Sometimes the language develops in amazing twists and turns. Jesus uses the word talent in his parable. When the master entrusted his possessions to his servants, he gave two talents to one, to some others he gave more or less, to each according to his ability. In Jesus' days, a talent meant a huge amount of money, far above the riches any of his hearers could ever dream of. Today we do not speak of talents, but we count in millions and billions, more than anyone of us will have at hand. Yet the word talent remained in use, and now it refers to a particular ability a person may possess. Everyone is gifted in one way of another. Nobody is without any ability, and none possesses all of them.
In the parable Jesus speaks of money, but we are meant to hear him speaking of the gifts and talents God bestowed on each one in a personal measure. They are given to be used, to be developed, to yield worthwhile results. Some servants in the parable did well; they receive praise and their reward. But one did not, and he has a hard time to explain why he did not use what was entrusted to him.
I would like to underline two points with which he tries to make his apologies to the master. “Out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.”
Out of fear. Fear is never a good advisor. Fear is felt, and the stronger the feeling becomes, the more it paralyses the person in thinking, reflection and evaluation. The soberness of mind and judgement melts away, so that the result can be no more than a thoughtless reaction.
Therefore we have to look into ourselves, what fears have crept into our minds and hearts, and whether we are driven by strange anxieties. Such spontaneous fears drive us into forms of behaviour that we cannot explain in the end. Now the Old Testament states repeatedly: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Yes, as long as this fear of God is reverence and not panic-stricken trembling. To keep God in view, in the details of our daily lives, and to remain in the certitude that He called us into life and that we have to render an account whether we lived this life well, yes, that is the beginning of wisdom. And this wisdom will also assure us that God will never demand more than we are able to deliver.
The poor fellow who, out of fear, hid the talent of his master in the ground, did this not only from an emotional disorder, he is moreover plagued by a profound misunderstanding. This betrays itself when he speaks of “your talent”. “Here it is back.”
The other good and faithful servants had understod that the master had given them these talents, they remain the master's possessions in their trust, but they were given to them. They had received them as a gift from the master. The third one, however, would not recognise his talent as something truly given to him. He continued to see the gift as “your talent. Here it is back.” In his eyes, it was not a gift to him, he did not receive it as a gift, he refused to identify the master's affairs with his own. The split, yours there and mine here, dominates the situation; and what is yours is no concern of mine. “Your talent. Here it is back.”
I think we can sense the tragic error that is hidden in these words. God gives us life, health, abilities of many sorts, responsabilities and tasks; they are gifts, goods not of our own making, but now they are ours, truly ours, and we have to handle them as best as we can. There is no escape from what we are given, no hiding in the ground and in the end no “Your talent. Here it is back.”
Whether we think of the human abilites to create and nurture, to guide or invent, to care and love, to be loved and to share, to contribute to the well-being of others, to learn and to teach, to shine in public or to live in private retreat, - in every case we slide into darkness by not accepting them as gifts given to us, as our talents. And we maintain light in and around us when we accept them as gifts from God, as ours from him, and use and develop them without losing sight of God in our affairs. Saint Paul said very beautifully: “You, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness. … For all of you are children of light, and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness.” Amen.
Fr. Lenfers, Miss Afr.