OPTION 1: A man got mad with God. “God,” he said, “I have been praying daily for three years that I should win the state lottery. You told us to ask and we shall receive. How come I never got to receive all these three years I have been asking?” Then he heard the voice of God, loud and clear: “My dear son,” God says, “Please do me a favor and buy a lottery ticket.” This is not supposed to be a promotion of gambling. Rather, it illustrates the saying: “If you want to win, you got to play.”
There are two kinds of people in our churches today: the risk-takers and caretakers. The problem with caretakers is that they might show up as the undertakers with little to show for the lives they have lived. Jesus warns us against this in today’s gospel parable of the talents. This parable is a story about a businessman who leaves the town and entrusts his money with his workers. Wealthy merchants and businessmen often had to travel abroad and leave the business to others to handle while they were gone. Why did Jesus tell this story? Most importantly it tells us something about how God deals with us, His servants. The parable speaks, first, of the master’s trust in his servants. While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best. While there were no strings attached, this was obviously a test to see if the master’s workers would be industrious, trustful and reliable in their use of the money entrusted to them. And, the master’s rewards those who are industrious and faithful and he punishes those who sit by idly and who do nothing with his money.
Then second, the essence of the parable seems to lie in the servants’ conception of responsibility. Each servant entrusted with the master’s was faithful up to a certain point. The servant who buried the master’s money was irresponsible. One can bury seeds in the ground and expect them to become productive because they obey natural laws. Coins, however, do not obey natural laws. They obey economic laws and become productive in circulation. The master expected his servants to be productive in the use of his money.
We are those servants of God and we are responsible to Him for the way we use the abilities He has given us. How we use our abilities to enrich and help others is our fulfillment of Christ’s command to love others as we love ourselves. On the natural level, God equips each one of us with unique talents, abilities and aptitudes. No one person will ever be exactly like another or have the ability to excel in every discipline. All the plastic surgery, diets, workout programs, steroids or makeup in the world cannot change this fact. Happiness lies not in changing our physical appearance to be like someone else; it lies fully in realizing our God-given identity of talents and gifts through a virtuous and generous life. Recognizing and accepting God’s plan for each of us is essential for our happiness. C.S. Lewis wisely wrote in, The Problem of Pain, “When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy.”
Therefore, today’s parable awakens our sense of responsibility. Responsibility means to respond with ability. Let us discover the gift of abilities that God endowed us. Let us not be afraid to respond to the call to the service that he is inviting us to do. We are empowered by special graces to act accordingly and faithfully to our duties in this world. And so do we put to good use the gifts which God has entrusted to us like health, intelligence, faith, skills, our 3 Ts (Time, Talent and Treasure)? When we complain that nothing happens or that nothing changing, it is quite possible that we are at fault for not using the means at our disposal? But theologians remind us that our most precious talents are the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and love that God refused in our souls at baptism. True, but the parable applies as well to our natural talents which also come from God like: if you know how to sing, that’s a natural talent. But as Fernando de Rojas said: “Goods which are not shared are not goods.” So if you know how to sing, if not shared, you are not a good singer.
But if we are given responsibilities we have so many reasons to give not to accept them. According to one author, “We are the greatest excuse makers in the world.” Why are we afraid to take responsibilities? There are three reasons: 1. We are afraid because of what others might say; 2. Other reason could be that we are busy that we don’t have time. We are so very busy for what? 3. Because of pride.
Roger Bacon, as quoted by Fr. Simplicio Apalisok in his homily book, outlined four critical questions to ascertain our talents and abilities. First, what is it that we love to do? We cannot do well what we hate to do. Somehow, there is a particular activity/task that we never get tired of doing.
Second, what will we do for free? If we work on something without the thought of financial reward, we work as we play. Some people identify this as a sense of fulfillment, others calls this the sense of mission in life. We may describe this as a social responsibility and service is what we pay for the space we occupy in this world.
Third, what comes easy for us but difficult for others? We may not be seven-footer to dunk the ball into the basket like Yao Ming or Shaquile O’Neil. But certainly we have other qualities that we can develop and maximize.
Fourth, ask the people who know us best: What can they say us that we can do best? Well-meaning fellow humans can give us honest to goodness feedback on our potentials.
What is in a name? Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD, in his homily, said that each one of us has three names: the name we inherited from our family, the name given to us by parents and the name we have made for ourselves. The first two are given while the last one is made. Likewise, we had our God-given talents. We were born with them. But like our given and inherited name, we can either maximize or waste our talents. The choice is really up to us. The choice is ours too if we will use our talents for goodness or for evil. Are we living up to our name? What name are we making for ourselves? Are we living up to our talent? What are we making out of our talents?
At the end, let us remember this that the parable teaches us also about accountability. We shall be made to render an accounting of our gifts, whether that be material or whatever. Do we earnestly seek to serve God with the gifts, talents and graces he has given to you? Are we responsible? Do we use them for the good of all or for our own selfish interest?
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A