Making the most of what we’ve been given

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Although it’s a parable from ancient times, today’s Gospel message makes some timeless observations about how some people manage their households. We could say that the overall theme is a message for us to “make the most of what we’ve been given,” but, in this story, the sad outcome was due to some basic mistakes the master made. And the frightened servant had to suffer as a result.

The master knew that the servant to whom he gave the one talent had less ability than the others, admitted that he was a harsh man, and he knew that his servant was afraid of him. It didn’t make any difference. When this servant didn’t meet the master’s expectations he was called useless, and thrown out of the household.

Thanks be to God, we don’t manage our households that way. I’m sure that we all have disappointed people who are important to us. Others have disappointed us. As Christians, what can we do? We might like to look at how Jesus handled some “personnel” problems.

Jesus understood that people have different levels of ability, especially when specific skills are required. Peter wasn’t expected to be a financial advisor or investor, and he wasn’t thrown out of the group (of apostles) as a result. We remember the night in the Garden when all Jesus’ disciples slept while He anguished over the future. My guess is that Jesus’ suffering that night was far more significant than the master’s failure to increase his fortune. Still, Jesus stayed loyal to His disciples…love prevailed.

If we have a child or spouse who lacks certain skills, we don’t set them up for failure (and ourselves for disappointment) by having unrealistic expectations as did the master in today’s story. If we are an inclusive church, if we are to love without discrimination, if we are to serve our dear neighbor simply because God loves us all, we need to build on people’s strengths and help them gain the skills to overcome their limitations. I personally think that the master made a mistake; that he should have told the servant up front that if he couldn’t think of ways to increase his money that he could always put it in the bank. Sometimes people just don’t know what to do. Reality, which includes charity, is always kind and good. Just my observations…

Dorothy A. Hathway, CSJA