St. Gregory the Great's Homily on the Talents not only explains what Jesus was trying to tell his disciples when told them the Parable of the Talents, but also how we can apply the words of today's Gospel to our everyday lives.
Here is a man about to go abroad calling his servants and giving them talents to grow. A long time later, he comes back to ask them. He rewards for the gain that they present to him those who have worked well, but he condemns the servant who has been nonchalant in the practice of the good.
Who is this man about to leave for the stranger, if not our Redeemer, who went to Heaven in the flesh he had assumed? For the earth is the proper place of the flesh, and it is somehow taken abroad when it is placed in Heaven by our Redeemer.
This man leaving for the foreigner entrusted his goods to his servants, since the Lord has given spiritual gifts to his faithful. To one, he handed five talents, to another two, and to another one. There are indeed five body senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. The five talents are therefore the gift of the five senses, that is, the science of external things. The two talents refer to the faculty of understanding and acting. As for the unique talent, it designates the only faculty of understanding.
The one who had received five talents won five more. For there are some who, without being able to penetrate the inner and mystical realities, give, however, in view of the heavenly homeland, good teachings to those whom they can reach, thus taking advantage of the external gifts they have received; and at the same time that they defend themselves from the immoderate ardor of the flesh, from the pursuit of the things of the earth, and from the pleasure which visible goods procure, they still divert the others by their warnings. There are also those who, enriched by two talents, receive the faculty of understanding and that of acting. They understand the subtleties of inner realities and perform admirable external works. And as they preach to others as much by their science as by their deeds, they report, so to speak, a double gain from their work. It is not without reason that it is said that the servants have won, who five other talents, who two others, because when preaching to the faithful of one and the other sex, one doubles in some way the talents we have received.
But he who had received a single talent went digging in the earth and hid the money from his master. To hide one's talent in the earth is to apply the intelligence that we have received to earthly activities, without seeking spiritual gain and never raising one's heart above the thoughts of the earth. There are indeed those who have received the gift of intelligence, but who only taste the things of the flesh. It is from them that the prophet declares, "They are able to do evil, but they do not know how to do good." (Jer 4:22)
However, the Lord, who gave the talents, returns to ask for it. Whoever now bestows spiritual gifts with kindness, seeks our merits with severity at the hour of judgment. He considers what each of us has received, and he evaluates the gain we have made.
The servant who brought in twice the talents he receives is praised by the master, and is led to the eternal reward by these words of the Lord: "It is good, good and faithful servant; since you have been faithful in a few things, I will establish you on many. Enter into the joy of your Master. "Few things are all the good things of the present life in comparison with the eternal reward, even when they appear to us to represent a great deal. On the other hand, the faithful servant is established on many, when having overcame all the miseries of our corrupt nature, he enjoys eternal happiness in the glory of heavenly abode. And he penetrates entirely into the joy of his Master, when, admitted to the eternal homeland and associated with the choruses of angels, he tastes the joy of reward internally, without any more corruptible being able to make him suffer externally.
As for the servant who did not want to make his talent grow, he returns to his master with words of excuse: "Lord, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and who pick up where you have not spilled. I was scared, and I went to hide your talent in the earth. Here is what belongs to you. "It must be noted that this useless servant calls his master" a hard man ", while neglecting to devote himself to his interest, and that he claims to have feared to spend the talent to obtain one. profit, whereas his only fear should have been to report it to the master without profit. Many are indeed the members of the holy Church of which this servant is the image: they dread to embark on the path of a better life, but they do not fear to abandon themselves to their soft inaction; considering that they are sinners, they are afraid to enter the path of holiness, but they do not worry about remaining in their iniquities. Such men are well foreshadowed by Peter, who, in the weakness he still was, exclaimed at the sight of the miracle of the fish: "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man" ( Lc 5, 8). But no! if you consider yourself a sinner, do not push the Lord away from you! And yet, those who, knowing themselves to be weak, do not wish to embark on the path of greater virtue, or in that which leads to the summit of a righteous life, act as if they confess sinners, while repulsing the Lord; they are fleeing the one they should have sanctified in them; in their trouble, common sense is lacking: they are dying, and they are afraid of life.
Hence the answer immediately given to the bad servant: "Wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and that I gather where I did not shed. So you had to carry my money to the bankers, and when I came back, I would have taken away what was mine with interest. "The servant is bound by his own words when his master says to him:" I harvest where I do not " I did not sow, and I pick up where I did not shed anything. "It is as if he were saying clearly:" If, to believe you, I even claim what I did not give, how much more will I claim what I have given you to assert; so you had to carry my money to the bankers, and on the way back, I would have taken away what is mine with interest. "Bringing money to the bankers means giving the science of preaching to those who are capable of put into practice.
You see, dear brothers, the danger we would have if we kept the riches of the Lord for ourselves; Well, consider carefully the danger that you run, since you will be forced to wear what you hear. By usury, more money is returned than was given. In fact, in addition to what the debtor had received, he returned what he had not received. So think, dear brothers, that you will have to acquit yourself with the wear and tear of that word money that you have received, and apply to it to understand what you do not hear from what you hear so that, by deducing one from the other, you learn to accomplish from yourselves what you have not yet learned from the mouth of the preacher.
As for the lazy servant, let us listen to what sentence he is struck: "Remove this talent from him, and give it to him who has ten."
This unique talent taken from the evil servant, it seemed more appropriate to give it to the one who had received two than the one who had received five. It should indeed be given rather to the one who had less than the one who had more. But as we have said before, the five talents designate the five senses, that is, the science of external things, whereas the two talents represent the faculty of understanding and of acting. He who had received two talents thus possessed more than the one who had received five. For he to whom his five talents procured the administration of external things was still deprived of the intelligence of interior goods. The unique talent which appears, as we have said, this intelligence, must therefore be given to the one who administered the external things which he had received well. This is what we see every day in the Holy Church: it is common that those who administer well the external affairs that they receive to manage, also arrive, with the help of grace, to the intelligence of the mysteries so that those who faithfully administer external affairs are also favored by the intelligence of internal realities.
Follows without transition a general thought: "One will give to him who has, and he will be in abundance; but to him who has not, one will even take what he seems to have. "One will give to him who has, and he will be in plenty, because he who has charity also receives other gifts. But he who does not have charity loses even the gifts he seemed to have received. So it is necessary, my brethren, that you be careful to keep the charity in all that you do. And true charity is to love one's friend in God, and one's enemy for God's sake.
He who does not have this charity loses all the good he has; he is deprived of the talent he has received, and according to the Lord's judgment, he is sent into outer darkness. He falls by punishment in the outer darkness which has already fallen of himself, by his sin, into the inner darkness. And here he is forced to suffer the darkness of punishment, because here, he has freely undergone the darkness of pleasure.
Let's be clear, no lazy is immune to a talent received. Because no one can say with truth: "I have not received any talent. There is nothing, then, which I am obliged to give an account of. "Indeed, there is no poor man who must not hold what he has received, however little, for a talent.
Thus, one has received the faculty of understanding: this talent obliges him to the ministry of preaching. Another received the goods of the earth: from this fortune he must give alms of his talent. Another, who has received neither the faculty of understanding inner realities nor a large fortune, has, however, learned a trade which secures his subsistence: his very profession is recognized as a talent received. Another man had none of it, but he may have had a familiar place with a rich man; this familiarity is certainly the talent he has received. Therefore, if he does not speak in favor of the poor to his protector, he will be condemned for having reserved the use of his talent.
You who have the faculty of understanding, take great care not to be silent. You who have abundant fortune, make sure you do not allow the compassion that drives you to give to become numb. You who know a job that gives you what to live, apply yourself to share the use and profit with your neighbor. You who have entered the house of a rich man, fear to be condemned for having reserved this talent to you by not interceding with him for the poor when you can. For the Judge who is coming will come back to us each in proportion to what He has given us.
So let us all think each day with fear of what we have received from the Lord, so that when we return, we can safely return the count of our talent. Here it is already close, the return of the one who has gone abroad. It was somehow abroad that he went away when he was far away from this land where he was born. But he will undoubtedly return to ask us for our talents, and if we sleep without doing good, he will judge us very severely, precisely because of the gifts he has given us. Let us consider what we have received, and be careful to spend it well. Let no earthly concern divert us from the spiritual work, lest we provoke the anger of the Master, the owner of talent, by hiding his talent in the earth. For if the lazy servant withdraws his talent from the earth when the Judge has already begun to examine the faults, it is because many do not tear themselves away from their earthly desires and activities until they are dragged to eternal torment. by the sentence of the Judge. Let us, therefore, be vigilant in advance of the account which we shall have to render of our talent, so that, at the moment when the Judge will be about to punish, the profit which we shall have drawn from it puts us out of cause. May God grant us this grace, he who lives ...