According to the Church of Ireland lectionary, we are in the midst of a triad of Christ’s teachings regarding, I guess, some of the tricker aspects of Christian discipleship.
Matthew 25 v 1 to 14, the story of the Foolish Bridesmaids, at one level, asks us today, if we really are ready to meet Christ?
Next week’s lectionary reading from Matthew (Ch 25 v 31 to 46) will explore Christ’s teachings on how we live and serve others in the story about the “sheep and the goats”. An uncomfortable read that. One that sends a shiver up my spine.
This Sunday’s Gospel reading sees Christ telling the story of a man who before he leaves on an extended journey, summons his servants and gives each of them a considerable amount of money (or talents) to be invested whilst he is away. According to Matthew 25 v 16 this gift of talents was in proportion to the servants abilities. The man is clearly no slouch and wants a return on his money.
Patrick Comerford (www.patrickcomerford.com) notes that when Christ uses the term “talent” in this Gospel story, it is estimated that a “talent” could equate to anywhere between 15 to 26 years wages worth. Serious dough, especially for those hearing the story for the first time who lived largely a hand to mouth existence subsisting.
Like the story of the foolish bridesmaids, there seems to be a harshness at the heart of Christ’s story regarding the use of the wealthy man’s “talents”.
The foolish bridesmaids end up being shut out of the wedding party by the bridegroom. In this week’s Gospel, the master throws out the servant who (and let’s not forget was given an amount according to his ability) failed to do anything with what he had been given and buried it for safekeeping. Both the bridegroom and now this wealthy man act harshly towards those not meeting the standard. The servant with the one talent makes his master zero by way of profit and faces expulsion from the master’s presence.
So. What might Christ be driving at in this parable?
As noted in last week’s reflection regarding the story of the “foolish and wise bridesmaids”, the story of “the talents” and the story of the “sheep and goats” are all told in the run up towards Christ’s final entry into Jerusalem then His on going betrayal leading ultimately to His crucifixion. There may well be a harshness in these stories but one must ask the question was Christ warning of difficult days to come?
He would be betrayed.
He would suffer death.
He would face rejection…and so might they.
The need therefore was to be ready for the parousia (arrival) of God’s Kingdom, the need to be using our best resources and talents both financial and otherwise in the service of the Kingdom.
The story of the “talents” sees Christ keeping His disciples on their toes. We are expected to make use of what we have been given.
“Following” is a verb and there is a cost. A cost that seeks all of our abilities and ultimately is worth all our effort, most especially amidst the brokenness of a pandemic ravaged world and a world of political uncertainty.