THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
The responsibility of talent
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
In today’s Gospel we meet a man who brought back to his master everything he had been given, and yet was censured . He was blamed, not for misusing the gifts he had been given, but rather for not having used them at all.
Which of us could say, in all truth, that we always do our best? Do we not all bury at least some of our talents? [Pause] So let us confess our sins to God who is generous with his forgiveness. You were sent to heal the contrite of heart. Lord, have mercy.
You came to call us sinners to repentance. Christ, have mercy.
You plead for us now at the right hand of the Father. Lord, have mercy.
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Proverbs 31:10-13.l9-20.30-31). By worldly standards the woman mentioned in this reading would hardly be classified as a talented person. Yet according to the writer she has something far more precious than jewels, namely, a loving heart and caring hands.
Second Reading (1 Thessalonians 521-6). Paul tells his friends that he doesn’t know when the Lord will come back. Therefore, he urges them to be always ready lest they be caught unawares.
Gospel (Matthew 25: 14-30). This contains the story of three men who got some money from their master, and how two of them used it well, whereas the third failed to make any use of it at all.
There is something very sad about seeing a talent go to waste, for when a talent goes to waste a person goes to waste. A brilliant footballer turns to drink, an exciting singer turns to drugs, a bright young politician disappears into the system and their talents are lost, perhaps forever. The American writer, Thoreau, spoke about ‘the responsibility of talent’.
Once there was a king who had three sons, each with a special talent. The first had a talent for growing fruit. The second for raising sheep. And the third for playing the fiddle. Once, the king had to go overseas on important business. Before departing he called his three sons together, and told them that he was depending on them to keep the people contented in his absence.
Now for a while things went well. But then came the winter, a bitter and cruel winter it was. There was an acute shortage of firewood. Thus the ﬁrst son was faced with a very difficult decision.
Should he allow the people to cut down some of his beloved fruit trees for firewood? When he saw the people shivering with cold, he finally allowed them to do so.
The second was also faced with a difficult decision. Food became very scarce. Should he allow the people to kill some of his beloved sheep for food? When he saw children crying with the hunger, his heart went out to them, and he allowed them to kill some of the sheep.
Thus the people had firewood for their fires, and food for their tables. Nevertheless, the harsh winter continued to oppress them. Their spirits began to sag, and there was no one to cheer them up.
They turned to the fiddler, but he refused to play for them. In the end, things got so bad that in desperation many of them emigrated.
Then one day the king arrived back. He was terribly sad to find that many of his people had left. He called in his three sons to give an account of what had gone wrong. The first son said: ‘Father, I hope you won’t be mad at me, but the winter was very cold so I allowed them to cut down some of the fruit trees for firewood’. And the second son said: ‘Father, I hope you won’t be mad with me because when the food got scarce I allowed them to kill some of the Sheep’. On hearing this, far from being angry, the father embraced his two sons and told them that he was proud of them.
Then the third son came forward carrying his fiddle with him. ‘Father’, he said, ‘I refused to play because you were not here to enjoy the music’. ‘Well then’, said the king, ‘play me a tune now because my heart is full of sorrow’. The son raised the violin and bow, but found that his fingers had gone stiff from lack of exercise.
No matter how hard he tried, he could not get them to move. Then the father said: ‘You could have cheered the people up with your music, but you refused. If the kingdom is half empty, the fault is yours; But now you can no longer play. That will be your punishment’.
In spite of his ready-made excuse, it was really a combination of laziness, cowardice, and selfishness that prevented the third son from using his talent, with the result that not only did he suffer but many others suffered too. Does he not remind us of the third servant in Christ’s story? – the man who buried his master‘s money and who was censured for doing so. How many of us could say that we have used all our talents, or developed our full potential as human beings and children of God?
Some people drift through life, living aimlessly, selfishly. and foolishly, and die without having realised even a fraction of their potential. Others work very hard but often the tasks into which they pour themselves are perhaps not really worth it. They may be totally materialistic which in the long run leaves them empty and exhausted.
We must be careful lest we distort the meaning of Christ’s parable. We are on the wrong track if we think it is about ‘getting on in life”, or ‘making something of oneself. ’ These phrases have a blatant materialistic meaning which is foreign to Christ. Christ is talking about something deeper. He is talking about using our time and our gifts, to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God.’ In other words, to live well and wisely, to develop the gifts of grace above all, and thus to grow as human beings and children of God.
Happy those people who find a worth wile work in life, however humble it may be. They are lucky for they have something into which they can put at least part of their soul, something through which their spirit will shine to enrich themselves and others. Such people will be happy and will grow.
It is by living that we discover our talents, and it is by using them that they grow. Sooner or later the harvest time comes for everyone. Then the question arises: What have we done with our talents, with ourselves, with our lives? ‘Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood. The last chamber, the last closet, he must feel was never opened; there is always a residuum unknown, analysable. That is, every man believes that he has a greater possibility’. (Emerson). Nevertheless, we must keep on striving to attain to this ‘greater possibility.’ Only then will we have used all our talents.
But when all is said and done, Christ‘s parable is a positive one. After all, two of the three servants heard those magic words: ‘Well done!’ To all who are doing their best to live good lives, the Lord, through the voice of the liturgy, speaks those self-same words. It is up to each of us to ask ourselves if they are being said to us.
‘For us there is only the trying; the rest is not our business’. (T. S. Eliot).
‘I am rich because I have found in my work something to which I can devote myself heart and soul, and which gives meaning and significance to my life’(Van Gogh).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Let us pray that we may use to the full the talents, gifts, and graces God has given us, and thus enrich not only our own lives but the lives of others. R. Lord, graciously hear us.
For the Church: that it may encourage all its members to discover, develop, and use all their gifts of nature and grace. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
For all leaders: that by developing a spirit of co-responsibility they may provide all those under them with opportunities to use and develop their talents. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
For all those who through laziness, carelessness, or simply lack of opportunity, have failed to make use of their talents. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
That we may not envy others who are more talented than we are, and that we may not be satisfied with ourselves until we have used our talents, however modest they may be. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, we are the talents. Grant that we may not bury any part of ourselves. Help us to grow so that we may become what we are called to be, and thus one day merit to hear those happy words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servants’. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
A miser melted down his hoard of gold into a single lump
which he then secretly buried in a field.
Every day he went to look at it,
and would spend hours gloating over it.
But one of his servants discovered his secret,
and came by night and stole the gold.
The miser was inconsolable.
But one day a friend of his said:
‘Don’t take it so badly.
Just put a brick in the hole,
and take a look at it every day.
You won’t be any worse off than before,
for even when you had the gold
you never used it’.
We all bury some talent or gift
which we won’t use or develop.
It is not only the man with one talent who buries it,
but people who have been given five or ten talents.
Instead of reaping double,
they become falsely cautious or just plain lazy,
and bury their talents.
And what is buried is of no earthly use to anyone.