Notes in red are my additions.
Mat 25:14 For even as a man going into a far country called his servants and delivered to them his goods;
For even as a man going into a far country, &c. (Vulg.). Supply from what precedes, So shall be the coming of the Son of Man to judgment (Matt 24:27). The word for denotes the scope of the parable. By it Christ would prove what He said in the verse before, Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.
The object of the parable is to show how exact an account Christ will require from the slothful in the Day of Judgment; and how great will be the reward which He will give to the diligent, who have carefully used His gifts to the glory of God. The parable is similar to that which Luke records (Luke 19:11), but with some differences. For they were spoken by Christ at different times, and with different objects. The parable in Luke was spoken before Palm Sunday; but this in S. Matthew after it, on the Tuesday before Good Friday. Hence S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Jansen, and others think they are different parables, or rather, the same parable told in different ways. For instead of talents, Luke has minæ (a monetary unit of measurement for gold, silver, etc.).
Now the man here spoken of is Christ. For Christ went a long journey when He ascended into Heaven, being about to be absent a long time from earth and His Church. So Origen, Jerome, Bede. Others think that Christ’s going far off (peregre) means His transference of the preaching of the gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles by means of the Apostles, and His founding the kingdom of His Church amongst them. And this applies well to the relation of the parable by S. Luke, where it is introduced with reference to Zacchæus, a publican, and, as it were, a Gentile, to whose house Christ, leaving the Jews, brought salvation. But in such a case the whole parable of the servants and the talents would have to be restricted to the Jews. For the Master is here said to have distributed His talents before He went His long journey,-that is to say, to the Gentiles. Wherefore the former explanation is of wider scope, and so more true. By the servants all the faithful are to he understood, whether Jews or Gentiles. Talents are goods, either because the Master, like merchants and chapmen, had all His goods in money-in talents of gold and silver; or else because revenues and estates are called talents, which were valued, some at one talent, some at two, some at five talents. In like manner, in Latin, whatever is bought or valued for money is called money.
Mat 25:15 And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey.
And to one he gave, &c. Instead of talents, Luke has mnas, or minas. Mna in Hebrew signifies numbered or defined, with reference to value, or weight of gold or silver. The root is mana, he numbered. It is the word used in Daniel 5:25, mene. The Hebrew mna was equal to about 2½ pounds. A Hebrew talent was equivalent to sixty Hebrew mnas. (Modern scholars note that a single talent was worth about six thousand denarii. A singe one of these (a denarius) represented the daily wage of an ordinary day laborer in Jesus’ time).
By talents understand all the gifts of God, without which we can do nothing. These gifts are, I say—1st Of grace, both making grateful,1 such as faith, hope, charity, virginity, and all the other virtues, as well as those of grace given gratis—such as the power of working miracles, the Apostolate, the Priesthood, the gift of tongues, prophecy, &c. 2d Natural gifts, such as a keen intellect, a sound judgment, a sound constitution, prudence, industry, learning, eloquence. 3d External goods and gifts, as honours, riches, rank, &c. So S. Chrysostom. For all these things God distributes unequally, according to His good pleasure. And with this end in view, that each should use them for God’s glory, and the good of himself and others. For so He will increase them, both by Himself (for all habits grow by use and exercise) and also in merit and reward. For to that man there will be added crowns and coronets celestial, as of virginity, martyrdom. Moreover, there is no man who hath not received one, ay, several of these gifts of God, though one hath more, another less. For, as S. Gregory saith (Hom. 5, in Evang.), “There is no man who can say with truth, ‘I have not received a single talent. There is nothing of which I must give an account.’ For to every poor man even this shall be reckoned as a talent, that he hath received but a very little.” For to many it is a greater gift of God, and more conducive to their salvation, that they have poverty rather than wealth, sickness and not health, a humble station instead of an exalted one. Let us take as instances S. Paul, S. Timothy, S. Onesimus. S. Paul received, as it were, five talents or gifts from God,-as the gift of tongues, miracles, the apostolate, zeal for souls, power in preaching. Timothy received, as it were, two,-knowledge of the Scriptures, and the bishopric of Ephesus. But Onesimus one, that is to say, zeal to minister to Paul in prison at Rome. By means of this he merited many others, as the bishopric of Colosse, the conversion of many, and martyrdom.
You will ask, in what manner does God distribute these His gifts according to every one’s ability (Gr. δύναμιν), power, strength? I answer, this is partly an emblema pertaining only to the adornment of the parable. For so among men, prudent masters are wont to entrust their goods to servants in such a manner that they trust more to him who possesses greater prudence and industry, less to him who has less. For it is certain, in opposition to the Pelagians, that primary grace is not given according to natural powers and merits, yea, that there is no natural disposition to grace.
But, in part, this pertains to the meaning of the parable. For favours and stations given gratis, such as magistracies, the episcopate, priesthood, &c., God often confers in accordance with natural powers, and does not raise any one to such a condition unless he be either suited to it by nature, or unless He Himself makes him fit. Men do the same when they choose any one for a shepherd, a bishop, a prelate. Indeed, when God determines to bestow any permanent gift whatsoever upon any one, He first gives him the capacity, or natural or supernatural proportional disposition or merit, by means of which he becomes suitable for the bestowment of this gift, or may make himself fitted for it. Thus God gave to Moses a zeal on behalf of his nation, that He might thereby dispose him to deliver them out of Egypt. So also He gave S. Paul a zeal for the Mosaic law, that He might make use of him when he was purified for the propagation of the Law of Christ. So He instilled into SS. Mary Magdalene and Peter an immense contrition for sin, that He might, through it, dispose them to an immense sanctity. So it is with those whom God chooses and destines to virginity, the religious life, martyrdom, mission work in India. He first infuses into them a vehement desire, by which they fit and prepare themselves for what they have to do.
Lastly, S. Thomas (1 p. quæst. 62, art. 6) teaches that God has distributed to the angels His gifts of grace and glory, according to their natural gifts. Those who are more lofty by nature are also higher in grace and glory, And he adds, that God deals in like fashion with men. For he says, “This also happens among men, that in proportion to the fervour of their conversion to God, greater grace and glory are given them.” Often, indeed, God acts in a way the reverse of this, and gives greater gifts of grace to persons of weak intellect-to the ignorant and despised-than He does to the learned, the witty, and the honourable. Thus He did to S. Francis, S. Catherine of Sienna, S. Simeon Stylites, and many others. After a like fashion God distributes His gifts of grace, freely given, in accordance with His own hidden counsels. For many are set in high station who are by no means worthy of it; many are the Priests who are unfit for the Priesthood. And yet, in no persons whatsoever are nature and natural endowments a merit, or a disposition to grace.
Wherefore it does not follow from these words of Christ that “the gifts of God are conferred upon every man, according to the measure of his merit,” according to the charge which Calvin calumniously brings against the Catholics. For it is one thing to be by nature capable of receiving the gifts of God; it is another thing to merit those gifts. It is one thing to be able to possess charity; it is another thing to possess it. This is Prosper’s teaching (lib. 2, de Vocatione Gentium, c. 2).
An immediately he took his journey. Luke adds, that Christ, before He went away, after dividing the pounds, or talents, amongst His servants, said, Trade until I come. He meant, “Increase these My talents by labouring diligently all your life long, and bring Me what you have gained when I return to judgment.” By and by he adds, But his citizens hated him and they sent an embassage after him, saying: We will not have this man to reign over us. The citizens of Christ are those Jews who rejected Him, who would not acknowledge Him as their King and Messiah, who said, “We have no king but Cæsar,” as they cried before Pilate when they asked that Christ might be crucified. And again, after His resurrection, they persecuted the Apostles and Christians who preached and spread the kingdom of Christ. Wherefore concerning the righteous chastisement which came upon the Jews, Luke subjoins that Christ said, “But as for those my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, bring them hither and kill them before me.” Christ did this when He slew the Jews by the hands of Titus. He will do it yet more in the Day of Judgment, when He will punish all his enemies with death eternal.
Mat 25:16 And he that had received the five talents went his way and traded with the same and gained other five.
And he that had received the five talents, &c. To gain talents is to increase the gifts of God by using and increasing them, especially by means of good works, and helping our neighbour to increase and multiply the grace of God in ourselves and others. This parable intimates that every one ought to co-operate with the grace of God with all his might. For example, he who has, as it were, five degrees of charity, ought to exercise charity in a corresponding degree of intensity. By this means he will gain from God five degrees more. Again, by exercising charity thus increased as ten degrees, in acts of corresponding intensity, he may gain other ten decrees, and possess, as it were, twenty degrees. And so on, marvellously doubling, and multiplying the gain of his talents, that is to say, the degrees of his charity. Let it be, therefore, that a man by his charity should gain few or none to Christ by preaching, yet will he have the same merit and reward of his charity and preaching as if he had converted multitudes. The conversion of others is not often in our power, but the merit of doing so is always in our power.
Moraliter: S. Gregory says (Hom. 9, in Evang.), “This passage of the Gospel admonishes us anxiously to beware lest we, who seem to have received somewhat more than others in this world, should, for that reason, be judged more severely by the Maker of the world. For in proportion as gifts are increased, so is the account to be rendered of the gifts.”
Mat 25:17 And in like manner he that had received the two gained other two.
And in like manner &c. This man also, by diligently and correspondingly using his talent, that is, co-operating with grace, doubled it.
Mat 25:18 But he that had received the one, going his way, digged into the earth and hid his lord’s money.
But he that had received one…hid his lord’s money. Arab. buried his lord’s silver. To bury a talent is, through negligence and sloth, not to use or exercise the grace bestowed upon one. Here observe, that this burying of his talent is ascribed to him who only received one talent. This is not because others, who have received more, do not often do the same, but in order that we may understand that if he, who had only misused his one talent, was thus severely punished by his master, far sharper will be the Lord’s censure and punishment of those who have misused more and greater talents. Wherefore Paul says, “We exhort you, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. vi. 11). And again, “His grace in me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all” (1Cor 15:10); and, “Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel.”
Let those who do not use genius, learning, prudence, or other gifts of God, for their own or others’ benefits, on account of sloth, or fear of sinning, or for any similar reason, note this. For of them will Christ demand an exact account of these gifts in the Day of Judgment. Observe also, that those who have received few talents, often, through sloth, leave them idle, and, as it were, bury them; whilst those who have received more are stimulated by them, and either use them rightly and meritoriously, or else abuse them to vanity. And these last are punished not so much for letting their talents lie idle, as for misusing them! Thus we commonly see that those who have great powers of intellect, if they do not employ them for good purposes, do so for bad.
Mat 25:19 But after a long time the lord of those servants came and reckoned with them.
But after a long time, &c. This reckoning Christ makes with every one severally at death, and the particular judgment. He will make it publicly in the general Judgment.
Mat 25:20 And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents. Behold I have gained other five over and above.
And he that had received the five talents coming, &c. Hear how pathetically S. Gregory depicts this scene: “In that great examination the whole multitude of the elect and the reprobate will be led forth, and it will be shown what each hath done. Then Peter will take his stand, with Judæa converted at his side. There Paul, with, I might almost say, a converted world. There will be Andrew with Achaia, John with Asia, Thomas with India, which they will bring into the presence of the Judge. There will appear all the rams of the Lord’s flock, with the souls which were given them for their hire. When, therefore, so many shepherds with their flocks shall come before the eyes of the Eternal Pastor, what shall we, miserable ones, be able to say, if we return before the Lord empty, we who have the name of pastors, but have no sheep, which we have fed, to present?”
Mat 25:21 His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
His lord said to him, Well done, &c. Luke has (Luke 19:19), Be thou over five cities. The parable is taken from the idea of a king, who is accustomed to reward his faithful servants by setting them over many cities. It signifies also that the Saints, who use diligently the grace that God gives them, will be sharers in the glory and joy of His kingdom, but in greater or less degrees according to the labour and merit of each.
Our Salmeron is of opinion that it is here intimated, and tacitly promised, that the Saints in Heaven shall be set by God to preside over the places in which they laboured while on earth, so that in those places they may heal diseases and work miracles, because they have deserved this by their labours. That thus S. James works miracles at Compostella and in Spain; S. Dionysius at Paris and in Gaul; S. Ambrose at Milan; S. Boniface in Germany.
Mat 25:22 And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou deliveredst two talents to me. Behold I have gained other two.
Mat 25:23 His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
And he also that had received the two talents, &c. The Arab. has, And these are the five talents which I have gained, as though the servant showed them, and offered them to his master. The same thing is said as in vers. 20 and 21, save that there were five talents, here there are two. For, as S. Jerome says, “The Lord does not regard so much the greatness of the gain, as the good-will and the desire. And it is possible that he who receives two talents, by trading diligently with them, may merit more than he who receives five, and uses them in a lukewarm manner.” Thus S. Nicolas Tolentinus passed his life in constant prayer and the practice of austerities. He used to fast on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays on bread and water, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, and used to punish himself by means of an iron chain. Six months before his death he heard daily at vespers angelic songs, which invited him to the marriage feast of the Lamb in Heaven. Just before his death he was filled with a marvellous joy. Being asked the reason, he said, “My Lord Jesus Christ, leaning upon His mother and our father Augustine, is saying to me, Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.” Presently joining and lifting up his hands, and raising his eyes to the Cross, he said, “Into Thy hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit.” And thus with joyful countenance he resigned his soul to God, A.D. 1306, on the 10th of September.
Mat 25:24 But he that had received the one talent, came and said: Lord, I know that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown and gatherest where thou hast not strewed.
Mat 25:25 And being afraid, I went and hid thy talent in the earth. Behold here thou hast that which is thine.
But he that had received the one talent, &c. &c. There is an emblem here which only pertains to the embellishment of the parable. For this, says Frank Lucas, is the way in which lazy servants excuse their idleness, throwing it upon the severity of their masters. As if they said, “You are not willing to lose, but always want to gain. And if gain is not brought you, you take away the property of your poor servants for any reason, or none.”
It is to be observed that the reprobate in the Day of Judgment, when they behold the Saints thus rewarded by Christ and themselves sentenced to Gehenna, will, out of despair and madness, inveigh against Christ the Judge, and will shamelessly reproach Him for His too great severity, and will impiously and blasphemously throw the blame of their damnation upon Him. And thus they, in hell, being driven to madness by the severity and eternal duration of their torments, will continually blaspheme God, and Christ, and the Saints, as though they were the authors of their sufferings, directly or indirectly.
Mat 25:26 And his lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not and gather where I have not strewed.
Mat 25:27 Thou oughtest therefore to have committed my money to the bankers: and at my coming I should have received my own with usury.
His lord answering said to him, &c. This likewise is an emblem, and only signifies how we ought by all means to increase the grace of God. Observe that they are called money-changers, who make gain by exchange, and by lending and borrowing. This gain is lawful in the way of exchange and merchandise. It is unlawful in the way of lending upon interest, and is the sin of usury. Wherefore the Lord in this place does not speak so much according to the abstract right of the matter, as parabolically, partly because of the common practice of nations (for usury was allowed in many nations, especially among the Jews, who think that God permitted them to exact it from the Gentiles, in Deut. xxiii. 19), partly as a deduction from the words of the slothful servant, who attributed to his master the avarice of extorting money, by fair means or foul, from himself or others. This passage may, however, be accommodated to what is signified by the parable in the following manner-that God requires of us interest, as it were, for His gifts and graces, but that He will render us far greater interest of glory in Heaven. Hence the saying, “If thou wilt lend, lend unto God.” Also it is said in Prov. (Prov 19:17), “He that hath mercy upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and what he layeth out it shall be paid him again.”
Mat 25:28 Take ye away therefore the talent from him and give it him that hath ten talents.
Take ye away therefore the talent, &c. This, too, is only an emblem. The Lord throws back the charge of avarice, with which the slothful servant accused him. It is as if he said, “Thou seest, 0 thou slothful servant, that I do not covetously seek this gain for myself, but for my servants. When I take back the talent which I gave to thee, I do not put it away in a chest for myself. I bestow it upon him who used his five talents so well, that he gained five other talents with them. He therefore deserves this talent of yours, or rather mine, as a recompense of his labour and merit.”
But besides the emblematic character of these words, they are also partly applicable to the thing signified by the parable. For, in the Day of Judgment, God will actually take away His graces from the reprobate, who have misused them. He often does the same thing even in this life. Indeed, He always takes away from a man the grace which makes him pleasing in the eyes of God, when that man sins mortally, as when, for instance, he, through sloth, neglects to perform some commandment of Gad, which is binding under the penalty of mortal sin. But this which is added, Give it to him that hath ten talents, is an emblem. It tacitly intimates,—1st That the Saints, who diligently use the grace of God, are worthy of greater grace; and that as to the grace which the unworthy and the slothful possess, it is not seldom, even in this life, transferred from them to the former. Thus it is said in Rev 3:11, “Hold fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” 2d That the Saints in Heaven will rejoice, both on account of their own talents, as well as those of the reprobate. 3d Because God, in Heaven, will bestow all gifts, all endowments and graces, even those which the reprobate have possessed in this world, upon the Blessed. For Beatitude is a state which is perfect by reason of the aggregation of all good, as Boetius says. Understand that these gifts are here spoken of, not as to their number, but as to their kind.
Mat 25:29 For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.
For to every one that hath, &c. The Arab. is, Unto him that hath shall be given, and shall be added; and from him that hath not shall be taken away that which is with him.
For to every one that hath. S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine explain this to mean, all who rightly use their talents. For he, in truth, possesses a talent who rightly uses it. For the idle person, who does not make use of it, does not appear really to have it.
But from him that hath not, that is to say, the gain of the talents and the grace acquired by him; or, he who has not, in the sense that he does not use his talent, as I have said, that also which he seemeth to have, that is, the talent which he has suffered to lie idle, so that he has not so much had it, as seemed to have it, shall be taken away. After a like fashion saith the comic poet, “The covetous man lacks that which he hath as much as if he had it not.” He hides it in his chest, so that it is the chest which hath it, not himself. The covetous man does not so much possess his gold, as he is possessed and owned by his gold. He is its slave.
Mat 25:30 And the unprofitable servant, cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Cast ye out into the exterior darkness. Contrasts with the words to the other two in verses 21 and 23: Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Weeping and gnashing of teeth. See Matt 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51.