Date: Sunday, November 15, 2020
We are likely to misunderstand the word “talent” in today’s Gospel. For us it means: an intellectual, artistic, or athletic ability displayed in performance and competition. Like a contestant on Jeopardy: “What is talent?” Originally, a “talent” was a weight placed in a balance to measure silver or gold. In the parable of Jesus, a man going on a journey entrusts “talents”, his wealth, to three servants each according to his ability. He expects the servants will increase his wealth through industry or investment. The first two servants double their master’s investment in them. The third, out of fear for the master being a tough man, buries his talent. That servant loses everything.
The meaning of the parable is exemplified in our first reading from the Book of Proverbs. The author praises a worthy woman, wife, and mother. Her husband entrusts his heart to her. Her value is beyond pearls. She brings him goodness, uses her hands with crafts, she reaches out to the poor, she extends her hands to the needy. St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians to be children of the light, that is, alert to the coming of Christ and busy doing God’s good work in the world. Context is important. We are listening to chapter 25 in the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Chapter 26 begins the Passion. Jesus, knowing the end of his ministry is near, is entrusting his life to his disciples. They will carry on with the “wealth” of Jesus, his very life. Jesus is concerned because of their fear and lack of courage.
We have finished a contentious election and covid-19 continues as an existential threat. Like the disciples, we are troubled and fearful. We wonder about the “talent” necessary to be faithful to the mission entrusted to us. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew Jesus begins his public ministry with the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes. It helps us to think differently about our talents. Blessed are the poor, the humble, the merciful, the lowly, the pure of heart, the compassionate, those who thirst for justice, peacemakers, and those who suffer for righteousness. Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. In this same Gospel, chapter 25, Jesus ends his public ministry with a vision of the coming of the Son of Man, sitting on a glorious throne as a Shepherd King, separating sheep from goats. We will be judged on whether we care for Jesus hidden in the least of our brothers and sisters. Talents appear to be less a matter of competition and performance, and much more a sincere concern for the “the little ones.”
In the Saturday morning BUFFALO NEWS Refresh section, there is an article entitled – “Anchors in Times of Uncertainty: Those who know chaos share calming tips.” Fr. John Mack, a veteran priest and CKS professor, is one of the four persons quoted. John is recovering/rehabbing from a liver transplant. He mentions the word “talent.” His strategies are prayer, meditate, reflect, and listen. “During extended periods of quarantine and disrupted patterns of familiar daily activities, a step aside and a step back allows a person to take stock of what we do have. Rarely do we have the luxury of time to engage in such self-reflection.” He recommends spending time on a pandemic journal that allows you to recount ordinary aspects of each day, helps build perspective over time and hopefully affirms gradual changes.” He concludes: “Be attentive. Make a spiritual inventory by noting gifts, talent and accomplishments, in detail.”