Our talents bring us out of darkness, into the light of community, where we receive blessings as we contribute and empower others
The last time I preached on these readings, I was worried about gender sensitivities. Today I feel positive about it: it identifies the injustices against some women, today, and calls for a fair share for them. Many countries in the world are struggling to ensure that women are paid the same as men for the same work. But for all of us, the First Reading challenges both men and women: are we acknowledging and praising those who contribute to our well-being?
Perhaps, in Kenya, some ladies would like to change the first line and say: A perfect husband, who can find him? But, it’s better to focus on the deeper meaning: do I appreciate my partner(s), or do I take more than a fair share? Do I use people? In the family, do I take without consultation? Do I presume that I’m entitled to something without discussing?
This does not have to be financial, but even the credit for a job well done. It’s sad to hear that, even in Universities, some senior scientists or professors, use the work done by bright young scientists to promote their own ego and reputation, without acknowledging (or minimising) the brilliant, and often essential, breakthroughs and data generated by others.
By chance I saw a story on the Australian news that because people are living longer, there’s an increase in elder abuse by their children, as they grow impatient to inherit their wealth.
Are we any better (us ordinary people in the world)? Someone said it well, when they said: behind every ‘successful’ person is a saint: a wife, husband, parents or friend behind the scenes who keep the publically ‘successful’ person in good health and mentally able to carry the stress.
No one can say they do not come from a home: the home may be with a partner and children; or may be a ‘home’ of friends scattered around the streets where I live. And each of those people contribute to my success in small or big ways.
Usually, home is where we are told to pull our head in; or that certain behaviours are not acceptable. It’s not easy to accept, but it is a vital reality check that every person needs. As someone wisely explained about the courage parents need: they need to risk being hated by their children, for a time, so they do not destroy themselves. Later they say thank you.
Most Oblates are aware of the vital role played by Fr Henri Tempier OMI, the first companion of St Eugene de Mazenod. He was the quiet achiever, and the one courageous enough to tell St Eugene to ‘pull his head in’; enough! We all need friends and family like that.
Although home, school, work and community life help keep us behaving well, they are also vital to help develop our talents: even by pushing us out into the cold, so we stop being lazy!
The parable of the talents reminds each of us that my talents are given to us for both self-development and, equally importantly, for developing the community/ society where we live.
And, our talents only development and increase through activity in the community: we owe the community a debt of gratitude; which is paid by our contributions for it’s benefit.
It’s sad and disturbing to see the number of people, especially young people, falling into depression and developing mental health challenges. Perhaps there’s a link between the pre-occupation of “my talents for me” and the increase in mental health challenges?
Laziness leads to darkness. And St Paul rightly reminds us in the Second Reading: “we do not belong to the night or to darkness.” God gives us talents to bring us out of darkness, into the light of the community: where we receive blessings as we contribute and empower others.
“…but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Here, we are reminded that if we are lazy, and expect others to work while we do little, then we will lose everything: everything means our peace, the meaning of life, friends, etc. It’s true we can lose material things, but they are less valuable than our mental health.
Our world has become so saturated with the idea that money can make us happy. But the people who mean the most to us, usually, are not those who have amazing talents
(in a secular/ worldly sense), but those who make us laugh, those who waste time with us.
Jesus praised the widow who gave the smallest coin as an offering, because she gave what she had. That’s all God expects of us: and true friends/ spouses understand what we can/ can’t do. To help us stay honest, friends and family sometimes yell at us and tell us to stop being lazy!
I’m sure God uses those moments to push us to develop our talents more. As Max Lucado said: “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way… He wants you to be just like Jesus.” We are ‘a work in progress’, so let’s be firm, but gentle, on each other.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI