33th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel – Mt 25:14-30

" Parable of the Talents – Using God’s Gifts "

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 13th November 2011

I would like to begin by highlighting certain basic points of the Parable of the Talents that we just heard proclaimed.  First, the Master distributing different talents to his servants symbolises God giving each person and thus each of us different graces and blessings in life.  Second, if we respond promptly and responsibly, we will be rewarded by God as His good and faithful servants of God, but if we are irresponsible and do nothing with the graces and blessings that God has given us, then as “wicked and lazy” servants, we will bring punishment upon ourselves.

Let us next note that the reward for being good, faithful and responsible servants is not to sit back, relax and retire, but the reward of being given even greater tasks.  But, if we are not responsible with the graces and blessings that God has given us, then our rightly deserved punishment would simply be that God will take away the graces and blessings that He has given us.

                        

In short, the basic challenge of today’s Gospel of the “Parable of the talents” is that when we love God and live responsibly in His ways by making full use of the blessings and gifts that He has given us, then as our relationship with Him deepens, He will entrust us we even greater responsibilities; and this we know is an honour and privilege; not a burden.

When Mother Teresa serves the poorest of the poor in Calcutta and the world, and when her responsibilities increase and when she has to serve even more people who are entrusted to her, she accepts her greater responsibilities as a “reward” of her faithfulness in her service of God and never as additional burdens of her congregation and sisters.  Likewise, when a mother is blessed with more children because of her love for them, then her added responsibilities of having to make the needed sacrifices and care for her children is truly to be seen as part of God’s blessings on her and never a punishment from God.

On the contrary, if we do nothing and take for granted the precious graces and blessings that God has given us, then one day we may find ourselves having to cope and face the trials of life on our own because by burying the blessings of God instead of using them to the full, we have chosen to distance or worse still, cut ourselves from our relationship with God.

Thus, the bottom line and the basic question of today’s Parable of the Talents that you and I need to ask our self personally is, “Who is God to me?  How much do I love Him?  How do I perceive and relate to Him?  Do we perceive God like the servant who sees Him as a “hard man who is demanding and thus, are fearful of Him?  Or, are we more like the first two servants who have a good and healthy relationship with God and are filled with the zeal of serving Him and using the blessings He has given us to the full?

         

There is a science fiction story in “Robot Dreams,” entitled “The Ugly Little Boy” that I would like to adapt here as our illustration.  This is a story of a boy of four who existed 40,000 years ago, but was brought back to life through a time machine to our present world by some scientists who wants to study him physiologically, psychologically and intellectually.  The scientists call him the “Ape Boy” as he looked like an ape with bulging skull and is bent forward in his posture; he also has bony ridges above his eyes and a wide mouth that protrudes prominently below his flattened nose, and the like.

Edith, was employed as a nurse to take care of this “ape boy” whom she named Timmie.  In caring for Timmie, Edith taught him how to speak, play and read.  She also often had to cuddle Timmie and sang him to sleep to calm his fears, as Timmie had been torn from his own family and made an orphan in a strange world 40,000 years ahead of his own.

One day, Timmie asked Edith, “Can I call you Mother?”  Edith asked him, how did you know about mothers?  Timmie said, “Well, Jerry his playmate had told him about his own mother.” “But what’s a mother, Edith asked Timmie. “A mother is someone who takes care of you and does good things for you.”  That made Edith feel very good; she was the mother of the ugliest boy in the world.

Edith had developed a special love for Timmie over the three years she had to care for him.  And so, when the scientists told Edith that they had to send Timmie back into his past, Edith was heartbroken by the news.  So, Edith tried to take Timmie out of the machine into our world, but the uncaring scientists objected and prevented her from doing so.  Edith then picks Timmie in her arms and pulls the time switch; she was then transported with her ugly little boy back into the past.  

             

A mother’s love reflects how God loves us.  As in Edith, it is a love that truly cares and sees beyond the surface and reaches into the real person inside.  A mother doesn’t see ugliness, but the child she loves beneath the ugliness that others who do not have such love, will not be able to see.  To Edith, Timmie is not an ugly ape boy, but a human being to be loved.  Every time Timmie needed Edith to embrace him to feel the love of a mother, Edith would do so and say to him, “Timmie, I love you and nothing and no one can hurt you.”  (Re: The Chain of Love, by Joseph A.Galdon,S.J.; pp 106-108).

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Edith’s love for Timmie, is only a pale reflection of how much God loves you and me.  We are each called to be more like the first two servants of the Parable of the Talents who recognises how God’s love for us is infinite, totally unconditional and warmly personal.  And as such, we are each called to use all of God’s graces and blessings to the full, to serve Him in our daily living.

In contrast, we are never to fall into the myth of thinking like the third servant who perceives God as a “hard, cold, exacting and punishing God, who reaps where He has not sown,” and thus reacts in great fear and ends up burying the blessings that God has given him in the talents.  One of the greatest mistake in life is to think that we cannot make a difference to people’s lives because we are not talented or gifted enough.

                        

When Mother Theresa visited on for the cities in the United States to set up a Missionary of Charities community to help the poor, the Mayor asked her, “Mother there are thousands of poor people in these slums, what can your small community of sisters do?  Mother Theresa answered, “One at a time.”  Every one of us without exception is blessed abundantly by a God who understands us personally and intimately, and knows how to give us the graces and blessings that are in accordance to our ability, as Jesus in today’s Gospel assures us.

The amount and type of graces and blessings that God gives to you and to me are surely different because each of us are different. I am a priest and you are a parent, a young professional or a student or a domestic helper and the like.  We are all uniquely different, but yet we are all foundationally the same; we each have the same identity as a child of God.

      

Thus, as a child, like Timmie in our story, we are each called to open our hearts fully to God who loves us totally and unconditionally.  We are each called to allow Him to love us so totally that we will each respond wholeheartedly like the first two servants of today’s Parable who lived responsibly in making full use of the five and two talents that the Master, and God has given to them and to us.

To try to give the excuse that we are not good enough, or not holy enough or not ready yet, is to respond like the third servant who buried God’s blessings in the ground and allowed it to rot and thus eventually deaden our relationship with God the Master of our lives.  The choice is ours!  Jesus says, “For everyone who has, will be given more; and he will have more than enough.  But, from the many who has not, even what he has will be taken away

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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