We are gradually coming to the end of the Liturgical Year, it actually concludes next Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King. Over the last few weeks the Gospel texts have been increasingly stressing the importance of being ready for Christ’s Second Coming. This is appropriate since on the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year we look at the Last Judgement.
Today, however, we are given the Parable of the Talents for our consideration and this too puts an emphasis on the Final Judgement and how that judgement will be based on the way we have used the gifts that God has given us.
This parable at first sight appears to be about money and investments. However, it would be a mistake to see this text as upholding a capitalistic view point. Of course, a talent is very valuable sum in gold or silver weighing about forty kilogrammes. According to Wikipedia, one talent would be worth about £1.25 million today. Nevertheless, in the parable the talents are intended to represent spiritual riches and not merely material wealth.
God has given us many things, not least the gift of life itself. He has placed us in loving families and in the particular circumstances of our life. It would be true to say that here in the middle of London we are, compared to the vast majority of the people in our world, living a rather privileged life. I’m not saying that our lives are always easy, but not many are living mired in poverty or experiencing severe economic need.
God has bestowed many graces on us. We have access to education, to employment, to leisure opportunities and to the possibility of fulfilling relationships and for all this we are extremely grateful.
But God has also bestowed on us numerous spiritual gifts, but we are often not quite as aware of these gifts as we should be. We don’t always realise that the ability to pray and to worship God is a real gift and maybe one that we don’t use as well as we ought.
Perhaps too we don’t appreciate how many other spiritual gifts we possess. Things such as reverence and healing, faith and insight, the ability to do penance and to meditate, the talent for exercising mercy and for giving hope to others; all these are spiritual gifts and many of us possess these gifts in greater or lesser measure.
An important spiritual gift is that of teaching. This is especially vital for those who are parents because they have the responsibility of handing on the faith to their children. But as with many of the spiritual gifts, if we feel we don’t have much ability in a particular area we ought to realise that we can develop and extend our ability. As they say, practice makes perfect. The more we use a particular gift the better we become at exercising it.
The spiritual gifts, while they help and benefit us, are principally a gift to the whole Church. We need to realise that these gifts are given to us in order that we share them. To give an example, some people are particularly good at adoration; they can spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament deep in prayer without any difficulty. Others of us don’t have the same level of patience and cannot sit still for so long.
But those with the gift for adoration are in a certain sense exercising it on behalf of us all. Their quiet hours of prayer and meditation benefit the whole parish and indeed help to change the world around us. We express our gratitude to them that they are exercising their gift and we feel enriched in the knowledge that they are spending time in adoration for the benefit of us all.
At the end of the parable the master commands that the talent that was buried in the ground should be given to the one who had the five talents and had made five more. He then says, ‘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.’
This seems to us to be a bit unfair, that the one who has plenty should get even more. But we have to remember that we are dealing not with money but with spiritual gifts. And actually, this seems to correspond with reality since we often come across people who seem to be overloaded with gifts. Certain people seem to be overendowed with gifts while others seem to have very few or even none at all.
Of course, what we must realise is that in the beginning those individuals may not have been given more than anyone else but maybe it is that they have simply used their talents and gifts. They have used and developed them and on the way perhaps discovered other talents that they didn’t even know they had.
There is a lesson for us all here and that is to use whatever it is that we have been given. The more we utilise them then the more we will develop and therefore multiply our talents. You may not think that you have a gift for prayer or healing, a gift for teaching or communicating the Gospel. And the reason you don’t think that you have these gifts is because you haven’t used them.
By applying ourselves and actually doing the praying, or healing, or teaching, or communicating the Gospel we might surprise ourselves and discover that we really do have a God-given gift for one or other of these things.
The fact that we are here in Church each Sunday is a sign that we have a deep affinity with the things of the Spirit. Our presence here week-in-week-out is a sign that we certainly are endowed with some spiritual gifts. Perhaps by getting more involved we might be able to develop these spiritual gifts and so enrich ourselves and this community.
We rely on a lot of different talents within the parish. We need singers, readers, teachers, servers, flower arrangers, cleaners, maintenance men, collectors, counters, secretaries as well as those who are able to take on the role of catechist or animator of different groups within the parish. We need too, those who come to daily mass and who sustain us with their prayers. We also very much need the sick and incapacitated who also enrich us through their suffering and their prayers.
Most vital of all are all those, especially parents, who are involved in handing on the faith to the next generation. It is not easy to answer the searching questions of the young but it is a vitally important work.
Thankfully it is obvious to me that there are plenty of people within this parish who are blessed with many spiritual gifts and who put them to good use. And by reflecting on these things perhaps more of us will decide to do what we can to utilise the gifts and talents we possess and put them to the service of our parish community.