Thirty-third Sunday, YR A, 19 November, 2023: Proverbs 11:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30
This man who distributes money to his servants is described as a demanding person, harvesting where he did not plant and gathering where he did not scatter. I know I wouldn’t want to work for such an intimidating person!
In the bigger picture this entire system of investments was abhorrent to Jesus’ original audience. God gave the Chosen People land to provide their sustenance, land to be divided equitably among the people. Investments and banking was for gentiles who profiteered off the fortunes and misfortunes of others: that was no way to make an honest living.
We’re so acclimated to investments that we may miss what Jesus is doing in this parable: he’s throwing his listeners’ expectations off balance. They would have buried the money rather than risk losing it all on a faulty investment.
Jesus doesn’t necessarily accept or condone the economics he describes, but he can see that those ruthless gentiles can make their resources grow. They don’t settle for conserving what they have.
So to his fellow Jews, Jesus asks: does repeating time-honored practices really plumb the depths of their Covenant with God? Shouldn’t the implications of their traditions and values they represent, be unpacked, not simply conserved? Wouldn’t understanding the intentions, the beneficial goals, or the people served by the commandments breathe new life into religious practice? Is that Covenant shaped by its obligations or is it actually realized in love and responsiveness?
Deeper still is the pedagogy of Jesus. He is willing to listen and learn from what is strange to him. He doesn’t have to condone it to consider it, but reducing the other to an ally or an opponent is no truthful option for him. No wonder when he’s dying on the cross, he can say, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Isn’t this so different from our world in which “winning” means eliminating the other, shouting down opposition, obliterating what threatens me, never listening?
Aren’t we human beings capable of more than that? Can’t we people of faith do much better that that?