WE’VE heard inspiring stories of men and women in our present time who have overcome their physical disabilities and live their lives to the fullest. The stories of men like Nick Vujicic, the Australian who was born without hands, feet, and legs, but goes around the world spreading hope and encouraging others to trust God and His plan in their lives. Or women like Mayzoon Zayid, the Palestinian-American, who was born with cerebral palsy that makes her body shake all the time, but earns a living as a comedian-actress, motivating people not to give up using their God-given talents despite all odds.
These are stories of people who remind us that life is worth living in spite of its challenges, struggles, and mysteries. They are stories that make us grateful to God for whatever life he gave us —not living in resentments or dwelling on one’s misfortunes, but using one’s talents and time to support oneself and other people.
The Gospel this Sunday, on the Parable of the Talents, gives us this message. It tells us not only to use our talents well, but also to be bold, wise, and unafraid to take a risk.
The parable is the story of a man who called his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third, one — to each according to his ability. After a long time, the one who received five talents came back with five more and the one who got two talents came back with two more.
To the master’s dismay, the one who received one talent returned with no additional profit. Thinking that he was smart and afraid of the demands of his master, this person merely buried his treasure in the ground and left it there without any profit.
His master got mad at him, calling him a wicked and lazy servant. He told him that he could have put his money in the bank so that it could have earned interest. So in his anger, the master took his talent and gave it to another person.
In Greek, the word talanton (talent) means a huge monetary unit of silver coinage amounting to something like a lifetime’s earnings. So, in the parable, the man who received a mere one talent did not receive anything less at all. It was the money of a lifetime. Still, he did not see the value of this gift but lived in laziness and indifference.
The Gospel’s message in the light of this context is clear. God gave us only one life to live, and we better make the most out of it, not living in selfishness and pride, but in generosity, gratitude and kindness. The Lord wants us all to prosper and to be fulfilled by growing in our skills and talents and sharing them with the world.
Many times, this takes a great deal of courage, patience, and perseverance. But with faith in God, we will realize that all things are possible. God is behind us always to encourage us and trust in the abilities he gave us!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.