This Sunday’s parable of the Talents[1] has a man “summoning his servants”[2] giving them five talents, two and one respectively. A “talent” was a large some money, equivalent to the wages a workman would receive for fifteen years of work.[3]A talent in ancient times was a measure of something particularly weighty, usually silver or gold. A single talent might represent as much as 50 pounds of precious metal and, as such, was not something that one carried around in one’s pocket![4]

The listeners and readers of this parable today would probably not know about the weight involved here, nor that the Jewish mind would think of the “the heaviest weight of allthe kabod of Yahweh, which has the basic meaning of heaviness, gravitas.[5] This kabod Yahweh was in the Temple in Jerusalem, “resting upon the mercy seat with the Holy of Holies.[6] So what was the “heaviness (most glorious) of all was the mercy of God, which abided in infinite, inexhaustible abundance in the Temple.[7]

So, knowing this, can lead us into a wider meaning of Jesus’ teaching here in this parable. The Master, Jesus, is not so much giving us talents – money to invest and capacities, but “a share in the mercy of God, a participation in the weightiness of the divine love.[8]

However, mercy needs to be shared. We are called to be merciful to others, just as the Father has been merciful to us through His Son. As we learn in St. James’ Letter – “talk and behave like people who are going to be judged by the law of freedom, because there will be judgement without mercy for those who have not been merciful themselves; but the merciful need have no fear of judgement.[9] We show mercy to others in two ways, by offering them our assistance when they are in need of help and also by showing them compassion particularly in forgiving them.

If we are like the third servant and bury our one talent in the ground, we are not giving the Lord a chance to exercise mercy towards us. And we can’t give what we haven’t got…

But if we are like the first or second servant and have used our talents wisely and mercifully, we can stand in confidence before God at our particular judgement and at the final judgement. “For the merciful need have no fear of judgement.[10]

Sr. Rosaleen Shaw OP



[1] Matt. 25:14-30

[2] Matt. 25:14-15

[3] NIV Commentary, page453


[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] James 2:12-13

[10] James 2:13

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