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Spiritual Reflection – Pentecost 24

Spiritual Reflection – Talents

It is happy accident that, since the fifteenth century, the English word talent has meant “giftedness” or “skill.” In the ancient world it was a measure for precious metals such as gold or silver. Whether George Bernard Shaw was correct in saying that a talent was sufficient to buy a racehorse, it certainly represented a considerable sum. 

The parable of the Talents makes the point that each of us is richly talented, though in different degrees. Just as it does not make much difference whether you have one billion dollars in the bank or five billion, so the value of our particular talents cannot be assessed by comparing them with what others have received. They have a unique and intrinsic value in themselves, and they form part of a total reality in which different forms of giftedness cohere to produce a wonderful and many-coloured result. We are part of Christ’s Body; in that body, each member has different gifts and different functions, but all jointly contribute to the glory of the whole. 

In the parable, the servant who fails to make use of the gifts given is cast into exterior darkness. Perhaps this is our most significant sin: not to make use of the gifts we have received in order to produce a good result, not just for ourselves but for all. Why do we fail to use our gifts? I think it is not usually out of perversity or passive aggression. Sometimes it is because we fail to recognise them and develop them. Equally often it is out of timidity or a lack of appropriate boldness. 

It is the role of the Christian community to recognise the giftedness of its members, to provide scope for its exercise, to aid its development, and to ensure that it operates in harmony. If this happens, then the world will be a better place and the gifts of God will not be allowed to lie idle. (November 14, 1993.)

Michael Casey. Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations for Every Day of the Year. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2019.

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