To Keep Our Talents Is to Use It

13 November 2005: 33rd Sunday of the Year
Matthew 25, 14-30: Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Talents has many lessons that can teach many of us, especially students. The talent was not a coin, but a weight, and therefore the value of the weight will depend on the coinage whether it was copper, silver or gold. I have five points today, and all these points center at a particular element in Christian faith: dynamism.

First, the parable points to the useless servant who hid two hundred and fifty talents on the ground, and did nothing to it. If one looks at it closely, the useless servant stands for the Scribes and the Pharisees for their attitude towards the Law and the truth of God. The useless servant buried his talents in order to hand it over to his Master exactly as it was. The scribes and Pharisees directed their efforts to keep the Law exactly as it was. This means that they abhor any change, any development, any alteration, and anything new. And like the man with the one thousand, they were condemned because they desired to keep things exactly as it was.

This is perhaps true to many people today who would refuse any changes made in the practice of our faith. Things have changed since Vatican II in 1965, but many of us would rather hold on to the practice of the past, even when it has become outdated. Some people would still resist changes to make the mass relevant to people. Since 1965, Vatican II says that the liturgy demands “full, conscious, and active participation” from Catholics today. This is precisely what we mean when we call some ‘conservative’: they would resist any change; they would want the practice of the Law, like the scribes and Pharisees, exactly as it was. And for this, they were condemned. The Church should move, as times move; the Church should be dynamic, tackling modern issues as it comes. Even our mass had changed as the Church moves along history. Only one thing does not change: our faith in Christ. Thus we ask ourselves: Am I conservative or not?

Second, the parable tells us that God gives us different talents: some have five talents, two, or one. What matters is not the number of talents, but how one uses it. God does not require us talents which we do not have, but demands from us to use to the full whatever we have. We are not equal in the number of talents. But we can be equal in our efforts. Whatever talent we have, must be used at the service of God. We ask ourselves: what are the talents that I have? Do I use them to the full at the service of God? St. Ignatius teaches us a principle with regards the use of our talents and anything for that matter: Tantum Quantum: use if it leads towards the praise, service and reverence of God; if not, do not use it.

Third, the person who was punished was the person who did not try at all. The man with the one talent did not lose his talent; but simply did nothing to it. When we think that we have just one tiny talent, we are also drawn to say that “I have little to contribute anyway, it is not worth the try.”

Fourth, the reward of a work well done is still more work to do. When a person is found to be good in smaller responsibilities, the reward is complete trust in him doing greater responsibilities. Thus when we have achieved much, we do not stop at the acquisition of the degree or the diploma, we however continue to move to greater tasks, we continue to be better. That means when you have received a masters or a doctorate degree in education, and you find yourself teaching, you have to become a better teacher, not a boring and arrogant professor who find it amusing to torture students than to teach them.

Finally, the parable tells us a universal truth: To those who have more, more will be given; to those who have less, even what they have they will lose. Simple: if you develop whatever talent you have, the more you are able to do it better. For example, if you know you are good in singing, and you practice, they more you can tackle difficult songs; if not, you eventually lose your singing ability. If you are good in basketball, and you practice, the better you become; if not, you become a lousy player. The more you exercise, practice and improve on the gift, the bigger tasks you are able accomplish. It is thus a lesson in life that the only way to keep a gift is to use it in the service of God and in the service of others.

No comments: