Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

All Saints Catholic Church

The scripture readings for November 16 are: Proverbs 31: 1-13, 19-20, 30-31, Thessalonians 5: 1-6, and Matthew 25: 14-30.

The reading from Proverbs calls to mind a painting I saw showing a woman seated at a spinning wheel surrounded by wonderful colorful threads and fully made garments resembling the amazing colored dream coat of Joseph the dreamer. She works hard at her craft with loving hands and she shares the wealth by reaching out her hands to the poor and extending her arms to the needy. She is an example of a person who has it all — charm, a good wife, industrious and caring and sharing.

Paul reminds us that we don’t have an infinite amount of time to get things right. We need to be prepared because the “day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.” We need “to stay alert and sober.” The take away could be that we need to be attentive to the works of justice and charity. We can’t amass wealth for ourselves and not be attentive to the needs of others. We can’t sleep knowing that others are in pain and dying from things that just a little money could prevent.

And this leads me to the parable of the talents. So often we have heard preachers water down this parable by substituting human abilities, brains, for the “talent” Jesus is speaking about. The talent or the “talanton” in Greek doesn’t mean human abilities or brains. It means money and a lot of it. Two talents would be as much as 15-20 years of wages and 5 would be equivalent to 75 years of wages! The crowd must have snickered when Jesus used these unbelievable numbers. He was speaking to a crowd that probably didn’t have two pennies to rub together. So, you can imagine that the crowd was not on the side of the two who were given such huge amounts and then doubled what they were given. Insane. Their hero was the guy who took the one talent, maybe just 10 years wages, and would not participate in what looks like a Ponzi scheme or Wall Street short sales. Yes, the folks who today gain 100% increase on their investment are pulling a fast one. So were the two in the parable.

The one who buried the talents would not participate in the scheme. The rich get richer and the poor even have what little they have taken from them. Sound familiar?

And much like the hero, today folks on the bottom end up “wailing and grinding their teeth.” Unbelievable suffering for no good reason except the greed of others.

This parable should shake us up. For later in the Gospel Jesus will make a judgment on the nations and the wealthy may end up with the goats, because they had it all and horded it while Jesus suffered in the poor and powerless, the great masses of humanity dying for lack of the mere necessities of life; food, water, health care, a living wage, or a decent house.

What will we hear Jesus say to us: “come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” or “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels?”

“What ever you did for the least, you did for me.”