My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
In order that we may gain the benefits of divine instruction, our Lord speaks in the Gospels in many and various ways. Sometimes, as we know, He discourses openly, but at other times He teaches by means of parables and examples.
He does so to lift up the minds of His listeners, to present matters in a way that makes the minds of the hearers to be active, to make the memory of His words more enduring in their minds. Speaking in parables can serve to make the lessons more vivid, and it spurs the listener to truly listen. So, let us hear the parable with which our Lord instructs us in today’s Gospel:
The Lord spoke this parable: A man going into a far country, called his servants, and delivered to them his goods; and to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey.
Our Lord Jesus Christ wishes to show the suddenness of His Second Coming, and therefore proposes this parable. He had instructed us previously saying, “Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” And now He adds these words about a man about to take a journey. In like manner the Lord called His own servants, delivered unto them His goods, and did all the rest. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who became man for our sake, is here likened to a man journeying, on account of His great patience; for He does not immediately try the deeds of each of us, but rather waits until the due time.
In “the journey” of the man of today’s gospel, we can see a reference to our Lord’s glorious Ascension into heaven after His holy Resurrection, at which time He entrusted His disciples with the heavenly and divine mysteries. His own servants are those who teach within the Church, that is, bishops, priests, and deacons, who have received in trust the service of the word and the grace of the Spirit, some in greater measure, others lesser.
And he that had received the five talents, went his way, and traded with the same, and gained other five. And in like manner he that had received the two, gained other two. But he that had received the one, going his way digged into the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
Now there are diversities of gifts, as the divine Apostle says, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God Which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will. And again the Apostle says, Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But every man receives a gift according to his ability, that is, in the measure of his faith and purity.
God pours out His grace to correspond to the vessel which each of us presents to Him. If we present a small vessel,we receive a little grace; if a large vessel, we receive great grace. Immediately, then, he that had received the five talents went and made five talents more. Truly good and praiseworthy is the zeal of this servant; for he did not grow lazy or indolent, but immediately went to work and doubled what he had received.
One who possesses knowledge, or riches, or power, or any other ability or skill, and does not use them only for his own benefit, but seeks to benefit others as well – he it is who doubles the grace given him.
He who buried the talent is one who cares only for his own benefit, and does nothing at all for the salvation of others. Therefore, such a man is condemned, as having hidden in himself the grace which he received from God.
Moreover, when we see someone who is a quick and skillful man of business, but who devotes his mind to solely to worldly things, or, even worse – to dishonesty, we should understand that he, too, has buried his talent in the earth; that is, he has turned from things heavnely to earthly things and produced no profit.
But after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reckoned with them.
After a long time, the master who had bestowed the silver pieces, the talents, that is, his words, his gifts, his grace, returned.
The words of the Lord are like the finest silver. Indeed, every gift of grace may be called precious silver, because it exalts and enriches the one who possesses it.
The master being returned then questioned and reckoned with those who had received the talents, that each of them might render unto him what he had received, and with proper profit. Thus also everyone who has received grace must endeavour to double it. To double it means to gain benefit for one’s neighbour. He who strives to teach his neighbour, or to benefit him in some other way, such as through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, gains even greater profit for himself than he does for his neighbour; he receives a double reward.
And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents, behold I have gained other five over and above. His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou deliveredst two talents to me: behold I have gained other two. His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
The servants who were industrious, and who had increased what they were given, are praised by the master, and both are counted worthy of honour. He that had received five talents and he that had received two are both vouchsafed to hear the same words from their master: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
By calling the servants “good” here we are to understand, certainly, that they are the image of one who has a generous and loving disposition, and who offers his goods to his neighbours. Having shown themselves faithful over a few things, the good servants were placed by their master over many things; for if we are given gifts here on earth, they are still nothing compared to the good things to come.
The “joy of the Lord” is unceasing rejoicing and everlasting blessedness, which God possesses, rejoicing in His works; as the Psalmist King David says, “The Lord will rejoice in His works.”
With similar joy do the saints make glad, rejoicing in their works, while sinners sorrow over their works and rue them. The saints rejoice in that they possess the wealth of the Lord. He that received five talents and he that received two are deemed worthy of the same good honours; for when a man has received even a little, yet uses well the gift given him, however how small it may be, he will receive equal honour with him who was allowed to administer many and great things. Each one possesses perfection according to the measure which he has received, if he strives well; for although the gifts are diverse, the honour is still equal, since their efforts are equal, in that each one doubled what he had received.
To put it another way, they are equally praised, and equally brought in to the joy of their lord, though they might be are deemed deserving of different rewards, according to the measure of what they have received.
But he that had received the one talent, came and said: Lord, I know that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed. And being afraid I went and hid thy talent in the earth: behold here thou hast that which is thine. And his lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed: thou oughtest therefore to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received my own with usury. Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away. And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Whilst the good servants, the prudent servants, regardless of the amount of the talents which they had received nevertheless acted in the same way in increasing their talents, and thus are likewise counted worthy of rewards; the wicked and lazy servant answers to his lord differently, in a manner befitting his wickedness.
He calls his master a hard man, just as many so-called teachers even now say that it is harsh or even impossible to expect obedience from men whom God did not endow with obedience, in whom He did not plant submissiveness. This is expressed by the words, Thou reapest where thou hast not sown; that is, You require submissiveness from one in whom you have not sown it.
But in calling his master a hard man, the servant ought to have been more diligent, as befits one in service to a hard and severe master. If he demands what belongs to others, all the more will he require what is his own; therefore, my friends, it behooves us to multiply what we have received, and by our example and our work to make disciples of our neighbour, from whom the master may demand his due.
One who receives the word from his teacher possesses it himself and must convey it to another in perfect condition; he must also add a profit, that is, good deeds. From the wicked servant, however, the gift is taken away; for one who receives a gift for the benefit of others, yet does not use it for their benefit, but seeks and works only for his own good, loses what he received; while one who has worked with greater care for others with what he received from God will get a greater gift from Him.
The diligent man receives greater grace, and has an abundance, whereas from the careless man even that gift which he thinks that he has is taken away; for one who lacks diligence and does not increase that which he has received does not retain his gift, though in his ignorance and laziness he thinks that it remains his.
Therefore, my friends, let us not be slothful, and let us not put off the cultivation of the good things which we have been given, but let each of us according to our own abilities and talents add to them. Let us not hide the gifts which we have received from God, or bury them in ourselves, by seeking only our own well-being and not doing a single thing to help and save our brothers; lest we be condemned like that servant who hid his talent, and be cast out into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Let us work diligently for the Master Who has given us the riches of His divine grace. Let each of us according to his ability multiply the divine gifts which we have received from Him. Let one bring wisdom with good works; let another serve the divine services with holiness and beauty; let him who is faithful and learned in things divine share the word of faith with the uneducated. Let another distribute his wealth to the poor; one may give gold, another silver, still another bread, or clothing, or a cup of cold water. Let one give aid, another a helping word, another physical service, as much as possible, each one according to the ability which he has received from God; so that as faithful ministers of grace the Lord may place us over many things, and vouchsafe us His blessed and ineffable joy and the enjoyment of heavenly good things, in the joy of our Lord in the heavenly kingdom.
Saying these things, He cried out: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.