Sixteenth 

Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday before 

the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Parable of the Talents

In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Today is the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost and also the Sunday 
before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This celebration is on  Friday.
We will of course have the evening service on Thursday,  with Vespers
and Matins, with the very moving adoration of the  precious cross -
where we make prostrations before the cross - at  the end of Matins. We
will have Divine Liturgy early Friday  morning, at 6:30.  

We have before us a very familiar story in the parable of the  talents.
It is interesting how this story dovetails quite well with what the
Apostle says: "We then as workers together with Him beseech you that you
receive not the Grace of God in vain", and also with the reading for the
Sunday before the Exaltation of the Cross.  We see there a very famous
passage, which has almost become clich╚.  You see it in the back of
football stadiums.  You see it when a field goal is kicked - John 3:16. 
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting
life."  This God, who came to the earth, and became man, is the man,
who, in the parable went into the far country, and gave to each of his
servants a certain number of talents before he left.  When Christ speaks
of this man, he is speaking of himself. 

The man goes into a far country, but before then, he gives to his
servant's talents.  These talents are money, but what are these talents
really?  What is the meaning of "talents"?  We may have an incorrect
understanding, or at least I know that I once had this misunderstanding,
so I will be so bold as to think that some of you also have thought that
when we speak of "talents", we think of the same thing that makes a
person sing or read well, or be a scholar, or a good speaker, or be very
intelligent, etc., etc.  We may think that God has given us this talent,
and we must  "use" this talent in some way or we will be judged by Him. 
We suppose that if we are good at musicianship, we must use this talent
for His glory.  This is not what the talent is!  The Fathers speak of
the talent as being God-s grace which we must respond to with obedience
and love, and the doing of the commandments. 

When these people were given five and two and one talent, it was not an
arbitrary decision by our Lord.  It was not the same, as we know talent
in the other meaning of the word.  Some people are beautiful or
intelligent, and some are plain and not so smart.  Some people have
trouble speaking; some speak with great eloquence.  We have all
different arrays of abilities, as human beings.  There is one thing we
can do regardless of whether we are smart or not so smart, whether we
can read well or poorly - whatever we can do or not do - we can be
obedient to God, We can learn of his commandments and cleave to them,
and we can love them more than anything.  The man, who loves with great
love is a great vessel, a large vessel, into which God can pour much
grace, many talents.

The first man had room for many talents, and the Lord gave him five to
begin with.  The other one, who also was a faithful servant - he had
room for less talents, so his Lord gave him two talents.  The last one
really had no room for any talents, but his Lord, out of mercy towards
him, out of patience towards him, to give him a chance, gave him a
talent.  He gave him a chance to use this talent properly. 

So let's not have the wrong idea of what a talent is.  It is not
physical or mental or emotional ability.  Harlots will be in the kingdom
of heaven before the supposed righteous (repentant harlots of course). 
These will be people who look at their lives and say, " I haven't done
anything.  I have no talents.  I haven't done anything useful in this
life.  I have wasted the talents God has given me."  But they would be
wrong - gloriously wrong in their humble thoughts, because God would see
that they have loved Him, and they had learned His commandants, and
these commandments had been *sweet* to them.  And the sweetness of these
commandments made them, urged them on, to do works of great
righteousness and great piety, hidden from the eyes of man, but not from
the all seeing eyes of God.  The one cup of water that they would give
to a thirsty man, God sees.  The lamentation for their sins, God sees. 
The love in their hearts, God sees.  The struggle against some sin, even
if they are not completely successful, mind you - the struggle against a
sin, God sees.  This is the usage of the talents that God has given us. 
To struggle, to learn to become like him. 

There is no other person, no other being like God.  God is all in all,
and this is all we should want. As we are given the grace to follow the
commandments, our talents, we should mount  like eagles, and become
better and better.  We should ascend in righteousness, just like the
monks in the icon in the ladder of divine ascent are climbing the
latter, and unfortunately some are falling off because they are not
looking at Christ and increasing their talents. 

It is interesting to see that this man who has the five talents works
very diligently and gets five more.  He doubles the grace.  And the man
who has two talents and also doubles that which the man has given him. 
And our Lord, our merciful, long suffering Savior, who also spoke of
those who worked from the first hour and even to the eleventh hour
receiving their reward with no distinction according to how long they
had worked, said the SAME THING to both men: ?Well done, thou good and
faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make
thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." 
These few things are, really, very few, and very simple  - to love our
Lord, and to cleave to Him, and to try to change the things that are not
in keeping with Who he Is, in our life.  As we subdue our passions, our
God gives us more things even in this life, more sweetness even in this
life, and then in the end, he will give us many things, as we are able
to bear it.  We are not quite able to bear all that God wants to give us
at this moment.  We do not have the intelligence, the spiritual mind, or
the purity to bear it, but we are being purified, we are being changed,
if indeed we use the talents that God has given to us.

The man who had one talent was a foolish and stupid man.  He had no
desire to live the Christian life.  He didn't want to change, and he
blamed our Lord later when he was confronted.  The plain truth of the
matter is that the man did not want to change, he did not want to use
his talent.  He did not really love our God, and wanted to live his own
life of depravity, or perhaps of not even such great depravity - just
heedlessness, and godlessness, and atheism in practice, if not in
belief.  A man who says he believes in God and does not follow the
things that He says, as far as the church is concerned, acts like an
atheist. 

So this man is confronted by our Lord - "Why have you not increased your
talent"?  And he says something very interesting to our Lord, and very
difficult to understand if you do not have the Fathers to read - at
least for me.  I did not understand what the meaning of this passage
was, because my mind is still very muddy and blank, and I can not always
understand what the scriptures say.  Our Lord is referred to in a very
harsh way, and I tell you, the way he is being referred to is true, if
you understand what is being said.  The sinful man, who will not live in
accordance with Who God Is, who lives heedlessly a life of godlessness
says: "Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou
hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strowed: And I was
afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast
that is thine."  And he speaks truly here.  You can have back what You
gave me.  It has no part with me, because I have not become like you. 

?Reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not
strowedŽ - what does this mean?  It means that God has given us grace
and abundant mercy, but that He has not given us obedience.  He has not
given us the response that we should give to Him.  We are responsive
creatures.  We are just like the flower that grows towards the sun.  We
are like the child who is content in his mother-s embrace, and returns
love for love, if indeed we act in keeping with how we were created.  If
we are obedient to God, if we love Him, and if we learn of Him, then we
will be using the talent, but God will not reap obedience from us
unwillingly.  He presents to us a marvelous table, a festal table spread
out for us, with all good meats to eat.  We should see the mercy of God,
if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, in everything, every moment of
the day.  We see His mercy in His body and blood which is given to
nourish us.  We see His mercy in all of the sacraments of the church. 
We see His mercy in the sweetness of all of the prayers that we sing,
and how they touch us in a way that nothing else can.  We even see His
mercy in the elements, the weather, such as this pleasant day.  We
should see His mercy in everything, and God gives to us abundantly.  And
he does not force to be obedient.  This is the meaning of what that
wicked servant had said.  He prophesied correctly and truly; God will
not force us.  God gives us everything needful, and we respond, if only
we respond as a child responds to his mother or father.

The one talent that the wicked servant has is taken and given to the man
that has ten.  This man has an infinite capacity for more talents.  He
will be given more, and more, and more, because God will fill us.  Since
He is all in all, we, if we are worthy, and if we live a life in
accordance with Who He Is and how He has taught us how to live, we will
be ever expanding, and ever be being filled.  And the man with five
talents, he will be increased as well. 

There certainly is taught in this difference between the man with 10
talents and the man with 4 talents, that there is a hierarchy in Heaven
and there are many mansions in our Father-s house. How we live our life
determines how much we will know God, and how much we will be given. 

May God help us to live as Christians, to take the talents we have been
given - God-s grace, His mercy, and allow them to change us.  Isn-t that
what we do in our life?  Aren-t we always growing, aren-t we always
changing?  We see a lot of growth in our parish.  We have three infants
and a toddler, and we see how much they change every day.  

God helps us to live as Christians.  God help us to change and grow. 
God help us to not make any excuses like this man, putting the onus on
God instead of on ourselves.  God help us not to make an excuse that we
do not have a certain ability and therefore that is why we are not doing
something.  Everyone has the ability, given them by God, to love and to
be filled with Him.  Everyone, every man that has ever been born, and
everyone that will ever live, God has given great grace and abundant
mercy, and He only asks us to respond.  God grant you that the talents
you have been given would ever expand, and will bear great fruit,
abundantly. 

Amen. 



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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Parable of the Talents

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 This homily was transcribed from one given On August 22,  1996
according to the church calendar, being the Sixteenth Sunday after
Pentecost, and also the Sunday before the exaltation of the Holy Cross.
There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several
footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a
colloquial, ?spokenŽ style. It is hoped that something in these words
will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot
enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil
service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing
of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy
Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more
than when words are read on a page. 

 2 Cor 6:1

 Matthew 25:24-25

 Matthew 25:24