Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Sermon Archives

I've taken the liberty of uploading the sermons I have on file on my computer. These were added to this blog today; but I have given them their original dates; and they are arranged as if they had been added to this blog on a regular basis.

Do feel free to take the opportunity to stroll through the archives; and add your comments, criticisms, and questions!

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Parable of the Talents

(Matt. 25:14-30) (16th Sunday after Pentecost)

You probably know that a “talent” refers, at times, to a unit of weight, and to an amount of money. One talent equaled 60 minas; a mina equaled 100 drachma; and a drachma was the equivalent of a day’s wages. This means that a talent was worth about twenty years wages! So we see that even the servant least capable was given a significant sum to use in his master's service; while the one given five talents had more than a lifetime's earnings in his care.

We also use the word “talent” today, but in a different context. Now, it refers to an ability, usually innate, that has value, or the potential for value. “Randy Johnson is a talented pitcher”; “Barry Bonds has a talent for hitting”; and so on. The word derives from its use in the Gospels. In the light of this, how are we meant to understand this Parable of the Talents?

The man traveling into a far country is our Lord Jesus Christ. He has ascended into heaven, and, before His return, He waits for us, Who are His servants, to use the “goods” He has distributed. The Lord will return; and we will be required to give an accounting for our lives, and how we have “spent” them. Whether we are recognized as having been “good and faithful” servants, or as “wicked and slothful” is determined by the “profit” we return for what has been entrusted to us.

How do we invest the talents that have been given to us? By using them for the benefit of others. The good and faithful servant is the one who loves all mankind, without spite, giving of his goodness to his neighbors. The wicked and slothful servant is one who loves only himself, and cares only for his own interests. When we neglect our talents, or use them only for worldly things instead of the heavenly gain for which they were intended, we have buried our talent in the earth. That which was meant to give life has been buried; it is dead.

So the way to invest the talents for gain is to love and care for our neighbors. This should remind us of last week’s Gospel reading, in which our Lord gave us the Summary of the Law: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. We should remember that the fathers tell us the way into this way of life: that we show our love for God by loving others as we love ourselves; and that the way into this love is to learn to see everyone, including ourselves, as bearing the image of Christ, and respond to them as we would to Him. It sounds easy; but it is far more difficult to attempt to live this way. What can we do?

Remember that the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on the Cross has accomplished our salvation; and that the new life He has established is offered to all. Each of us is free to either accept or reject the gift. To accept it means to live according to the Gospel. To “trade” with our talent, then, is to accept the gift given by Christ, and put it into operation through the Orthodox way of life: of prayer, and fasting; of alms-giving, and engaging in the struggle against our weaknesses and passions; to glorify God, and to serve Christ in every person we meet. This task is beyond our strength: but we are not meant to labor at this task alone. The talent we are given is the strength of Christ, given to us when we receive His Body and His Blood in the Mystery of Holy Communion. The talent is given so that we can fulfill the main commandment of God: to love God with the fullness of our being; and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Brothers and sisters, let us receive with joy the talent given to us in the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! And let us put that talent to work in our lives, loving and caring for each other, and our neighbors, touching their lives with the love of Christ - to the glory of God, and to the salvation of souls; those of our neighbors, and of our own as well.