There are people who say, “It sure would be nice if I could play a musical instrument, or be a star athlete. I would be famous. But I don’t, so I’m not. Why?” These people feel cheated because they don’t have the skills that they hoped to have.
Somehow, it seems unfair to blame God for not giving us the gifts that we wanted. St. Paul tells us that we have all received gifts. Different ones but gifts just the same. In fact, no one has been cheated. (I Cor. 12:4-11, esp. v.7).
In the Gospel for the thirty third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matt. 25:14-30) Jesus speaks to his disciples, in the form of a parable, of a man who entrusts others with money loans.
A man about to go on a journey calls in his servants for a very specific task. He is going to entrust them with some money so that they may gain more while he is away.
To the first servant he gives 5 “talents” (a”talent”in Jesus’ time was a piece of silver worth much money). To the second servant he gives 2 “talents.” To the third servant he gives one “talent.” The request was to see if the servants would utilize the money well.
When the man returned, he asked the servants for an accounting. The servant who received 5 “talents” wound up doubling them, and this made the owner happy, so he rewarded the servant.
The servant who received 2 “talents” also doubled them, so he received praise and a reward. But the servant who received 1 “talent” buried it. This servant was chastised because he did nothing with the “talent.”
So, what could this Gospel be saying to us? First of all, the word “talent” refers not only to the coinage in the parable, but it can also refer to the “gift” that God has given us. When we use the word “talent” regarding ourselves, we refer to the gift that we have, for example. being able play a musical instrument or being a successful athlete.
Secondly, we are all born with talent/s, to be distinguished from the limitations which we have. The challenge is to be able to tell the difference between the two so that our limitations do not dominate our relationships with other people. The talents (gifts) should do that.
For instance, people who come asking for advice may be more open to listening to us rather than to our non existent piano playing. Yet, there could be some who would be better soothed by our piano playing than by our constant chatter. Depends upon the gift.
In other words, we are all born with certain talents (gifts) AND limitations. That is to say that there are things that we can do easily, and other things that would be virtually impossible to do well.
Practice makes perfect. Whenever we are in contact with other people, we should display our talents (“gifts” such as justice, compassion, understanding, and the like) rather than our limitations (the lack of the above).
The servants who were given 5 and 2 talents wound up doubling them. They were praised and rewarded. We who have received several “talents” (gifts) should be using them for the benefit of others, thus “doubling” them, thus bettering the situation.
The servant who received 1 “talent” buried it. For this he was punished. We who have received one”talent” (gift) should use it to benefit the welfare of others. For this was the gift given. Simply put, we should thank God for the gifts that he has given us whatever they are.
And that gratitude should contain the request to help us be very aware of the differences between limitations and gifts. Because that knowledge will make our “talent” (gift) very useful