Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sharing Talents and Facing Fears

On Sunday, the Gospel gave me some encouragement.  The reading recounted the parable of the master who entrusted each of his three servants with his possessions (called "talents") before he goes on a journey. 

When he returns, the servant with five talents and the servant with two talents have each invested or traded them to double their amounts.  But the third servant buried his talent in the ground, scared to lose the one talent he had.

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master's money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
'Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'
His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"
- Matthew 25:14-30

What struck me was the use of the word "talent" to describe the treasures or special items.  Our talents are God-given abilities--ones that we can choose to hide, waste and ignore... or develop, explore, and share with others.

The other part that made me think was the ending.  The master gets so angry at the third servant, but what if he had tried to invest the talent and lost it?  Is it worse to bury it and end up with the one talent than to try to do something with it and end up with nothing?  In his homily, the priest addressed this by saying the message is not about failure; it's about fear.  It's about inaction.

I like to think that this Gospel is encouraging each of us to take chances, share our talents, and not be so afraid that we end up doing nothing at all.  He wants us to move forward, even it's one small step. 

Maybe sometimes we fail, but in doing so, we prove that we understand the value of our talents because we aren't wasting them--we aren't so fearful that we become paralyzed.  Instead, we are using the gifts we have been entrusted with, sharing them with others and perhaps inspiring others to do the same, growing the "amount" of our talents even further.

And whether we fail or succeed, it's comforting to know that we aren't alone.  One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 37:23-24, which I stumbled upon in high school.  Searching for the verse on Google brought up slightly different versions, so I pulled out my Bible from those days, and the ribbon bookmark marked the page with that psalm.  It reads:

Those whose steps are guided by the Lord;
whose way God approves,
May stumble, but they will never fall,
for the Lord holds their hands.
- Psalm 37:23-24

And even better, I found a prayer card wedged between a couple other pages.  It seems perfect for this point in my life.  It's funny how that happens... how you can run across just what you need to hear, right when you need to hear it.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact
that I think that I am
following your will does not mean that
I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have this desire in all that
I am doing.
I hope that I never do anything apart
from this desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore, will I trust you always
though I may seem to be
lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for
you are ever with me,
And you will never leave
me to face my perils
alone.
- Thomas Merton

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