What have I made of myself?
As we come to the end of the Church’s liturgical year, our Gospel readings are parables about preparing to meet the Lord with a story of how we have loved and lived. For example, last week, the parable was about the ten bridesmaids of whom five were wise and five were foolish. This week, the Gospel is about the talents and what three individuals did with them. Next week, the Gospel is about the separation of the sheep and the goats. The emphasis in all these parables is not so much about the end of the world, but rather about teaching us to live in a responsible and faithful manner right here and now because there is going to be an accounting of each of us at the end of our lives. The question will be, how did we live and what did we do with our talents?
There is a common saying in America, “You can be anything you want to be.” This simply implies that you can achieve anything provided you work hard enough. This is meant to encourage young people to aim high in life. This sounds great, but in practice is unrealistic. A better statement would be, “You can be whatever your talents and abilities allow you to become.” In today’s parable, three individuals are given a different number of talents. Two of them increased what they had, while one did nothing with his talent and was condemned. This parable acknowledges that we are not born equally talented.
When Jesus talks about talents, we must not think he means a musical talent or a football talent. Such talents are important but are outrageously over-valued and over-rewarded. Ultimately, it is important to develop and use our talents, but more importantly, to develop our character. Talent is formed quietly, while character is formed in midst of the world. When a person develops him or herself and also his or her talent, then a kind of wholeness results. The woman we meet in the first reading could hardly be described as being either successful or famous. Yet, she is portrayed as a model. The reason is because of the kind of person she is: industrious, caring, wise and virtuous. I am sure that she had her faults and weaknesses, but in the light of her goodness they were not worth mentioning. She appeared to have possessed something more valuable than wealth or beauty. She possessed a loving heart. She put her talents in the service of her family and her neighbors and the poor. Thus, she had the respect of the entire community. She is the example of someone who has developed her talents and her character.
St. Paul in today’s second reading says that we should stay awake and alert to the ways we can serve the Lord. As we look over the past year, we all had lots of opportunities to do just that. Maybe we realize that we have not used our talents fully. Nevertheless, another liturgical year is ahead of us and we will have more chances to accomplish our talents for ourselves, for the church and for everyone around us.
Life is God’s gift to us. What we do with our life is our gift to God. When we use them in the service of the Lord, they become blessings.
One way we can develop our character is to listen carefully to the movement of the Spirit within us, nudging us towards a specific vocation or calling. Our response to that vocation will line up with God’s will for us, help us use our God-given talents in a way that will tap our full potential, and fill us with peace and joy in serving others.
By Susai Jesu, OMI
OMI Lacombe Canada Vocation Team