Using Our Gifts
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (19/11/2023)
(Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30)
Fr. Samuel Odeh
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8)
A talent at the time of Jesus was a special coin of great value. In today’s gospel reading Jesus uses it in a parable to denote the capital all believers have received from God and for which we will be accounting for at some point. The lesson today is that all believers have a mandate from God to put their personal gifts and talents to use in his service and for the good of our neighbors. Self-determination is not only permitted but encouraged. A “ministry” in this sense therefore refers to any active service we engage for God and neighbor, such as kindness to the homeless. ‘Minister’ in Latin means “servant”.
In our first reading from the book of Proverbs and the responsorial psalm the witness of a virtuous and good wife in the house is seen as a blessing and a way of life that gives glory to God. This is also a great example of a believer’s use of their gifts in a way that pleases God. It is therefore proper that a believer who is married, for instance, should pray to God for an increase in the gifts and talents that make them good parents and spouses.
In our second reading from 1Thessalonians Paul’s instruction, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober,” can be seen as a counter and a warning to those of us who may make the mistake of the third servant in today’s gospel reading. He was given one talent but failed to invest the capital loaned to him. This servant completely missed the point of the whole exercise namely, that those who seek excellence must also learn to carry others along. This is clearly evident in his harsh and probably unfair assessment of the master and in his decision and choices regarding the use of the master’s talent. The sad fate that befell this servant is intended as a warning for all of us.
In this Gospel parable from Matthew we learn that faithfulness in small matters qualifies us for greater responsibilities. Also, no believer is entirely without gifts; each were given according to their ability. This means no believer is useless in the Lord’s vineyard. What is required of us is a generous and grateful use of our gifts in service. We pray to be delivered from whatever would keep us from using our skills, training, abilities, qualities and gifts in such a way as to give God the greater glory.
“Keep me safe, O God...” (Psalm 16:1)