Matthew 25:14-30, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
We hear from the Gospel for today what is commonly known as the Parable of the Talents. It begins with a man going away on a journey, but before he leaves, he calls his servants and entrusts his property to them. To the first he gives five talents, to the second two talents, and to the third he gives a single talent.
How much is one talent? One writer estimates that a single talent is equivalent to a large sum of money, perhaps as much as US$ 1,000,000 in today’s currency. In the Philippines, that is about Php 51,000,000, depending on the exact exchange rate. The point that we do not want to miss is this: the servant who received a single talent had more than enough to make something out of what was entrusted to him.
Like the other stories of Jesus, the Parable of the Talents can be unsettling because at first glance it does not come across as a spiritual story. On the contrary, it sounds more like a business pitch by a CEO motivating his people to achieve targets and bring in more profit. Better incentives will come to those who produce results!
What spiritual lesson then can we derive from the Parable? If by deeper reflection we are able to pierce through our initial impressions, I believe we can find here two reminders: a presumption on the one hand, and an exhortation on the other.
The presumption is that we all have received blessings from the Lord. In different measures, true, but always sufficient enough for every person to achieve his salvation. These blessings are not in any way tailored according to our worthiness. Even before we begin to deserve it, God has already blessed us. St Paul would say that even when we were yet sinners, God already loved us (cf. Rom 5:8).
Alongside the presumption however is a strong exhortation. In the light of the approaching end of the current liturgical year, this exhortation should be given emphasis for our serious consideration.
What is the exhortation? It is to put our gifts to good use. It is to acknowledge that the Lord has been kind and generous to us, and to go out of our way to utilize whatever we received from Him so that it will benefit not just ourselves. These blessings and gifts that we have received are meant to benefit others as well.
More and more as I get older, I appreciate the profound spiritual truth in the song of the Jesuit priest Fr. Hontiveros. “Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang”. We cannot just receive and receive, and keep everything to ourselves. We are to be held accountable for the way we use our gifts and our resources, as to whether or not we have employed them to ease the burdens of others and to soothe the pains of the world.
I was deeply moved by the prayer shared by a 75-year old priest-alumnus during a recent homecoming I attended. Frail and pale, now officially on retirement, surprisingly, for whatever is left of his borrowed time, he asked not for rest or relaxation. In his prayer he begged instead that the Lord would continue to use him: “Ipa-obra mo pa ako Panginoon”. Inside a fading body is a robust soul who desires to use well the gift of life and calling that he was generously given.
In this mass, we thank the Lord for his kindness to us, and we beg of him to inspire us to be generous with our gifts to others.