5, 2 or 1

This week I want to quote extensively from Tricia, who writes a weekly reflection for our church website. I am blessed to work with and for her. She’s one of the smartest women I know, and she frequently gives us much food for thought. This Sunday’s gospel is the parable of the Ten Talents: Matthew 25:14-30

            “Servant (sometimes translated as slave), talents and fear are prominent in this Sunday’s  gospel. Jesus is coming to the end of his journey and is not messing around. He knows that it will take everything that everyone has to build the kingdom of God after He is no longer walking around. Only radical and complete stewardship will do.

            The Greek word translated servant/slave is doula. Yes, like the person who as a witness, supports a woman in labor and after she has given birth! Talenta are weights that are used as money.  Fear is phobia, as in: an uncontrolled response to something that impairs one to act rationally.

            In the story, the Master (this is Jesus, of course) is leaving and entrusts 5 talents to one doula, 2 to another and 1 to the third.  When he returns the first 2 have gone out and doubled the talents! The third, out phobia/fear, has buried the 1 talent. The master is angry at this doula for such waste of the talent.”

Tricia goes on to talk about areas in her life personally where she has been given 5, 2 or 1 talent, or gift from God. Sharing my own life here, I can say with her that I’ve received 5 or 2 talents when it comes to my country of birth: the U.S., my intellect and education, my parents, my spouse, a generally positive outlook and great physical health. Tricia goes on to say that “Like most people, it is easy to share myself out of these areas of abundance.  It is low risk.  On the other hand, where I have only 1 talent, fear/phobia can keep me from risking what little I have.” Again, replacing her example with my own, I think of singing: I have the ability to read music, carry a tune and keep time, but it is not necessarily lovely. I love to do it within the protective confines of a choir, but our choir director can not carry the entire load as cantor and director. She needs a pool of other cantors for the psalm. “How do I act,” Tricia asks, “in spite of my phobias?” How do I sing when I am terrified that I’ll sound terrible, when I am so anxious my throat is constricting? How do I invest this tiny talent of mine?

            “Does Jesus really expect me to share all my talents? Even where I have little? This is where Sunday’s first reading sheds some light:  Proverbs 31, a woman of worth. Written over 3000 years ago, as a woman she had received 1 talent.  Women were generally not permitted to own land, teach, or engage in investing endeavors. Yet, it describes a woman who buys and sells land, reaches out to the poor, plants a vineyard and instructs with wisdom. She must have struggled with fear, but risked anyway.”

            “Pope Francis could dwell on his limits as the first non-European pope, not wanting to risk disappointing some people.  Instead, he risks the displeasure of the Curia, many bishops and cardinals and lots of Catholics by calling a Synod on the family to look at the thorniest issues in Catholic life.  He washes the feet of women and marries people who had been living together.  Archbishop Romero of San Salvador was given 5 talents in intellectual prowess and contacts with those in power and 1 in courage and contact with the poor. Yet, he risked his contacts (and his life) to speak out.”

            She goes on to note that: “Being a part of life at [our parish], I am inspired by how people act as doulas with their 1 talent or areas of wealth: someone on a fixed income who contributes every week…the person who teaches [First Communion class] every Saturday, who has a scarcity of time from a full time job and family…the people, whose lives are as complicated as everyone else, who sing in the choirs and appear every Sunday.”

            Tricia invited us to make 3 lists of where we have received 5 gifts or talents, where 2 and where 1.  “Ask yourself, how am I being called to return to God what I have received?  Where am I being called to act in spite of my phobias/fears?  Who is needing me to be a doula/witness for their life in Christ.”

Catholic News Service reports on Pope Francis:

When asked about the best way to share the faith with others, the pope said going out into the world and living as true witnesses of Christ and his message is the only way.

            “There is no other way. To live in a way that others become interested and ask Why? This is witness…A community that goes out makes mistakes. Mistakes are made, but it is so wonderful to ask forgiveness when one makes a mistake,” he said. “Be not afraid!

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