether or not they trust his judgment. They do not know when the master will return. They only know that when he does, he will expect their best work.

This sentiment of the unknown and of expectation is also captured in today’s second reading from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 5:1-6). Saint Paul explains to the Thessalonian church and to Christians of all times and places that the day of the Lord will come “like a thief in the night.” Not knowing the day or the hour, however, does not mean that we can be unprepared. That is not an acceptable excuse. Saint Paul assures those earliest Christians that because of their union with Christ, they are no longer “in darkness,” but are “children of the light and of the day.” There are no excuses, in other words, for not having our hearts ready to receive the Lord.  Again, it is a manifestation of their fidelity that Thessalonians take on the responsibility of being God’s children. This means living in the world with our hearts set on Jesus.

In a surprising and touching connection, the fidelity that God seeks in both the gospel and in Saint Paul’s teaching is on display in the first reading from Proverbs (Prov 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31). Here, the qualities of personal integrity and responsibility are personified in a loving and faithful wife. In a verbal link with the gospel, the husband “entrusts” his heart to his wife, in the same way that the master of the household “entrusted” his possessions to his servants. In the description from Proverbs, what is most personal, most closely identified with the man himself, that is, his heart, is given over into the hands of his wife. At that point, he disappears from the reading, but her acceptance of his trust shows that he remains with her. Her industriousness manifests her willingness to accept his heart and, out of love for him, to be faithful in small matters as well as great. Like her, it is in the daily tasks with which we have been entrusted that we hold the heart of our Beloved.