For many of us time is not a friend. We seem to find ourselves increasingly busy, rushing from one job to the next, with little time to slow down and reflect on what we're doing. On the other hand there are those who find the weight of time stretching out before them oppressive. One of the most difficult aspect of recovering from an illness or injury is boredom; how do you fill all the hours of the day when you're confined and don't have the energy for much activity?
This Sunday's Gospel passage is the middle one of three parables, all of which are concerned with time. The first parable is that of the ten maidens; five foolish and five wise waiting for the bridegroom. The third is the familiar parable of the sheep and the goats; the judgement at the end of time 'when the Son of man comes in his glory'.
In today's parable Jesus describes how a man entrusts his property to his servants before going on a journey. Like the first parable this is a story about waiting; how do we prepare for the return of the Lord and what will his judgement be when he appears in glory?
The first two servants are respectively given five talents and two talents, a vast amount of money and they proceed to double them through trade. The third servant, however, who receives one talent, digs a hole and buries it out of fear that he might lose it. The first two servants have used their time well, whereas the third has made little use of the time given him whist he waits for his master to return.
For the third servant time is not a friend, but each moment is filled with dread and fear at the thought of losing the talent that he has been given. Rather than awaiting the return of the master in joy, seeing each moment as transformed in anticipation of this future happiness, this servant's life is filled with anxiety about what tomorrow will bring.
In many ways it's easier to identify with this fearful servant than with the two who make such a great success of things. All of us are anxious about the future. No matter how secure we feel ourselves to be in this life who can say with absolute certainly what tomorrow will bring?
I recently heard that each day the average life expectancy in Britain increases by six minutes. We are living longer and have a day to day security that our ancestors (and many people today in the world) could only have dreamed about. Yet for all this the future still remains uncertain.
So we battle against time trying to bring it under our control, or attempt to escape it by putting ourselves into a state of oblivion.
Jesus knew what the future held for him:
Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death (Matt 20:18)
However, he did not attempt to avoid this future, but allowed himself to be delivered to death. The future offered him pain and suffering, yet in his immense courage he embraced this future on the cross, so that we might no longer live in fear of what tomorrow will bring.
For we know that no matter what the future brings the risen Christ is with those who hope in him, leading them amidst the anxieties of this life to the joy of his eternal kingdom.