View From the Mount

Today I would like to comment on the story Jesus tells in Matthew 25:14-28. In this parable, a wealthy man goes on a journey and gives his servants some coins called “talents.” A talent was the most valuable coin of the time, each one worth several years-worth of labor. Each servant reported to the master when he returned. The one who received ten talents invested them and made another ten, and the one who had five did the same and made five more. The master was pleased and gave them even more assets and responsibility. The one who had only one buried it because he was afraid of losing it. The master was furious at him and said that, if nothing else, it could have at least been put in the bank to draw interest. Jesus says, “To those who have more, more will be given.”

I am reminded of a quote from the popular author Irma Bombeck: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me.”

I would like to make some comments about the two servants who used the talents they had been given. All of us have been given our talents, but it is possible that as people use the talents they have been given, they may become blinded by these talents. Recently, we had an example of this in the news concerning former Cardinal McCarrick, who was a man to whom great talent had been given. He used his talents to become a priest, then bishop, then a cardinal of the Catholic Church. But all this happened at a time when some people knew he was sexually abusing others. How can something like that happen? It can happen when there is a refusal to accept or confront a problem. A culture of blindness can develop in an institution, such as a church or the Boy Scouts or any other group.

The person and institution have many talents, but the talents turn their eyesight. They begin to experience a change in the way that talents are perceived. No longer are they understood as God’s gifts, but as “my own” gifts. So they say, “I have the talent. I am somebody. Look at me … I am worthwhile because these are my talents.” We forget that the talent is not mine, that it came from God and not from me. When things are seen in this light, it creates a blind eye. This can happen with anyone and within a whole institution because of the fear of being exposed for their failure to use the talents properly. All of us can be susceptible to this kind of thinking. It can happen to a musician, a mathematician, to anyone with a talent who forgets the source of that talent. We can begin to lay claim to the talents as our own instead of God’s gifts to us for others.

We remember many people as saints in our church because of their care and generosity to the poor. From early saints to those of our own time like Mother Teresa, they have used the talents that God had given them to serve others in need. They had the commitment and grace to use their talents not to promote themselves, but to give in abundance to the needy of the world.

We are each called always to remember that the talents we have are God’s gifts. It is not us and it is not about us. Our talents exist for one thing only — so that they may be used for serving others.

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