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November 13, 1987     The Message
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November 13, 1987
 

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November 13, 1987 " Commentary I II The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana ii ill I I i I .I 5 Mass Readings By FATHER DONALD DILGER Parable of the Talents: talents given for growth, sharing Gospel Commentary for Sunday, Nov. 15, 1987 Matthew 25:14.30 Last week we discussed the parable of the ten bridesmaids. It dealt with the delay of the return of Jesus. This return was called the "Parousia" by the early Christian churches. The message of that parable was to be ready because we know neither the day nor the hour. What should the Christians do in the meantime? The author of the Second Let- ter to the Thessalonians had to deal with this prob- lem in a very practical way. They, too, expected a quick return of Jesus so they stopped working. For them the author of this letter had a practical solu- tion: "If anyone does not work, neither let him eat." The parable of the talent deals with this question in another way -- the use of the gifts the Christian receives from God. This parable is found in both Matthew and Luke with a smattering of it in Mark. Comparing Matthew with Luke we find that Matthew's version is longer. Luke uses ten servants to Matthew's three. Luke's sum of money is much smaller than that of Matthew. The man in Matthew becomes a nobleman in Luke. The nobleman later becomes king and has his enemies slain. To us it seems Luke messes up the parable by trying to mix in some history of the Herod family -- not our con- cern here. Both authors deviate from the original form and purpose of the parable as it was once spoken by Jesus. Jesus probably directed the parable at the scribes (scholars) as a warning about their use of the sacred scriptures. For Matthew it has become a warning to Christian leaders who have been entrusted with office in the Church or he may have directed it to the whole Christian il I community. What was a talent? It was a great sum of money. The exact amount is unknown but seems to have a value of about 6,000 denarii. The denarius at the time of Jesus was the pay for a day's labor. Six thousand of these would be a very large sum compared to Luke's equivalent of about 6O0 denarii. Matthew shows a tendency to exag- gerate details in other cases, for example, the ques- tion of how many times to forgive the offender. Luke 17:4 writes "seven times." Matthew 18:22 writes "seventy times seven times." The details of the parable: the man who goes on a journey is Jesus who will return in the Parousia. Matthew indicates the delay of this return when he says in verse 19: "after a long time the master...came and settled accounts with those servants." The servants can be either church of- ficials or every Christian. The one with ten talents and the one with five had both doubled what had been entrusted to them. The man with one talent had buried it. (Due to social and political instabili- ty burying money was common practice. Little hordes of coins are still found by archaeologists.} He did not help his case by telling his master: "I knew you were a hard man who reaps where he does not sow and harvests where he does not plant." The master answers since he knew so much about him he should have put the money with bankers to draw interest. Interest was no small matter in ancient times, even higher than our own credit card rates. It could range anywhere from twenty to fifty per cent. The Jews had laws against charging interest to fellow Jews but that is not our concern here. The solution seems somewhat drastic, throw- I I III ing the poor man into the darkness outside "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Remember that the five foolish bridesmaids of last week's parable were also left out in the dark. This "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is a favorite phrase of Matthew. He has already used it five times before in his gospel (8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13 and 24:51). Since it is not used by either of his sources nor by Luke or John it could indicate a severity of character. For further insight into Mat- thew's severe character compare Matthew 23:1-36 with Luke 20:45-47. In applying this parable to our own situation, who is the servant who buried his talent? If it is the church official -- to whom more is given, of him more will be required. If it is every Christian -- we can see ourselves in that servant. He did not work, that is he sat on his talent because he was afraid he might lose it. He would take no risk for the sake of growth. If it was laziness, it is the pro- fessional who coasts along doing just what he needs to do to get by and says: "I'm basically lazy, I admit it, but I'll live longer." He is the self- centered and self-sufficient man who will not share himself or his talent with and for others. An in- dividual's talents are God-given for personal growth which comes through benefitting others. Next week we shall see that "what you have not done for these the least of my sisters and brothers you have not done for me." The positive example is the perfect housewife of today's first reading: "Her lamp does not go out at night...She holds out her hand to the poor and her arms to the needy." Other adis for Nov. 5: Proverbs 31:10-31; I Tbessalottr 5:1-6 III I I I I ilml i Vatican Letter , ,, Church shorthand', synod debate flip-flops roles By GREG ERLANDSON NC News Service VATICAN CITY (NC) -- One of the stranger experiences at October's world Synod of Bishops was hearing a Vatican official approvingly quote Mao Tse-Tung while bishops known for their "progressive" sen- timents made ringing defenses of episcopal authority. The subject which seemed to stand all the stereotypes on their heads was the new lay movements and their significance for the church, one of the synod's most hotly debated topics. Movement critics, who in the past may have lambasted the Vatican's use of authority or ac- cused it of stick-in-the-mud ways, went out of their way at the synod to emphasize the supreme authority of the bishop in local matters, the value of traditional, hierarchy- controlled groups like Catholic Action, and the vital impor- tance of that age-old entity, the parish. On the other hand, Guzman Carriquiry, an official of the Vatican Council for the Laity, waxed so enthusiastic about the II II Here we comet ! t 3 or 4 nigl'lts for as low as Unbelievable, but true. A complete vacation with departure from St. Louis. leaving on a Sunday or a Thursday. arid inclmling airfare and hotel. Call  Travel Agency for aJl the details. Certain restlictions apply, I3ut hurry[ Oiler for limited time. AAA Travel Agency F, van,:vlle Ph 425-2288 Jasper Ph 634-1213 I II II _. movement phenomenon he quoted Mao, who said of a brief period of cultural liberalization in China during his rule, "May a hundred flowers bloom!" And the laity council's vice president, Bishop Paul Cordes, raised a few eyebrows when he dismissed tensions between local churches and new movements by remarking that "new wine has always put old . . . ,, wineskins rote crisis. The rhetorical switch which took place in the synod hall points up the flaw of using political shorthand -- liberal, conservative, traditionalist, progressive -- to talk about the complexities of movements. IN FACT THE term "new movements" can be a misleading generalization, since the organizations it describes are so varied. It is us- ed to label the enthusiasm of the charismatics, the Marian piety of Schonstatt, the ecumenism of Focolare, the ac- tivist orientation of Commu- nion and Liberation and the in- timacy of Marriage Encounter. Although described as new, many existed long before the Second Vatican Council. But it was the Council, with its assurance that lay people have the right to form their own associations, which gave the movemeople and the unchurch- ed when traditional parish life is unable to. But the same enthusiasm which fuels the growth of movements can also make them an unpredictable force in the life of the local church. Like many groups in Catholic history, movements can become so committed to the vi- sion of their founder that they clash with those who have dif- ferent ideas, or a slower pace. That is why Brazilian Car- dinal Aloisio Lorscheider, a noted progressive in social issues, a strong supporter of local base communities in his archdiocese and a defender of controversial liberation theologian Franciscan Father Leonardo Boff, would go out of his way to emphasize episcopal authority. For the cardinal, the problem is that an international move- ment, like an international religious order, has different priorities as well as a different perspective on local problems. Base communities are directly under his authority, but he can not control a national or inter- national movement in the same way. Hence language which could have been stereotyped as authoritarian if uttered by a "conservative" was found in his synod speech: Movements must show "sincere obedience to and com- munion with the pastor of the local church," he said. "The bishops govern the local chur- ches ... as vicars and emissaries of Christ, and they do so with their own ordinary and im- mediate authority, and everything concerning worship and the apostolate comes under their jurisdiction." Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan, Italy, who has a socially activist and progressive reputa- tion in the Italian church, said a movement should be "docile in letting itself be accompanied on the path toward a more organic form of ecclesiastical discipline." Yet while such prelates were stressing caution, advocates such as Bishop Cordes were adopting language from the reformers of the 1960s. In addition to implying movement critics were "old wineskins," he also equated the tensions that movements face in dealing with local churches to those faced by the early mendi- cant orders such as the Fran- ciscans in the 13th century. FOR BISHOP CORDES and others, the movements are ef- fective ways of communicating the experience of Christ to modern people. They are view- ed as offering more community than is often found in parish structures, better formation and more enthusiasm for witnessing to the world around them. Their loyalty to the pope and their international perspectives also make them attractive, and as Polish Cardinal Franclszek Macharski observed, they are a source of vocations. The movements are proof that political labeling in the church can make for unsatisfactory generalizations.