This homily was delivered on the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Back in 2004, I visited the Jesuit school for the disabled in Cambodia. From the moment I stepped out of the airport in Phnom Penh, I noticed that every major road and every other street corner displayed the picture of one man. My companions informed me that a week before, Cambodia had just crowned a new king, Sihamoni, to succeed his father. To celebrate the occasion and to show their acceptance of the new king, all of Cambodia put up his pictures everywhere, from medium-sized photographs to gigantic billboards. As a result, no tourist—and certainly no Cambodian—had any excuse to claim that he does not recognize the new king.
The Lord’s parable today leaves us with more questions than answers–as usual. You could say it’s a “questionable” parable.
The master of the house has three servants, and before he leaves for a long journey, he decides to entrust to each one of them a large amount of money. To the first, he hands five talents; to the next one he gives two talents, and the last servant, one talent. A conservative estimate is that a talent is equivalent to US$1000 today, so if we do the math, that’s a total of US$8000 he just handed to his servants.
Do you feel like you’ve been running on empty? “Running on empty” is a phrase we use to refer to people on the brink of exhaustion–be it physical or emotional. It’s a reference to automobiles running so dangerously low on fuel that it might just stop running any moment now. It basically means you’re on the verge of a breakdown or burnout.
In today’s Gospel our Lord criticizes the excesses and shortcomings of the Pharisees, but virtually tells us to practice what they preach. It’s surprising advice since it’s a subversion of the usual adage that we should “practice what we preach.”