33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
In recent years, many countries organize talent shows such as ‘Idol’ ‘Got Talent’ or “X-Factor” to provide a platform for people to display their talents publicly on the television. These talent shows have brought out talented people from obscurity to limelight.
What talent have you got and how do you use your talent? Many people believe that talents are rare gifts reserved exclusively for a few people. The fact is that every person has talent, but not many people develop their talents, and so many talents remain dormant. In the Parable of the Talents Jesus narrated a story of a Master who summoned his servants and gave five talents of gold to one, then two to another, and one to the third. When the Master returned from his journey, he called the three servants to come and give account of their stewardship. Only two out of three servants gave a profitable account to the Master.
The Master was very happy with the person with five talents for his enterprising spirit as he gained five more gold; he was also excited at the report from the person with two talents as he showed how industrious he was with a profit of two more gold. The master generously rewarded these two hardworking servants. He was utterly disappointed with the report of the third servant who buried his talent in the ground because he was afraid of the Master and for fear of taking risks. The servant did not realize that it was better to try and fail, than not to have tried at all. The master was so angry at the attitude of the third servant and described him as wicked and worthless.
At the end of the parable, Jesus makes a statement that is loaded with deep meaning, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have in abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” These words of Jesus mean that those who use their talents will continue to improve and be prosperous, but those who do not use even the little talents they have will lose it. The great scientist Albert Einstein says, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work…” This is to say that many so-called talented people discovered their talents through the dint of hard work.
There are several lessons we can draw from the parable of the talents. First, it makes us understand that everyone has got a talent and has an obligation to discover and use his or her talent. There are people who say they are yet to discover their talents because they think a talent must be something spectacular such as music, sports, etc. Talents are those qualities in us, which are unique, and talents are those gifts we have that people appreciate. Talents must not be skills that are spectacular, but they can be simple and valuable qualities. One of the most beautiful definitions of talents that I have read is that of the Swiss moral philosopher, Henri Frederic Amiel who says, “Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible is genius.” The Book of Proverbs gives us a perfect example of a person whose talent is priceless but works at the background and not on a performing stage. It is the Proverbs 31 Woman, who is an industrious woman who seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle and enjoy the fruit of her labor. The Proverbs 31 woman is similar to a feminine character In a Christian literature who is described as always busy and quiet. The literature goes on to say that to be busy and quiet is a rare gift and worthy of admiration and reminds us of “A perfect machine, whose parts are so nicely adjusted that it works day and night without friction, and without noise. The woman in Proverbs 31 is busy and quiet as she minds her business and was neither working and complaining nor interfering in other people’s work.
Second, The parable of the talents illustrates the importance of accountability, which the Apostle Paul speaks about in his letter to the Thessalonians. Paul called on the Thessalonians to be ready for the day of the Lord when they will be called anytime to render account of how fruitful or fruitless, they have been.
Third, the Parable of Talents challenges everyone to be enterprising, even amid daunting challenges. An enterprising person is creative and who constantly strives for self-improvement and to place his gifts at the service of others. There are people who use their talents only for themselves, refusing to share it with others.
Fourth, there are people who use their talents only for others, but the benefit of the talents do not reflect in their personal lives, like the case of a gifted carpenter who makes chairs for others and none for himself, or a teacher who is very good at teaching in the public school and has no time to teach his/her children.
Fifth, there are people who do not take time to discover and improve their talents; and there are people who use their talents optimally for their benefit and for service of their families, communities and nations.
Sixth, there are talented people whose talents are weakened by pride, fear of taking risks, distraction of wealth, bad attitudes, habits, inclination, or imprudence. An imprudent and tough looking woman came to her religious leader to say: “My talent is to speak my mind.” The religious leader replied, “Woman, God would not be worried, if you bury that talent.” She has the talent of bluntness but lacks the prudence to manage the gift properly. We can understand why Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character.” It is one thing to have a talent and another thing to manage the talent well.
According to Apostle Peter, “Each one of you has received a special grace; so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words, which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Fr. A. Francis HGN