Lets’ take a close look at the details of this parable from Luke. In the parable, a nobleman leaves for a distant country in order to get the necessary power so that he may return to his own country as a king. Before the nobleman leaves, he takes 10 pounds, gives one pound to each of ten servants and tells them to invest the money until his return.
Finally, the nobleman returns as a king. He asks each of his servants to give an account of their investments. One servant has made another ten pounds on his one pound, and he is rewarded by being put in charge of ten towns. Another servant has made five and is rewarded with five towns. But a third presents himself with just the one pound he had been given. He has not traded the money for fear of losing it but has kept it in a safe place. The new king is so furious with this servant’s lack of effort that he takes the one pound away from him and gives it to the servant who had made the best investment.
The intent of this parable is not to frighten us. Rather, the intent is for us to reflect on the quality of our discipleship.
The nobleman who goes away and comes back as a King represents Jesus. At this moment in history, Jesus is “away”. We are awaiting Jesus’s Second Coming, his return as king of the universe. (As an aside, this coming Sunday, we will celebrate the Christ the King or the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.)
The 10 servants represent the disciples of Jesus, baptized Christians. All 10 servants were given an equal amount of the nobleman’s money. Bishop Robert Barron offers this interpretation regarding the symbolism of the money. The money stands for the mercy of God.
It’s important to provide a clear definition of mercy. Mercy is composed of 3 characteristics: compassion, forgiveness and love. Each of these traits can exist in isolation. However, when all 3 are present in the same situation, we call that “mercy”.
Time after time (the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus’ promise to the repentant thief), Jesus reveals that God is perfect mercy. There is no wrong in God’s mercy. There are no mistakes in the way God showers us with his unconditional compassion, unconditional forgiveness and unconditional love.
Furthermore, God’s excessive mercy knows no bounds. God is rich in mercy. This is the basis of God’s wealth. Just as each servant in the parable receives the same generous amount, each one of us has received an equal share in God’s abundant and extravagant mercy.
All 10 servants were expected to do business with this money or to gain more money by investing what they were given. By virtue of our common baptism, we have all been called by Jesus to do his business until his return. How do we invest the mercy that we have received? The short answer is: what we have been given, we, in turn, must give to others. Since we have received mercy, we are to be givers of mercy.
The message is clear: Like the 1st 2 servants, the more we invest, the more we will gain. The only way to gain is to let go, to give and to share. The only way is to choose to say, “My life is not about me”. The way of discipleship is to be an agent of compassion, forgiveness and love each and every day as we encounter various situations and various people. The divine mercy will grow in us to the extent that we give it to others. This is the path that leads to spiritual wealth and spiritual richness.
Here is where we can make a connection with St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Elizabeth lived during the early 1200s. Although she was the daughter of the King of Hungary and was the wife of a feudal lord, the focus of her life was not accumulating power and wealth and lording it over others. She spent large amounts on alms, setting up hospitals and taking care of needy children and orphans. She said, “How could I bear a crown of gold when the Lord bears a crown of thorns? And bears it for me?”
When her husband died of the plague while away on a crusade, Elizabeth made provisions for her 4 children. She then entered the 3rd Order of St. Francis and spent her days caring for the sick, the elderly and the poor. Of royal blood, Elizabeth could have lived a life of leisure and luxury. Instead, she was renowned for her prayer, her simple life style, her works of charity, her spirit of penance and her great gentleness.
The bottom line is that, whenever we cling tightly to what we have, or whenever we feel that life is all about getting and collecting for ourselves, or whenever we are afraid to respond in generous service to those in need, we are like that 3rd servant. In these circumstances, we are choosing to say, “My life is about me”. In these circumstances, we are withholding or being stingy with our compassion, forgiveness and love. This path will only lead to spiritual loss and spiritual bankruptcy.
Notice the conclusion of the parable. The new king calls forth those who opposed his search for the kingship and kills them. The enemies of the King stand for baptized Christians who reject outright the message of the Gospel of extending mercy to others. In these circumstances, we are refusing to adopt compassion, forgiveness and love as the core values of our lives. This selfish, self-centered and self-serving path will only lead to spiritual death.
As our Eucharist continues, let us ask God for the grace to be like the 2 servants in the parable. May God help us to be good and faithful servants who know what we are to do and who we are to be. What St. Elizabeth was in 1221, may we be in 2021- living instruments of the mercy of God.
Amen. Deacon Roland Muzzatti November 17, 2021