Good business sense requires an inventory to be taken at the end of a particular period in order to take stock of what goods are lacking or what goods are deemed outdated.
Likewise, as we Christians draw close to the end of the liturgical year, it is also good and practical that we, as individuals and as a Church, take stock of what is lacking in our spiritual lives and what needs to be discarded. We are advised to “stay wide awake and sober.” To this end, the liturgy for the Thirty-third Sunday of the year—the penultimate one—carries with it the motif of watchfulness and accountability, which is what Jesus exhorts in the Parable of the Talents. His distribution of talents demands of each one proper stewardship that is usually considered from the perspective of time, talents, and treasures. The Gospel assigned for this Sunday uses the generic term, talents, as Jesus imparts his teaching to his disciples.
First of all the term “talent” was a weight that was either copper, silver or gold. But we must not restrict ourselves to thinking solely in terms of monetary values as we learn from this parable. It is commonly believed that the useless servant who refused to be adventurous in doing “business” until his master’s return, refers to the leaders of Israel, namely the Scribes and Pharisees. Despite the messianic references in the Old Testament, especially in the Prophetic writings, they were unable to move beyond their customary closed minds.
Desire for the status quo blinded the eyes of the Scribes and Pharisees to the Presence of the Messiah in their midst. There is no adventurous study of the Scriptures in terms of new manifestations of the divine—as can be seen in the case of their explaining to King Herod that the soon—coming King could be amongst them. Although they knew the answer, nevertheless, it was Herod who sent the Magi in search, not the Scribes and Pharisees [cf.Matt. 2:3-8]. What can we learn from this? If religion, specifically the Christian religion, is to blossom and be more meaningful to us in today’s world, there needs to be constant inquiry and adventure. That is why theologians continuously plumb the depths of Scripture and Tradition to ascertain the never-ending revelation of God so that we may be better able to know His will and walk in His way.
In this Parable of the Talents, Jesus teaches that every person—no matter the level of intelligence—has gifts that differ, hence the allocation of five, two, and one talents. We miss the point totally if we concentrate on the “inequality” of distribution. We know that in real life no two persons are equal in terms of gifts. Although each person is equal in the eyes of God in terms of our common humanity, that is, being made in His image and likeness, nevertheless some are gifted in one way, while others are gifted another ways.
One could say that there is a complementarity of gifts that ought to benefit the common good. Therefore, our concentration is not so much on the number of talents (gifts) allotted to us, but rather, on how each of us uses the gifts given to us for our own development, for the good of others, and for the glory of God.[cf.Progressio Populorum, #15].
Jesus also teaches that reward for a job well done means that more work is awaiting those who were adventurous and daring in the investment undertaken: “You have been faithful in a few things; I will put you in charge over many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Clearly, from many instances of life we see this happening all the time; people who are awarded national honours are usually called upon to venture forth into other areas of service. “To whom much is given, much is required!”
In respect of the unjust steward, Jesus cautions against the danger of inactivity or lack of adventure. We often hear: “If you don’t use it, you lose it!” Far better had that servant invested and lost; the master would have understood. Applying this lack of adventure or passion to the spiritual life, this saying also holds true: “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all!” Could this lackadaisical attitude account for the mediocrity among some Christians who live listless lives because they have no faith in themselves or in their God-given gifts?
Adventure in the faith requires a passion that is fired up with continuous discipline, be it a Bible Animation Course and/or a systematic study of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Such a regimen would be spiritual inventory befitting the end of this liturgical year.
PRAYER. “Lord, may we always take pride in our Catholic Christian faith. Let your light so guide us that we will develop and use our God-given gifts for the service of others. Amen!”