February 12, 2024

Homily for the 16th Sunday of Matthew on the Parable of the Talents (Patriarch Germanos II of Constantinople)

Sixteenth Sunday of Matthew

Parable of the Talents

(Matthew 25:14-30)

By Patriarch Germanos II of Constantinople (+ 1240) 

The farmers who guard the fields and orchards of their masters are in the habit of gathering whatever flowers they find beautiful and fragrant, and offering them to their masters; and if they have other friends, they give them to them as well. Those receiving the lilies with joy, they thank and give gifts to the farmers, although they receive no other benefit from those flowers than that they please the sight for a little while and that they perfume their sense of smell. And we, the spiritual farmers and teachers, to whom the Lord has entrusted us with the evergreen meadow of the holy Gospel and we tend such a beautiful and fruitful orchard, do not only once a year offer you, our beloved brethren and friends, bountiful flowers of the summer, but daily we collect spiritual words from the evergreen Paradise of Scripture and teach you with much desire and diligence, delighting your souls with various admonitions and examples, by which you benefit, repent of your sins and find eternal salvation. Therefore, receive the teaching with joy, brethren, and expel the stench of sin with the fragrance of the Holy Spirit; and after you are thus cleansed, you will become the temple of God and dwelling places of divine grace. Therefore listen to today's parable of our Lord, and may you receive much benefit in your soul, especially those who are negligent and idle, who do not take care to transmit to their brethren and neighbor the gift that each one has according to his art and science. Take heed therefore with much precision.

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey," and so forth. So he who received the five talents took care and doubled them; likewise he who received two, gained from them two more. But the other, who received one, dug in the ground and hid his Master's silver there. And after a long time the Master of those servants came to evaluate their work.

Wanting our Master and Lord Jesus Christ to reveal to us the suddenness of the Second Coming, He warns us with this parable wisely, after first saying, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matthew 25:13), then He added immediately afterwards these: as a man who departs from his place, so also the Lord, when he left this world bodily for the heavens, invited His servants and delivered to them the heavenly and divine mysteries. The servants are the divine Apostles and all their successors, the mystagogues of the Church, that is, the high priests, priests and deacons, to whom the ministry of the word has been entrusted, and they also received spiritual gifts, some greater and some lesser; for the gifts are divided and they differ from each other. But besides this it is God the Holy Spirit who acts in all and strengthens them; "for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit" according to Scripture, "to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles,”  and in others other gifts. "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). And again in this letter the holy Apostle says: "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:27-28). So not all have the power to be Apostles, and not all have the gift of healing or speaking in tongues and interpreting, but each one according to his power receives the gift, that is, according to the measure of faith and purification. Because according to the progress that someone shows in the life according to the gospel, he receives from God the free gift and the grace. If we give little, we receive little grace; but if we give much effort, we also receive great grace. Just as the one who received the five talents did not show laziness, nor was he negligent, but immediately tried as a grateful servant and diligent steward, to double the gift. Because whoever has speech or wealth or other art and power and does not look only to himself but tries to benefit his neighbor as well, he doubles the gift which he received from God as one who is grateful; and the ungrateful and useless, who was provided the talent, he is one who cares to benefit himself only, and is not at all interested in the salvation of others; for this reason such a one is condemned and justly judged, because he hid the grace which he received from the Lord. In the same way, when someone is an intelligent and shrewd person and knows a lot, but does not indulge in things that concern the soul, but in temporary cares and deceitfulness, he is also condemned along with the one who hid the talent, because he did not use his intelligence and progress in divine and useful things but in useless and earthly things. After a long time, the Lord comes who gave the silver, or His words, because the words of God are "fiery silver", or any gift in general you can say is silver, because it brightens the one who has it and makes him glorious. "And the Master called them to give an account," that is, he examined those who received the talents and asked them to return not only the capital, but also the benefit. That is why everyone who has received a gift owes it to God to strive to double it as quickly as possible, that is, to benefit his neighbor as well. For whoever teaches his brother, or does him some other favor, let him know that he benefits himself more, because he doubles his profit and receives from the Master a rich recompense.

And those who have worked diligently with what they have received, are praised by the Master as good and useful servants, and they deserve, as much as he who received the two, as well as the other who received the five talents, the same reception, both hearing the same word from the lord, namely the "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." Someone who is good is truly understood here as one who has a loving disposition, free from envy, and who conveys his kindness to his neighbor. And because faithful and good servants appeared among the few, they inherit much from God there in his Kingdom, which surpasses all imagination because even here they are found worthy to receive gifts, but these are nothing compared to the future goods which they inherit in Paradise. And the joy of the Lord is the perpetual and eternal joy, which God has by rejoicing in His works, according to the Prophet: "The Lord rejoices in His works." Therefore the Saints enjoy this joy and gladness, rejoicing "in His works," while sinners, on the contrary, are bitter about their works and repent to no avail. And the Saints, who have the wealth of the Lord, rejoice in it and are glad; and he who received two is entitled to equal honor and goods with the other who received the five talents; for when someone has arranged well the little grace he received, he enjoys equal honor with the one who accomplished many things, since each of them doubled the gift he received and they enjoy the same honor because they also showed the same effort. Or let us say it another way: they are praised equally and placed in the same place, but each one enjoys the reward according to the profit he made.

Therefore, the good and grateful servants of such joy and honor were honored, and the wicked and lazy received the punishment they deserved, according to his answer and his wickedness. Because you called the Master cruel, therefore you were condemned more and unforgivably; because since you said your lord was cruel and took the things of others, you too, foolish man, had to increase what you received and make disciples, so that the Master received from those His due. He called the disciples "bankers" because they have the discernment to test the word and to disapprove of what is not genuine; from them He asks for the benefit, that is, the demonstration of their works. Because when the disciple accepts the word from the Master, he benefits as well, and renders the entire word, and even renders the work of the good as a benefit. But from the wicked servant the gift is turned back, because whoever received the gift to benefit others and did not use it for the benefit of others, but asks to serve only himself, then he loses what he received. And to him who strives to increase the gift, the Lord gives him more freely, because to him who strives, the grace will be multiplied, while from him who does not strive, even that little gift that he seems to have is taken away, because he tarnished it with his laziness and carelessness.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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