A Call to Develop our Talents! 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB – Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: A Call to develop our talents!
Point of Reflection: What are my talents and how am I developing them? Have I faced the temptation not to develop my God-given talents? In our religious communities or at our workplaces, how do we develop the talents of others? In our dioceses among priests, bishops, sisters, and brothers, how do we develop other people’s talents? Are we not jealous of other people’s talents? As parishioners in our parishes, how do we develop our talents and help the smooth running of the Church affairs? The gospel of today empowers us to faithfully use our talents and help in developing other people’s talents.
First Reading: Proverbs 31:10–13, 19–20, 30–31
Psalm: Psalm 128:1–5
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6
Gospel: Matthew 25:14–30
Sermon (Reflection): According to Sunday’s readings, preparation for Christ’s return involves the conscientious application of one’s talents and abilities throughout life on the earth. Like the perfect wife from Proverbs, Christians are to live in the attitude of the “fear of the Lord”, which implies working for domestic and societal harmony according to God’s commandments. Paul further as in the second reading enhanced this teaching by pointing to the three cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love as ways to live a sober and reflective life while waiting for Jesus’ return.
In the gospel, Jesus reveals that all people have been given abilities, gifts and talents of different types and in different measures.
Today’s gospel narrates the famous parable about the talents. Historically, what was this talent? The “talent” was a measure of weight equivalent to the sum of about six thousand denarii. A denarius was a coin and a standard sum paid for a day’s manual work. Thus, an ordinary person would have to work every single day for approximately sixteen years to earn one talent. The story in the gospel today features three servants who have been entrusted with huge amount of wealth. The servants were given these huge amounts of wealth in different measures, in accordance with their abilities, which demonstrates the master’s prudence and consideration. Importantly, they were not told what to do, but rather given freedom to show initiative and use the wealth as they wished.
As Christians, God has also given us talents according to our abilities, we need to wisely use them.
After returning from the journey, the master called the servants to account for their work. The first two had decided to put the riches received to maximum use, developing and multiplying what they were given. However, the third servant chose a different approach and he did nothing with his “talent”. He then attempted to justify his inaction by pointing to the demanding character of the master and his own fears. In effect, he blamed the master for his own failure. Do we blame others or make excuses because of our failures?
In the Gospel today ironically, making such excuses he condemned himself, by revealing that he knew well his master’s exacting and demanding character. Thus, the servant knew that hiding his talent was never an option and that doing so would land him in trouble with the master who expected initiative and results. Yet, the servant did not act on this knowledge. Instead, he chose to look for excuses for doing nothing, trying to outsmart his master. Because he consciously wasted his gift and tried to make it look as if it were somebody else’s fault, the master denounced him as a wicked and lazy servant.
Another important lesson is contained in the statement, “to all those who have, more will be given … but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away”. These words are drawn from Proverbs 9:9 and indicate that those who are faithful in their tasks will reap even greater benefits, while those who do nothing with their talents will lose even that which they were initially given. The example of the wicked servant perfectly illustrates that principle at work.
As Christians, the lesson we get from the parable of today is that a person must prepare for the end of life and judgment by using the abilities at his or her disposal, and developing them in the greatest measure possible.
Working with what one has been given will lead to growth, while inaction and wastefulness of one’s talents will lead to their inevitable loss, both in this life and in the next.
The first reading of today comes from the book of Proverbs, which, like the book of Wisdom, provides a set of instructions on wise living. The figure of Lady Wisdom appears in both books as God’s companion, who instructs and guides the faithful in the art of living well. However, the book of Proverbs introduces another character who exemplifies wisdom, a “capable” or perfect wife. The book closes with a poem dedicated to this wise woman, described as exemplary and so precious as to surpass in value all riches of the world.
This perfect woman is capable of maintaining her household in perfect order, as is symbolically portrayed by her skill in cloth-making – “she seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” Women, how do we maintain our relationships?
In wisdom literature, Lady Wisdom represents God’s design for human life. In the book of Proverbs, the perfect wife embodies Lady Wisdom in real life.
The second reading of today contains the closing section of 1 Thessalonians. Following his strong statements about the Christ’s return read last Sunday, Paul outlines the consequences of his teaching for the day-to-day life of his converts. He begins by emphasising that the timing of Christ’s return remains completely unknown. Using the image of “thief in the night” (cf. Matt 24:43; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 16:15), Paul indicates that Christ will return unexpectedly. Since this is the case, Christians ought to maintain a state of constant readiness and “sobriety”. He explains that being “sober” means staying away from dissolute and unreflective living “in the night”, and practising the virtues of faith, love and hope (1 Thessalonians 5:7-8). Thus, to prepare for welcoming Christ, one should orient his or her life towards the practice of vibrant religious life (faith), active charity (love) with a focus on life’s ultimate goal – salvation (hope).
Christian Act in Word of God “A need to develop our given talents”
Our talents are not only for our personal benefit but also for the good of the community, for uplifting others and helping countries become more prosperous, leading to greater growth for the entire continent. Working for the common good is an essential part of our presence in the world.
When we combine the development of our talents with our faith, then we can truly be assured of being reliable and trustworthy servants who are doing the will of their master while awaiting his return.
However, there is also a tendency in us to seek success and advancement bypassing the efforts which true development of talents requires. This tendency makes popular various shortcuts to instant progress, development and success. These shortcuts involve dishonesty, fraud, corruption and crime. Sometimes they also take from of magical practices. We need to ask ourselves as Christians, how do we use our talents?
Nowadays, there are many who claim to be prophets and miracle workers who offer quick fixes for promotion and financial prosperity without going through the normal process of skills development, patient planning, and hard work. Some preachers encourage the giving of tithes as a guarantee of blessings, promotion, and prosperity. All these are false and harmful beliefs that can be likened to that of the servant who refuses to do what is required, who instead hid his talent, just trying to get by in life by clever manoeuvrings. As it is, God gave us talents which have to be developed and used, this being the only way to truly grow and fulfil life’s purpose. As Christians, let us acknowledge our talents and use them wisely.
Action: I give thanks to God for my talents and ask for ways in which I can develop them for my own good and for the good of others
Prayer: Almighty Father, we thank you for the gift of talents you have given to each one of us. Open our hearts and minds to wisely and faithfully use our talents and gifts so that at the day of judgement, we may joyfully produce the fruits and profit we have made with the talents you entrusted to us. May the Holy Spirit empower us and lead us in using our talents wisely, we ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.
- Get ready the Lord is coming! First Sunday of Advent - December 2, 2023
- A Unique King with a Unique Kingdom: Christ the King - November 25, 2023
- A Call to Develop our Talents! 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 18, 2023