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Use Your Talents. Be Productive

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

My dear encountered couples:

There is a mistake which so many make so often - the mistake of comparing themselves to someone else. Sometimes, maybe that is appropriate and helpful. Other times, for many people it can turn out to be destructive. That is what I think happened to this man who was given the 1,000 silver pieces. He compared himself to his successful master who seemed to always know how to make money. No matter what his master did, he came out well. In the words of the servant, "My Lord ... you reap where you did not sow and gather where you did not scatter." And the servant felt he himself was never able to do that. So what did he do? He tells us: "Out of fear, I went off and buried your thousand silver pieces in the ground. Here is your money back."

The other men doubled what they were given. This one did nothing with his. He was afraid to take any chances that might result in his losing it. His master called him "worthless and lazy." Is there a message in this for us? In order to find out we will have to do what I said is often a mistake - comparing ourselves to someone else. For this time it is good and useful to do so. Jesus wants us to become aware of whether or not we live like this frightened servant. So let us compare ourselves to him.

We each have things to do in this world. You have a purpose. And if you carry out that purpose, you will become the person God intends you to be. You will become fully developed in character, you'll become a wonderful, loving person. Not only would you benefit from that but so would the world. It would be a great world if we all did our parts in it well. But I'm afraid we don't do that. Often, we don't even try. We are too often like this man who buried his thousand silver pieces. We're afraid we'll make mistakes and be looked upon as fools.

God has given each of us a measure of riches. We can call them abilities, talents. These abilities and talents are to make it possible for us to carry out our purposes in life. We each have some different talents. One of us is artistic, another is mathematical. One might have what it takes to be a good leader of a country, another knows how to build good, solid houses for the people of the country to live in. I might relate well with children or animals, you might better understand the intricate workings of engines or computers. We also possess varying degrees of the same abilities and talents. Some of us are Einstein’s, most of us aren't. We differ in intelligence and muscle strength. If you compare yourself too often to someone much smarter than you, you might get such deep inferiority feelings about yourself that you will be afraid to think at all. And so you don't. You let someone else do all your thinking. Isn't that what those people who listened to Jim Jones in Guyana (or wherever) did? They even committed suicide because he said to. Really dumb! Dumb like this guy who buried his master's thousand silver pieces.

Or if you compare your strength to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger, your figure to that of the movie legend Marilyn Monroe, you might just give up. I know people who won't do anything but sit around, all day because they're afraid they're going to make mistakes and be laughed at. They won't try to change a washer in a leaky faucet, cook anything, nor attempt to learn how to drive a car. They're afraid to do these and many other things because they compare themselves to people who they think can do anything. And so, they bury their talents and abilities like the man buried his silver pieces. His master didn't like that. In fact, he was furious!

And so is God when we bury ours! When God gives us certain abilities, he expects us to use them - and as well and as often as reasonably possible. He gave your eyes to see. You certainly wouldn't go around all day with them closed, afraid you are going to see frightening and unpleasant sights. Similarly, he gave you at least some degree of a mind - and he expects you to at least try to use it. He knows you will make mistakes. That's all part of the learning process. Show me a person who doesn't make mistakes and I'll show you a failure. All successful people could fill books with stories of their mistakes. If you come to the end of your life and can't show a long list of mistakes you've made, then you've wasted your life. It will be a sign that you never tried often enough to do things. The only really tragic mistake you can make is to not allow yourself to get into positions of making mistakes. That is what the man did who buried his thousand silver pieces. And for his tragic mistake of being afraid to use the money for good purposes, it was all taken away from him and he was thrown out into the darkness. In other words, he lost his abilities and talents because he did not use them, and he went to hell where there are none to use. Don't let that happen to you.

Study yourself. Discover what you have the ability to do. Become aware of what it is you enjoy doing - the good things I mean, not the sinful. The good things that you enjoy doing are usually what God wants you to do. That enjoyment and desire is part of what God gives you in order to move you to do your job. A person doesn't become a doctor because his mother wants him to, at least I hope he doesn't. He or she becomes a doctor because he wants to, he has a desire to, he likes it - maybe doesn't like all that is involved in it, but enough of it to make it a career. If you enjoy growing things, making things, fixing things, writing things - do them - or at least try to.

And try to do them as well as you can - not as well as someone else can. You might not have the ability to be the greatest farmer in the world, the most skilled manufacturer, the best repairman in town, nor a Pulitzer prize author, but you can become the greatest you. And that is what God wants. The man with the 5000 silver pieces may have had more to work with than the man with three or one, but what was important was that they use what they had as well as they could. It was their effort that was to develop them into real people.

Fear that paralyzes and leads to burying our talents keeps us immature and childish forever. We must take chances with what we've got and have confidence that God will be with us at all times, see us through, and bring us out stronger and better. He wants to make you into a saint. That will only happen if you use what he gave you and are not scared off by the thoughts of making mistakes and being laughed at or criticized. Use your talents! Don't consider for even a moment burying one of them!

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