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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 25

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-13

Foolish and Wise Maidens (25:1-13)

The picture is that of a wedding. The retinue of maidens provided with torches awaits the coming of the bridegroom to escort the couple into the marriage chamber. Certain old manuscripts mention both "the bridegroom and the bride." But the meaning of the parable is without doubt eschatological; the figure of the bridegroom is often applied to Christ in the New Testament (see Matthew 9:15; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 19:6-9). It relates to the expectation of his return. He comes in the middle of the night. This feature recalls the preceding parables.

The maidens are not blamed for being asleep. The contrast is between those whom the sudden call finds ready and those who are not. In this last hour the former can no longer do anything for the latter. In the hour of judgment each one can respond only for himself. The harshness of the reply of the wise maidens is only the assertion of a fact

The oil here is a symbol of fidelity and perseverance. To be "wise" in the language of the Bible is to put all one’s faith and hope in God "the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God" (Ecclesiastes 9:1). The "fool," the senseless one, is the one who does not believe in God, or who lives as though he does not believe in God (see Psalms 14:1; Psalms 53:1-2; Ephesians 5:14-16).

Jesus speaks of those whose love "will grow cold" under trial (Matthew 24:12). The Revelation mentions those who have lost their first love and whose candle will be removed (Revelation 2:4-5). That which was once a brilliant light is so no longer, because of a lack of oil, and its smoking wick is almost extinguished. The first love is lead, and with it dies faith.

Verses 14-30

The Talents Entrusted to the Servants (25:14-30)

Note first of all that each servant is given responsibilities insistent with his capacities. Two of them double the capital entrusted to them. The third buries his talent and returns it just as it is. The point of the parable is expressed in verse 29: he who does not make productive the gifts he has received loses them; they are "taken away" from him. What is to be understood by the "talents"? All our gifts come from God, whether they be natural riches or gifts of the Spirit. We shall have to render account at the last day for our use of these gifts, for the zeal which we shall have put into the service of our Lord. It is of little importance whether we have received much or little.

The reward of the faithful servant is to "enter into the joy" of his master. This is the joy of the Kingdom, of the Messianic banquet The faithful worker participates in the joy of the Master; this is his supreme reward. He enters with him into the banquet hall. But he who has buried the talent entrusted to him either through hatred of his Master or through laziness will not participate in this joy. He is not present at the feast. He is cast out into the darkness of solitude and bitterness reserved for those who have devoted themselves neither to God nor to men. Each one of us is faced with the question: What account shall I render at the last day? Have I buried many favors and many gifts?

Verses 31-46

The World Judged by tide Son of Man (25:31-46)

This picture of the Last Judgment has a particular solemnity. The Son of Man the One whom men have rejected and crucified is set forth in all his glory as King and Judge. All nations are summoned before his throne. The angels are subject to him and surround him like a heavenly court

The image of the shepherd (vs. 32) is inspired by the prophet Ezekiel (ch. 34, particularly vss. 17-24). It is a familiar image which in the Old Testament designates the kings of Israel appointed by God, the Sovereign Shepherd, to care for his people. Jesus here explicitly declares himself King of Israel and King of the world. God has handed over to him the Kingdom and the judgment. He has power to welcome, in the name of the Father, those for whom the Kingdom has been prepared "from the foundation of the world."

Who are the "blessed" of the Father? The criterion employed by Jesus is not at all that which theologians eagerly use, and there is something about it which at first glance is baffling. Jesus does not say what we should have expected: "those who have believed on me," or again, "those who have faithfully served the Church and frequented the sacraments." No. He says, "I was hungry and you gave me food." The "righteous" to whom he speaks and they could well be pagans have no consciousness of ever having done this. And then comes this sovereign word: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

This has sometimes been interpreted as though the "least" here mentioned were disciples. This narrows the meaning too much. Jesus identifies himself with each poor person, with each suffering one, because on the cross he truly took each one’s place. He has taken on himself the burden and the sin of all men. That is why he can say in very truth: what you have done to one of your brothers you have done to me. And inversely: what you have not done to your brothers you have refused to do to me.

Does this passage, then, present a religion of works? No, for every act of love has its source in God, It is by such acts that we reveal to whom we belong, whether we are of God or of the Devil. The total teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and the whole of Jesus’ severity toward the Pharisees have already indicated that the children of God are recognized by the way in which they practice mercy, and that it is by this fundamental attitude that they will be judged. He who does not love may hold the most orthodox beliefs, but he is still in death (see 1 John 2:9-11).

This passage is no less upsetting. At the last day Jesus acknowledges as his own, people who have not known him but who have, without knowing it, served him in the person of their suffering neighbor. What a discovery! What a marvelous meeting! But what will he say to us who know him? How many times will we have passed by him without recognizing him? He comes to us under the figure of the stranger, the refugee, the man of another race, or the sorry bore. And we turn away, or treat such persons with humiliating conceit One day he will say to us: ’That was I." Could he not then say to us: "You pretend to know me, but I do not know you"? (Matthew 7:23).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 25". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/matthew-25.html.
 
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