'To everyone who has will be given more . . .' Sunday Reflections, 33rd Sunday Year A
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Gospel Matthew 25:14-30 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)I have a young friend who has been gifted by God with more than average intelligence. I'll call her 'Rosa', though that's not her real name. She 'breezed' through all her examinations from kindergarten to college. She was involved in legitimate extra-curricular activities at school, without neglecting her studies. While studying, she would readily help other students prepare for exams. Most importantly, she recognises that she has a gift from God. She doesn't hide behind a false humility nor does she boast about herself. She is now working with persons who have suffered deeply from the sins of others.
'It is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third is one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out. The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. "Sir," he said "you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made." His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master's happiness". Next the man with the two talents came forward. "Sir," he said "you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made." His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master's happiness". Last came forward the man who had the one talent. "Sir," said he "I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back." But his master answered him, "You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth."
An Soiscéal Matha 25:14-30 (Gaeilge, Irish)
San am sin dúirt Íosa lena dheisceabail “duine a bhí ag dul ar an gcoigríoch: ghlaoigh sé ar a sheirbhísigh agus thaobhaigh leo a mhaoin; thug cúig thallann do dhuine acu, a dó do dhuine eile, aon tallann amháin do dhuine eile – do gach duine de réir an chumais a bhí ann – agus d’fhág an tír. Ní dhearna fear na gcúig thallann aon mhoill gan cur chun gnó leo agus cúig cinn eile a ghnóthú. Mar an gcéanna d’fhear an dá thallann; ghnóthaigh seisean dhá cheann eile. Ach chuaigh fear na haon tallainne amháin agus rinne poll sa talamh agus chuir sé airgead a mháistir i bhfolach. Seal fada ina dhiaidh sin, tháinig máistir na seirbhíseach sin ag réiteach cuntas leo. Tháinig fear na gcúig thallann ina láthair agus thairg cúig thallann eile aige chuige agus ar seisean: ‘A mháistir, d’fhág tú cúig thallann ar iontaoibh agamsa; seo duit cúig cinn eile a ghnóthaigh mé.’ Labhair a mháistir leis: ‘Go han-mhaith; dea-sheirbhíseach iontaofa thú: bhí tú iontaofa i mbun beagán nithe; ceapfaidh mé i do cheann thú ar mhórán; gabh isteach in aoibhneas do thiarna.’ Tháinig ina láthair ansin fear an dá thallann: ‘A mháistir,’ ar seisean, ‘d’fhág tú dhá thallann ar iontaoibh agamsa: seo duit dhá cheann eile a ghnóthaigh mé.’ Labhair a mháistir leis: ‘Go han-mhaith: dea-sheirbhíseach iontaofa thú; bhí tú iontaofa i mbun beagán nithe; ceapfaidh mé i do cheann thú ar mhórán: gabh isteach in aoibhneas do thiarna.’ Tháinig ina láthair ansin an fear a fuair an t-aon tallann amháin: ‘A mháistir,’ ar seisean, ‘bhí aithne agam ort gur duine crua thú, ag baint fómhair san áit nár chuir tú síol, agus ag cnuasach as an áit nach ndearna tú scaipeadh; agus le barr eagla, chuaigh mé ag cur do thallainne i bhfolach sa talamh. Seo duit í: tá do chuid féin agat.’ Dúirt a mháistir leis á fhreagairt: ‘Drochsheirbhíseach leisciúil thú! Bhí a fhios agat go mbainim fómhar san áit nár chuir mé síol agus go gcnuasaím as an áit nach ndearna mé scaipeadh: ba cheart duitse mar sin mo chuid airgid a chur chun lucht gaimbín, agus nuair a thiocfainn gheobhainn mo chuid féin ar ais le hús. Bainigí de an tallann agus tugaigí í don duine a bhfuil na deich dtallann aige, óir, gach aon duine a mbíonn ní aige, tabharfar dó agus beidh fuílleach aige, ach an té a bhíonn gan ní, fiú amháin a mbíonn aige bainfear de é. Agus an seirbhíseach úd gan aird, caitear amach sa dorchadas é: is ann a bheidh gol agus díoscán fiacla.’
I have a young friend in the Philippines, Richelle (above), who has been gifted by God with more than average intelligence. She 'breezed' through all her examinations from kindergarten to college where she graduated summa cum laude. A few months alter she came second in the country in the licensure examination for social workers. She was involved in legitimate extra-curricular activities at school, without neglecting her studies. While studying, she would readily help other students prepare for exams. Most importantly, she recognises that she has a gift from God. She doesn't hide behind a false humility nor does she boast about herself. She is now working with persons who have suffered deeply from the sins of others.
When I was in Cebu I came to know a young man named Isabelo. Unlike Richelle, he had an intellectual disability because he was born with trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome). However, Isabelo had a special gift for the Faith and Light community to which he and I belonged - he had a great memory for names and would always remind us that so-and-so had not yet arrived.
I met a young girl of about ten or eleven from Hong Kong at the international Faith and Light pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2001 - the movement grew out of a pilgrimage to Lourdes for persons with intellectual disabilities in 1971 - whose name I cannot remember, to my shame, but whose trusting purity made a profound impact on me. In the Irish language such a person is called 'duine le Dia', 'a person with God'. This young girl was truly such.
She and Isabelo were unaware of the specail gift that God had given to each of them, but others enabled those gifts to be shared with the wider community. Rosa is very much aware of being gifted by God and consciously, unselfishly, joyfully and humbly shares her gifts with others.
We sometimes distort the image of Jesus by describing him as 'meek and mild'. This is certainly part of God who became Man. But in today's parable he is scathing of those who don't use the gifts that God has given them. A talent in Biblical times was a container of gold or silver but has come to mean an ability or gift from God that a person has.
Some have the gift of spotting and encouraging in others gifts they don't have themselves. My father, a carpenter, rarely read books but when I was still in kindergarten he gave me a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island that he had received as a child. It wasn't a simplified edition but unabridged. I read it with joy. The Sisters in the kindergarten I went to had alreadly spotted that my reading ability was way ahead of that of my classmates and used to give me stampetas or holy cards as a reward for reading something normally difficult for a young child.
Soemtimes we discover a gift we have because others see it first. It was only after my ordination, while studying in the USA, that I realised I have a certain ability to listen to persons. This was when individuals, some much older than me, came to me because they needed someone to listen to. I became aware of this while spending most of the summer of 1969 in a sprawling rural parish in Kentucky, where there were very few Catholics. The parish priest used to get college students from many parts of the USA to work in various summer projects, such as camps for poor children, Bible school, home-to-home visitation, and preaching tours, the latter with seminarians. Fr Ralph Beiting had a marvellous gift for organising and inspiring young people,but he wasn't a person you would go to if you wanted someone to listen to you. However, it was his giftst that made it possible for me to discover one of mine.
The two young Irish diocesan priests who founded the Columbans, Fr Edward Galvin (later Bishop of Nancheng, China) and Fr John Blowick, had very different gifts. Fr Galvin was an 'action man' while Fr Blowick was a brilliant scholar who also knew how to deal with bishops and with authorities in the Vatican. Neither on his own would have got anywhere with a new missionary society. Together, they used the speific gifts God had given each to further the mission Jesus gave the Church, to preach the Gospel to every creature.
On His Blindness, John Milton (1608-1674)
"When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"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. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
English poet John Milton tried to come to terms with the blindness that came upon him. Many older persons, or those who have been struck with a severe illness or disability, go through a similar struggle. 'Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best'. Fr Edward Allen was a saintly Columban I was blessed to have lived with from 1997 till 2000. Over the years he had helped many young women discover ther vocation to religious life. Late in 1998 he had a severe stroke which made him almost totally dependent on others. His mind and his sense of humour remained intact, though his speech wasn't clear. He was 92 when he got the stroke but for the remaining two-and-a-half years of his life he was giving strength to the young and healthy nurses who were taking care of him because of his deep faith in Jesus Christ.
God has given each of us a unique set of gifts. We glorify and honour him by racknowledging them and using them joyfully in the service of others, and especially by helping others discover their gifts.