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EXCELLENCE IS OUR GOAL: Reflection for 33rd Sun, Ord. Time Year A
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sat, 18 Nov 2017

As one week stands between us and the end of the liturgical year, the ‘parable of the talents’ awakens our hearts against the seriousness of ‘venturing nothing and losing everything’. The story is told of the man who ‘summoned’ his three servants and ‘entrusted’ his property to their care. Two of them traded and achieved excellence. One did not bother to try. Everyone was called to render account.

 Reflection on this parable shows that it is our story. In New Testament times, “talent” was in use both as a unit of weight (about 75 pounds), and then for a unit of coinage. The silver coin would have had a worth amounting to at least, #200,000 (two hundred thousand naira) today. Since even ‘one talent’ is big enough and precious enough, the many talents disbursed by the master only revealed but a tiny fraction of his kindness.

In the light of this Gospel story, we are not to spend our energies comparing (often due to envy), how our neighbour, friends, or the next person are better ‘talented’ than we are. It is sufficient that each person received according to their abilities; that no one was left empty-handed; and that the Master, by entrusting his gifts in relative measures, also understands the proportionate capacities of everyone in what they received. God’s goodness provides everyone in the world a chance to excel.

The “Master” is Jesus. He made his journey into this world by will of the father and work of the Holy Spirit. Through his cross and resurrection Jesus has ‘travelled’ to the Father, and will return in his heavenly glory accompanied by his angels (Mt 25:31). In response to his love and gifts, how can we fail to notice that our ‘talents’ are not earned, but received? That ours is not to seek to ‘own’, but to ‘use’ in fruitful ways, what was entrusted and received? Are we wise and faithful when we question the goodness of God in his expectations from us?

From the high platform erected for us in today’s Gospel, we can better appreciate the theme of today’s first reading for all resourcefulmothers. Far more than Mums who are the “Ori-aku”, the “Obi di Ya” or the Odozi aku”, our reading today praises the “Oso di Eme” kind of woman. The wisdom writer calls her the ‘perfect’ and ‘priceless’ wife. Her talents shine out both in her own life, and in the family responsibilities she undertakes with poise and dignity. Thus, her charisma serves as a foretaste of the ‘wise’ servant of the Gospel, and the one who is “faithful in small things’. Her opposite also resembles the ‘lazy’ steward of the Gospel who fails to use the talents, and who believes that one talent was equal to no value at all?

Again, in the light of the Gospel, St Paul rightly exhorts that putting our gifts to effective use enables us to live in the light and to stand ready for Christ. It prevents the day of the Lord's return from catching us unawares. Like the harm which a poor book-keeping culture does to a business, laziness or not living active Christian lives can also collapse our spiritual hopes and render our heavenly accounts bankrupt. That is, unless it be recognised through our practical Christian witness that, ‘we are children of light; sons and daughters of the day’ (1Thess 5:5).

Thus, “Well done, good and faithful servant…’; ‘enter and join in your master’s happiness” (Mt 25:21), is the reward of those who are spiritually industrious. Likewise, the statement: ‘take the talent from him and give it to the man who has five’; or ‘throw him out into the dark...’ reminds us that we will all be held to account individually. Above all, only the person who chooses to misunderstand this parable, will fail to see that there is no harm in trial, or that the biggest risk is risking nothing at all.

So, “excellence” is our goal. And, ‘excellence’ in today’s Gospel admits of mistakes, even failures, provided we do not allow our failures to finally define us. Christian excellence warns us that we may return the exact amount of what we received, and still suffer a 100% backlash because of our failure or refusal to use, what was entrusted.

After all, a paralysing fear of failure is the lot only of a false Christian; since fear often guarantees the failures that we dread. But the Good Lord would rather that we fail sometimes, than seek to avoid every failure by refusing to try anything.


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