This Sunday’s Gospel is the Parable of Talents from the Book of Matthew 25: 14-30. Here, we see a master give three servants talents. To one he gives five talents, to the next he gives two, and to the last, one. Talents in this case are similar to money. They represent wealth in great amounts.
It should have been seen as an honor to receive such talents, but we know not all three servants saw it as such. When the master returns, the first and second servants have doubled their gifts. They return ten and four talents respectively. They are invited to share in the master’s joy and to be given more. The last servant however has not increased what he has been given. Instead of taking responsibility, he turns his lack of return on the master and says,
Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back
The servant buried his master’s gift. He hid it away, and then disparaged the master, making his own lack of initiative seem the fault of the one who had given him the gift. He failed to take responsibility but blamed the master instead.
How many times do we do the same? How many ways do we hide gifts we are given? Maybe we do not want to be seen as different. Maybe we are afraid. Maybe we are simply selfish and do not want to share. Our reasons for not multiplying what we have been given are many, but in the end, I believe they can be condensed into two: a lack of trust in our Master and a lack of gratitude in our hearts.
Self-Protective Mode vs. Reach For Anyone Mode
Talents spoken of in the New Testament were physical, but Jesus came to give us greater treasures than these. He came to give us forgiveness and mercy. He came to teach us about unconditional, sacrificial Love and redemption. He came to offer us an eternity with Him, His Father, and His Holy Ghost. He paid our entry fee, but we still need to come to the gate. We still need to take action. We cannot act by burying what He has given in a field or in the depths of our hearts.
The Gospels tell us the treasures of God are not stored on Earth but are found in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gives us the Parable of the Talents so we can begin to recognize shares of treasure The Master gives His servants on Earth. As we recognize these gifts we can begin to know the depth of His Love and invite others to share in the endless treasures of Heaven. In fact, the is the only way to get to Heaven is through the Love of Jesus and sharing His endless treasures. We cannot get there by selfishly holding what He gives close to our hearts. We must wisely, lovingly, and courageously share mercy, honor, and love with Him and with those He Loves.
When we consider what sharing our talents means, our wounds threaten to derail us. Our instinct is to do one of two things. We tend to curl up in self-protective mode or reach out to share the wrong “talents” with the wrong people.
Self-protective mode shuts single parents off from the world. It comes in the guise of raising children, working endless hours, and utter exhaustion. It comes in the hardness of our hearts that have been burned and in the fearful timidity of one who does not know her worth. In these cases, it seems the safer and perhaps wiser path is to isolate and steer clear of those who would make us vulnerable. While this seems to work in the short term, it adds to the epidemic of loneliness seen in single parents today.
On the other side of the coin, is the urge to share life with someone who thinks we are special. We want to share laughter and pain. We want to share stimulating conversation and quiet moments of peace. We want to share God and hope for a future. Sometimes this leads to detrimental relationships and ungodly unions. This sometimes leads to substance misuse, cohabitation, abuse, and further heartbreak. Our intentions are understandable, but they are not of God. Our earthly desires interfere with our ability to recognize the Master’s Voice and implement His Will over our own. We do not just hide the talents He gives, we lose them and assume they are gone forever.
Spiritual Warfare Means Thanksgiving Over Buried Talents
We are in a spiritual battle. In 1884 Pope Leo XIII overheard a conversation between Jesus and satan in which satan bragged that he could destroy the Church in 100 years. In the early 1900’s, Jesus told Saint Faustina the final battle between Him and satan would be over Marriage and family. We see evidence of satan’s war against God’s Beloved all around us. Single parents live as refugees in this war. We are cast aside by loved ones and often by the Church and society as a whole and left to struggle alone. Then we are judged for failing in our struggles. It is part of the reason so many divorce victims commit suicide.
But there is hope!
The world tells single parents they should find a replacement relationship. It seems to assert that being wanted by man gives us worth. For all the applause the feminist movement gives itself, it seems not much has changed since Old Testament days. Back then, women belonged to men and were required to produce a male heir to find meaning and value. Life was often not much freer for men in those days either. They had to take on a deceased brother’s wife and assume responsibility for producing a male heir with that wife. The heir would then be considered his deceased brother’s son, which meant, in addition to providing for the woman, he would also have to give this heir a good portion of his inheritance.
Life may have been easier for men than women, but it was not easy. We should not expect our period of history to be easy either.
Jesus understands the single parent’s urge to self-protect and the impulse to grab the lowest fruit, but He offers us a radically different way to look at our predicament. Instead of withdrawing from the world in self-protective mode or manically searching for someone to share life with, He asks single parents to stay where they are. He asks us to be thankful for our present state in life and to graciously share our talents with the world. When we seek Him, He gladly shares Talents with us. He offers us goodness and worth. He gifts us sacrifice and honor. He gives us mercy and forgiveness and love and redemption.
He then hopes that we will share those treasures with others. He know our shared human experiences put single parents in unique positions to reach others. He asks us to put aside fear and mistrust and the urge to self-protect and the loneliness and neediness and desire to find worth in the arms of a man or a drug or a social media contact and instead find joy in our present.
Think of it!
If you can choose to be thankful for the goodness of the present moment, you cease trying to change that moment. You stop living for a reality you want and start appreciating the reality you are given. You can choose to be thankful for who is right in front of you rather than always looking for someone new to come through the door.
Maybe thanksgiving starts with your children. Be thankful for the laughter. Be thankful for the jokes only you understand. Be thankful for hugs from teenagers rare though they may be. Be thankful for the tiny onesies and melted crayons and Legos you step on in the middle of the night. Be thankful too for vomit and lice and exhaustion. Just choose to be thankful!
Be sure to include yourself. Be thankful for breath and hair, teeth, and nails. Be thankful for the ability to read and write and sing and play. Be thankful for the simple gifts your God has given you but that you tend to take for granted or have neglected to develop. Be thankful for the roll of fat you wish away, for the ADD that neglects your car registration, and for the book on the shelf you swear you will read one day! Be thankful too for the days you fall to the bathroom floor and sob thinking you can’t go on and for the lonely nights you put your head on the pillow knowing the decisions you made that day rest heavily on only you and you can’t be sure you made the right call.
Most of all, be thankful for the Lord and the precious talents only He perfectly gives. Be thankful for Mercy, Forgiveness, Love, and Redemption. Trust in Him when doubts arise or you are stalked by cowardice and fear.
Do not concern yourselves with what others think or say or do. Bring the talents you’ve received to the world. Smile at the stranger online at the grocery store. Make small talk with the person who delivers your mail. Bring your children to visit an elderly neighbor. Pick up the phone and call that childhood friend. Welcome your ex when he picks up your children. See the Love God has for him and offer Mercy to him.
The Parable of the Talents show us, what we have been given must be invested. Our gifts must be multiplied according to our present state. This means we stop living for “when things are better,” and start being thankful and spreading joy for the messiness of today.