Saturday 14 November 2020

Sunday, November 15, 2020 - Using our talents for His people

To read the texts click on the texts: Prv 31:10-13,19-20, 30-31; I Thess 5:1-6; Mt25:14-30

A story is told of an old man who, because he thought he had dedicated his whole life to God, wanted God to help him in his old age. He read the passage in Matthew and Luke where Jesus says that we must ask to receive and began to pray to God that he win the lottery. When the results were declared he found that he had not won and was upset with God. “God”, he said, “I have dedicated my whole life to you and I asked you for a simple favour which, for you, would be so easy to do and yet you have refused me. Why dear Lord, why?” “My son”, God replied, “If you want to win the lottery, at least buy a ticket”. The point is that if one wants to win, then one has to play.

The connection between the second reading and Gospel is clearer today than it usually is and the first reading seems only distantly connected with the Gospel.

The word “talent”, though often understood to mean the gifts and abilities that a person possesses, is here clearly a large sum of money. According to some calculation one talent was equal to 15 years’ wages for a day labourer. The master gives no instructions to the servants about what they are to do with the money. Each servant is left to decide what he must do with what is given to him. All three think that the money belongs to the master and is given to them only in trust. The first two take active responsibility to trade with what is given to them and earn more than they had before. Both are rewarded appropriately and it is in the giving of the reward that we realize that the money given to them initially was actually given to them as their own.

Although the parable alludes to a delay in the master’s return, the attention of the reader is directed not to the surprise of his sudden return but more directly the servants’ conduct during the time he has been away. The parable sets the responsibility of the servants in terms of money but the symbolism points to something obviously more comprehensive.

At first glance it might seem that the guilty servant has acted carefully. He has not lost or squandered the money given to him. He seems to have even acted responsibly by burying the money in the ground so that he could return it safely to his master. So the reaction of the master is surprising. Not only is the money taken back from him, but also he is thrown into the outer darkness. However, the reaction of the master will not be so surprising when we realize first that what was given was not given merely in trust but as the personal property of the concerned servant and second, that to be “good and faithful” is not passive waiting, or even merely obeying rules and regulations or even being obedient to the letter of the law but active responsibility that takes initiative and risk. He didn’t gain but just preserved what was given. Fear had motivated this servant, the fear of failure and losing the talent he had been given. He continued to regard the money as his master’s and not his own, whereas the first and second servants responded actively to the grace given to them freely by the master. They were active, alive and awake.


Paul invites the Thessalonians to a similar attitude, in view of the imminent parousia or coming of the Lord. Since this day will come at any time, the best response is to be ready at all times and all the time. This readiness has to be shown in the actual life that one leads – in one’s actions. Since Jesus has made them children of the light, they must act as such and not as children of darkness who never knew the light.

The worthy wife extolled in the first reading is an example of such living. The qualities mentioned are such as must be assimilated by everyone who hopes to be a child of light or to be regarded as a good and faithful servant. The worthy wife does not sit idle all day, but is active doing what she has to do to ensure that the household runs smoothly. Her concern extends not merely to her household but also to the poor and the needy to whom she reaches out.

If the modern use of talents has any relation to the text, it is at the level of allowing God to work in us and with us and putting our talents, qualities and natural abilities at God’s disposal. God has given each one of us gifts and talents. Some have talents of one kind, others of another kind. Some are blessed with more than one, others have just one. However, the fact is that everyone has at least one.

This means that we have to respond to this gift of God, which is latent in us. We will only be brought to fulfillment, when we utilize it and especially for the good of others. We will not be able to do this if, for any reason, we compare who we are or what we have with who others are and what they have. Each of us is unique and special. We are thus responsible and accountable for the way we use what God has given us. We will be affirmed if it is used well and especially for the good of others, and we will condemn ourselves if we bury it in the ground.

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