Last week we reflected upon wisdom. We reflected on taking a leap of faith that following the wisdom of God, in love and service of others, would lead us to a fulfilled and joyous life. It is with this understanding that we can hear the parable that Jesus tells in our Gospel reading for this Sunday (Matthew 25:14-30).
This parable is known as the “Parable of the Talents.” In the parable, a man goes off on a journey, but before he goes, he entrusts his possessions to three servants – “to each according to his ability.” To one he gives five talents. A talent was a unit of coinage of high monetary value. To another he gives two talents. And to the third he gives one talent. The first two servants trade with the talents they were given and double the amount given them. The third one, out of fear, buries the talent he was given, gives it back to the man, and is punished for being lazy.
If we take the talents as we understand the word “talent” today, the lesson of the parable is to use the talents, the gifts, that God has given us. But to use them for what purpose? In the parable, the servants use the talents to enrich their master. But for us, we are to use our talents to enrich the world, the world that is so beloved by God; the world for whom Jesus died and rose. As St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:7: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” We are to use our talents, given by God, not so much for our benefit, but for the benefit of others. We are to be like the “worthy wife” described in our first reading from Proverbs (31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31).
Well, why would we do that? This is where that leap of faith comes in. We use our talents for the sake of the gospel, for the building up of the kingdom, in response to the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. We do so, trusting in God’s wisdom more than worldly wisdom. We do so, trusting that Jesus has shown us the way to a fulfilling life here on earth and eternal life with Him forever in heaven.
Often, we use the language of giving of our time, talent, and treasure to the Church. This is not to glorify the Church, but to help fulfill the mission the Church has to serve the world in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
So, we are to use the gifts we have been given. I like to focus on the one I call the “middle servant” in the parable – the one who was given two talents. He is not jealous of the one who received five, nor does he act superior to the one who was given one. He simply takes what he has received and does the most he can with it. We need not get jealous of, or feel superior to, others. Think of what the Church can do of service to a world desperately in need of what we have to offer: the love and wisdom of God in Jesus Christ.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.