YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: DO NOT BURY YOUR TALENT
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY: R2 – Prov 31:10-15; 19-20, 30-31
RESP. PS. – Ps. 128:1-5
R2 – 1Thess 5:1-6
GOSPEL – Matt 25:14-30
A touching story was narrated about a Chinese boy who came from a very poor background in Hong Kong. He never dreamed that he would one day become a superstar and rise to global prominence. The family was so poor that his parents left him behind in Hong Kong to do housekeeping job in Australia. Gifted with talents for doing stunts and acrobatics, even without all the enabling to achieve his dreams, he never gave up; undeterred, he developed and cashed in on his stunting and acrobatic skills and talents until he eventually rose to become a famous movie actor, martial artist, stuntman, film director, action choreographer, screenwriter, producer, singer, multi-millionaire and Asia superstar. That boy in question is Chan Kong-sang, known professionally as JACKY CHAN, the Kung Fu kid. He is today, the fifth richest actor in the world with net worth of over $40 million dollars.
Beloved in Christ, today is the penultimate Sunday. I personally refer today as a Sunday of Talent Discovery and Talent Rediscovery; spiritual gifts and physical skills, talents and abilities.
The main theme of the three readings of today is an invitation to live in such a way that we develop and make the best use of the talents, skills, abilities and gifts God has given us, so that at the hour of our death Our Lord will say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant!… Come and share the joy of your master”(Matthew 25: 21).
Jesus in today’s gospel, the parable of the talents presents us the story of a wealthy landowner who was preparing for a long journey. He calls his three servants and divides his money between them, each according to their ability and expects them to account for these upon his return. The servants who received five and two talents made double gain at the master’s return; whereas, the third who received one talent grudgingly and furiously felt cheated, dug a hole and buried his talent, without making gains for the master; worst still, blaming the master over his own unproductivity.
The essence of our introit story about the popular Jacky Chan, who despite his cruel and checkered childhood and family background, remained focused and capitalized on his talents and abilities to become famous, is to quell the agitations and grudges of many Children of God, who like the wailing and unproductive young man in today’s Gospel remain angry with God; asking series of WHYs
~God, why did you cheat me?
~Why am I not talented?
~Why am I not popular?
~ Why is it that I can’t speak in tongues like him?
~Why can’t l sing like him/her?
~Why is he more prosperous than I?
~Why is he more intelligent than I do?
~Why am I created this way; why not the other way?
~Why is she more beautiful than I do?
~Why is my case always different?
~ Why am I not born into a rich and influential family?
However, many children of God like the purported wicked and lazy servant, in our contemporaneous parlance, have equally abandoned and buried their talents, gifts, skills and abilities in the name of easy life- “ego mbute” and “nwaoma osiso” who demands daily urgent 2k from different guys.”
*THE EXEGETICAL/ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE.*
Today’s Gospel, presents us with the Parable of the Talents, committed to three servants; two of whom were entrusted with five and two talents respectively, made double gains; whereas, the last one given one talent, went, dug a hole and hid it and made no gains for the master.
Furthermore, one might nurse the tendency of nurturing pity for the wicked and lazy servant. But the truth of the matter is that the staked “one talent” worth more than we could conjecture. The talent was a specific weight of silver and was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wage. In today’s Nigerian parlance, daily pay for “Kim bom” labour is #3000 or #2500 or more for the hard working ones. In a year, it amounts to #1, 095, 000 and when multiplied into 20 years, one talent gives us #21, 900, 000 (twenty one million, nine hundred thousand naira). Though it was a definite amount of money in the parable; it does represent something other than money in our lives.
This parable has certain allegorical elements with some passages clearly involving allegory. For example, the Master going on a journey represents Jesus. His going on a journey represents Jesus’ Ascension. The slaves represent Christians who are awaiting the Second Coming. The talents represent the blessings (financial, social, intellectual, athletic, musical, and so on), which God has bestowed on each of us. The Master’s return represents Jesus’ Second Coming. The Master’s assessment of the faithfulness of the slaves represents Jesus’ judgment of us at our own death, and on Judgment Day. Using these allegorical elements, this parable tells us that God will hold us accountable for what we have done—and for what we have failed to do — with His gifts, and opportunities He has given to us so that we may use them well.
In the parable, Jesus is portraying God as a rich Master Who has entrusted His entire property (the world) to His servant-slaves (us), with the assumption that we will be responsible, prudent and thoughtful stewards of these riches, until the day when we are called to give an account of our stewardship. It is a reminder that we are accountable to God for the ways in which we have used (or abused), the gifts He has left in our care, so that we may use them to produce as much fruit as is possible. We are to keep in mind always, that the gifts and their fruits are not ours but God’s, and that God will one day demand a reckoning of all we have done with them. Our reward will be in proportion to the degree to which we have used our gifts to their fullest advantage by taking the risks involved in investing those riches wisely
*FIVE LESSONS FROM THE PARABLE*
1. *SUCCESS REQUIRES HARD WORK.*
St Benedict’s motto: “ora et labora” (prayer and work or prayer and work go hand in hand) serves as the first lessons of today’s Parable of Talents. Here, we are encouraged not to rely on inspiration alone, rather, perspiration (hard work) goes a long way to facilitate success. The wicked grudging servant was simply lazy like many Christian-prayer warriors who spend all night at vigils, all days at prayer houses and chapels; praying for breakthrough and manner from heaven, without working hard with the little around. The grace of God remains dormant until it is activated by hard work; that is why the scripture says that, “faith requires works.” (James 2:14)
Many of us, like the grudging servant have buried our talents, abilities and spiritual gifts and today they are pointing accusing fingers at one uncle or one witch in the village for being responsible for their misfortunes. (onye eririeri, receive sense now). Remember, in the book of Genesis, we see that God placed Adam in the garden to work on it and take care of it. We were made to work. That is why St Paul admonishes us not to eat if we are not ready for exploits (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
So, as we await the return of our King, begin to rediscover your talents and use them to glorify God, serve the common good, and further God’s kingdom. Biblical success is working diligently in the here and now using all the talents God has given us to produce the return expected by the Master.
2. *YAHWEH JIREH* (GOD’S PROVIDES ALL YOU NEED TO SUCCEED)
Another most important lesson of today’s Parable is that God always provides and gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do. The Psalmist assured us today that He will bless the works of our hands and prosper us (Ps. 128:2).
In reality, we might be tempted to feel sorry or pity for the servant who received only one talent; but remember, at the EXEGETICAL analysis, we did mention that one talent worths over a daily pay for 20 years: that is over #21, 900, 000 (twenty one million, nine hundred thousand naira) in contemporary Nigerian economy. Mehn, this is a big money. Not to talk of daily pay for politicians and those with professional jobs, etc. This analysis reveals to us that, “enweghi onye Chukwu gbawara aka” (God has not cheated any of us). Our gifts, talents and abilities worth millions and billions. So, the grudging servant was given more than enough to meet the master’s expectations.
How many young boys and girls in our generation are interested in learning or developing and acquiring skills and talents (imu oru)? Jesus gives us a clarion call for talent discovery and rediscovery.
The scripture reassures us:
For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do
good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do.
Even for people who think they live with disabilities and less privileged, there are abilities in disabilities; thank God it has been changed to physically challenged. We are all facing peculiar challenges. Imagine the likes of Nick Vijucic, a man born without limbs, yet he turned disabilities into abilities and became a global figures and Helen Adams Keller, a blind-deaf American author, political activist, and lecturer; she was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.
3. *ALL FINGERS ARE NOT EQUAL* (we are tremendously and uniquely blessed)
One of the most important aspects of today’s parable is recorded in V. 15 stressing, “…each according to his ability,” indicating that, “all fingers are not equal.” The master understood that the one-talent servant was not capable of producing as much as the five-talent servant.
In reality, everyone must not get equal ability in a particular talent. As a priest, I cannot be competing with Jude Nnam in music. He has more than 5 talents in music. This is applicable in other professions, vocations, and careers. The funniest, yet consoling part of the parable is, the reward given by the master is the same. The master measures success by degrees of effort, as should we.
4. *WE ARE MERE CUSTODIANS OF GOD’S RESOURCES AND INVESTMENTS*
The Parable of the Talents teaches that we work for the Master, not our own selfish purposes (Agbakam mbo bu ego nri); even when you think you have taken unimaginable risks to succeed, there are many who took greater risks but never made it.
In the parable, the money that is given to the servants is not their own. The money they earn with the capital is not theirs to keep. The servants are only stewards of the master’s investment, and it is the quality of their stewardship that the master seeks to measure. We should maximize the use of our talents not for our own selfish purposes, but to honor God. All those blessed with riches, political appointments and success in various aspects of life are mere servants who should look around and use these resources to build up the body of Christ, both in the church and our local communities.
5. *YOU MUST RENDER ACCOUNT OF YOUR STEWARDSHIP*
The “oga kpatakpata” (grand summary) of the Parable of the Talents is that we will be held accountable. The first reading suggests that we should be as diligent and industrious as a loyal and faithful wife, in the use of our God-given gifts and talents with “the fear of the Lord.”Unlike the one-talent man, she takes her gifts and “brings forth good, not evil”; she “reaches her hands to the poor and extends her arms to the needy,” and she is a portrait of responsible readiness.
Nevertheless, St Paul in the second reading, reminds us to stay sober and be at alert for the day of reckoning and accountability. Today, we learn about how we use our works, profession, vocation, career, talents, gifts and abilities; as ministers, politicians, musicians, traders, mechanic, etc, to fulfill our earthly callings. It is about whole-life stewardship.
The unfaithful steward in this parable didn’t so much waste the master’s money – he wasted an opportunity. As a result, he was judged wicked and lazy. We are responsible for what we do for God with what we have been given, and one day we will be held responsible.
*DO NOT WASTE ANY OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE.*
Finally, a little boy woke up one morning, feeling dissatisfied and cheated with his family background, walked up to his father and asked, “Daddy, why is it that we are poor? Look at Papa Kelvin who was your classmate in the secondary school is wealthy, living in mansion and driving cars, while we are living in this thatched house without even a bycicle.” The father only told him that poverty had been in their lineage, that he even inherited it from his father, who equally inherited it from his grandfather. So it runs in their blood. The father went further to admonish him not mind those of Papa Kelvin and his mates who made it, that they used their parents for momey rituals.
The response of furious poor boy shocked the father; “Daddy, how did your own parents die? So you allowed them waste and die naturally while your mates were using their parents for money rituals? Hmmmmmmm… Daddy, (He continued), I will not allow you people to die like that oo, especially you… I must break the poverty mentality, even if it entails using you for rituals.”
*VALUE YOUR CURRENT STATUS AND BACKGROUND; RAISE NO FURTHER QUESTIONS LIKE THE FUNNY GUY IN THE EPILOGUE STORY; AND BUILD SUCCESS AROUND YOUR UGLY STORY. YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES.*
*BENEDICTIONS: MAY THE GOOD LORD INSTILL IN US, DESIRES OF A RETHINK TODAY, SO AS TO EFFICIENTLY USE OUR RESOURCES, TALENTS, GIFTS AND ABILITIES IN RENDERING SERVICES TO HIM THROUGH HUMANITY. AMEN.*
GOD BLESS YOU!
*FR GERALD MUOKA*