Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Yr A, November 19, 2023

Some people claim they’re mad at God. For one lady, it was because God hasn’t heard her prayer to win the state lottery—even though she hasn’t for once purchased the lottery ticket. You see, you can’t just wish for stuff to happen and it happens. God isn’t going to spoon-feed you, give you a nice shower and tuck you to bed. You must apply yourself, too.

       Experts say that many use as little as only 10 percent of their natural endowments. Imagine how much better we’ll be if we try to apply even half of our talent. Who would tolerate their vehicle operating at 10 percent of its capacity? Talents are given to be used and not abused, hidden away, locked inside a hutch or buried in a clean cloth. Today’s parable asks us to be positive, be proactive, take action and avoid fearful or lazy inaction. As an eschatological parable, heaven is presented as the prize for our stewardship of God’s gifts, not just idle faith. The motif of this story coupled with the use of the word “talent” in the storyline led to the revision in English language of the use of the term “talent” to describe natural ability or endowment. Talent originally meant “a measure of weight.” A talent, as used in the passage, is equivalent to 15 years’ wage—thus a huge sum. Not a single one of us is without a talent, which we ought to put to use by making the choice to apply ourselves.

The Master in today’s parable praises the first and second servants for using their talent but reprimands the third for inaction, which he described as wicked and lazy. But let’s examine this little guy who received one talent. From the beginning of the story, we learn that he wasn’t a genius, but a man of little ability. Therefore, the Master, not wanting to leave him empty-handed, gave him one talent, corresponding to his ability. Observe that his gift was small, making his task the easiest and his responsibility the least. His neglect is therefore reckoned most inexcusable. About him, Fulton Sheen says: the refusal to help because we cannot be leaders; the refusal to do anything out of the miserable fear of being mediocre or because we cannot do much is what is called in spirituality—acedia or spiritual laziness. Acedia impoverishes life at its core, resulting in crass tepidity about loving God and neighbor. Laziness in doing good is equivalent to premature death. To withhold or neglect any help we can give because it won’t be much is to cuddle misery and hopelessness. Today’s neglect cannot be compensated tomorrow without neglecting tomorrow’s work. If violence slays thousands, supine negligence slays even millions (Sheen).

Are you a young man who would love to be a priest but afraid you cannot preach like Bishop Barron? Do you know a woman who loves to sing but won’t join the choir because she’s afraid she’s not gifted with a golden voice like Celine Dion? Such do-nothings are the first to wickedly complain about how horribly the choir sings or how badly priests preach. Like the lazy servant, they become wicked the moment they start blaming or blurting off accusations, like: “I know you’re a demanding man.” The sharp rebuke against the lazy servant is a warning to us that if we leave our garden untended it would be overgrown with weeds. Also, we never receive new graces until we have used up those we have.

Did you notice that the Master rewarded the servants not in proportion to the talents they made? Rather, because they made effort, each received the same compliment: “Well done...enter into your Master’s joy” (Matt 25:21). The great Oklahoman, Booker T. Washington is quoted as saying: “Success is to be measured not so much by the position one reached in life as by the obstacles one overcame while trying to succeed.” Apply yourself, use your talent in gratitude to the Giver, and throw in the net for a catch. The Lord will grant you increase, bringing you home to heaven.

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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