Prov. 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thess. 5:1-6; Mt. 25:14-30
Today’s Gospel passage has taken us once again into the famous parable of the Talents. A man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two talents, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Talent was not a coin, it was a weight; and therefore, its value obviously depended on whether the coinage involved was copper, gold or silver. The commonest metal at the Time of Jesus was silver. Jesus’ listeners were well aware of the amount of wealth entrusted to each servant.
This parable has a number of messages for us. First of all it tells us that God gives man differing gifts. One man received five talents, another two, and another one. It is not a man’s talent which matters; what matters is how he uses it. God never demands from a man ability which he has not got. John Miltonin his poem “On His Blindness” expresses this very beautifully.
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.
The parable and Milton’s poem express that men are not equal in talent; but men can be equal in effort. It is quite remarkable that the man simply entrusted the talents to the servants. He did not tell them what to do with them. Neither did he tell them that he would demand them back on his return. The servants drew conclusions for themselves. Two of them decided to take risk and put them to use. While the third decided to play safe, burying it.
As the man expected his servants to be fruitful we are also expected to be fruitful. We are also expected to appreciate all of the gifts that we have received, not only appreciate them but also use them to their greatest potential. Millions of people passed through this earth. All of them had their own special talents; but only a handful of them dared to try out them. All of them had dreams; but only a score of them looked for their fulfilment. All of them had their own ideas; but only a few of them decided to try them out. About this vast majority James Albery wrote:
“He slept beneath the moon
He basked beneath the sun
He lived a life of going to do
And died with nothing done.”
Our history is the history of a few who put their talents to use, and who have applied effort for their realization. We remember Socrates, Hippocrates, Alexander the great, Julius Caesar, Helen Keller, Michael Angelo, Beethoven, Gandhiji, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and a few like them. Because they tried to do something. Gandhiji could not wipe out violence from the face of the earth, Martin Luther King could not wipe out apartheid, or Mother Theresa could not wipe out poverty, but they put their effort to realize their dreams. That made them different from others.
We are all gifted with some strength. The small size of the hummingbird, weighing only a tenth of an ounce, gives it the flexibility to perform complicated maneuvers, such as beating its wings 75 times a second. This enables the humming bird to drink nectar from flowers while hovering, but it cannot soar, glide or hop. The Ostrich, at 300 pounds, is the largest bird, but it can’t fly. However, its legs are so strong that it can run at up to 50 miles per hour, taking strides of12-15 feet.
Some people discover their unusual talents accidentally. Richard Gonzales was a very famous tennis player. He accidentally discovered Tennis Talent. At the age of 12 Gonzales asked his mother for a bicycle. Carmen was afraid that her son might hurt himself on the bike, so she spent 51 cents at the May Company and bought him a tennis racket instead. Gonzales was not initially thrilled with his mother’s gift, but he decided to try his hand at tennis. Gonzales walked to a public tennis court a few blocks away and began hitting the ball. Gonzales wrote in his 1959 autobiography titled Man with a Racket. "In the days, months, and years that followed the challenge of hitting a white, fuzzy ball squarely on the strings of a racket grew and grew. Such is the strange hand of destiny,” Mohd Aliat the age of 12, discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people," Martin reportedly told him at the time. Ali started working with Martin to learn how to box, and soon began his boxing career.
Let us discover our special talents. It may be to sing, to dance, to draw, to write, to do farming, to sympathize with others, to be a good listener, to teach or to serve. When we earnestly try to cultivate them and use them for the good of our brothers and sisters, God will tells, “Well-done good and faithful servant, come and enter into the joy of your master.”
The second message of the parable is that it tells us that the reward of work well done is still more work to do. The two servants who had done well are not told to sit back and rest. But, they are given greater tasks. One talent was taken away from the man who hid it, and was given to the one who had received five talents. At our work place, at home or at the parish, when we do something good, we are given more responsibilities, instead of being grateful we grumble and complain. We fail to recognize that it is the recognition of the effort we put in. Throughout the Old Testament we see that when the Prophets completed one work, another task awaited them. This is true of our lives too. Hence learn to accept the responsibilities, as they are the explicit recognition of our effort and talent.
Thirdly, the parable tells us that the man who is punished is the man who would not try. The man with one talent did not lose it; but he simply did nothing with it.
An eagle’s egg was placed in thinnest of a prairie chicken. The egg hatched and the little eagle grew up thinking he was a prairie chicken. The eagle did what the prairie chickens did. He scratched in the dirt for seeds. He clucked and cackled. One day he saw an eagle flying gracefully and majestically in the sky. He asked the chicken: “What is that beautiful bird?” The chicken replied: “That is an eagle. He is an outstanding bird, but you cannot fly like that. The little eagle believed it, and never gave it a second thought. He lived the life of a prairie chicken and died a prairie chicken. He was born to win but conditioned to lose.
The same thing is true for most of us. We are like the one who hid the talent given to him. The unfortunate part of life is as Oliver Wendall Holmes said, “Most people go to their graves, with music still in them.” If you want to soar like an eagle you have to learn the ways of an eagle. If you associate with achievers you will become one. If you associate with thinkers, you will become one. If you associate with givers, you will become one. If you associate with charitable people you will become one. If you associate with believers you will become one. If you associate with negative people you will become one. Let us keep in mind the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Fourthly the parable lays down a rule of life which is universally true. It tells us that to him who has more will be given, and he who has not will lose even what he has. Its meaning is simple. If a man has a talent and exercises it, he is progressively able to do more with it. If he has a talent and fails to exercise it, he will inevitably lose it. It is the lesson of life. It is practice, however, that makes perfect. The best way to achieve international stardom is to spend 10,000 hours honing your skills, says the new book by Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-selling The Tipping Point. “What’s really interesting about this 10,000-hour rule is that it applies virtually everywhere,” Gladwell told a conference held by The New Yorker magazine. “You can’t become a chess grand master unless you spend 10,000 hours on practice.
Dear friends, the only way to keep a gift is to use it in the service of God and in the service of our fellow men.