33 Sunday A: Talents: Gifted for Service


It's not only what you have got, but it's how we use what we have got - with love- that matters!




We have nothing to do with how much ability we've got, or how little, but with what we do with what we have. The man with great talent is apt to be puffed up, and the man with little (talent) to belittle the little. Poor fools! God gives it, much or little. Our part is to be faithful, doing the level best with every bit and scrap. And we will be if Jesus' spirit controls. 
S.D. Gordon, The Bent-knee Time.

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Jack complains to God in prayer about his finances. "It's getting worse, Lord, after all my prayers to you. Give me a break. Let me at least win a lottery." Then he hears a voice from heaven, "Give me a break yourself. Buy at least a lottery ticket!"

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Gospel text : Matthew 25:14-30      
Talents1

Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments
This Sunday’s passage continues last Sunday’s. It too is a long parable telling us “what the kingdom of heaven is like”, i.e. “what it is like” to experience grace coming into our world.
Most people find this parable difficult because of the master’s seemingly exaggerated anger; also he is very hard on the third servant who was already less gifted than the others. If this is “what the kingdom of heaven is like”, then it is “bad news” indeed.
Parable of the talentsWe must find an interpretation  therefore which is both faithful to the text and also brings “the good news of the kingdom” to all, but in particular to the “little ones” (those with “only one talent”) of our communities.
The key to such an interpretation is to remember Jesus’ situation when he gave this teaching. As with last week’s passage, he was at the end of his public ministry, frustrated at the hardness of heart of the leaders of the people. The Mosaic tradition had taught generosity of spirit and compassion for the oppressed; the leaders had let this glorious tradition become their personal possession, an excuse for meanness and exclusiveness, a way of protecting their positions of privilege.
Jesus is highly indignant at what they have done with God’s gift – rightly so. We need to enter into his feelings. The God of the bible (Old and New Testament) is so passionately committed to the cause of the poor that when they are ill treated, “his anger flares”, as the first reading of the 31st Sunday reminded us. Nowadays we Christians tend to “soothe” God’s anger, whereas we should be asking for forgiveness that we are so passive (so lacking in anger) at the  injustices of the world.
The “property” in the parable then, is not personal wealth. To interpret it like that makes the parable a teaching on being good capitalists! The master then becomes a go-ahead CEO angry that his company has not made the profit it should have. The “property” in the parable is God’s precious gift intended to multiply and be life-giving for all. Its true purpose is distorted by the servant’s meanness (this is why he is called “good-for-nothing”).
The parable then is giving two messages.
– To those who have been made to feel excluded from the kingdom (“tax collectors and prostitutes”) Jesus brings the “good news” that this is totally against God’s will.  In fact God is very angry that they are being  excluded.
– To his disciples he issues a stern warning: do not fall prey to a similar narrow mindedness. The history of the Church (like our individual stories) tells us how right he was to warn them. We all fall into the trap of seeing our talents as our personal possession that we can do what we like with. God’s will is that we see them as gifts to be shared so that they can be multiplied.
We remember examples of something similar happening.
– The teaching of Jesus, so full of potential for transforming the world and yet so often “hidden under a bushel”. Christians have “dug a hole in the ground and buried it”.
– Nature, which God has made so bountiful, now becomes a matter for personal greed with the resultant scarcities.
– Family traditions of openness to all, allowed to degenerate into snobbishness and racism.
– Individual talents (physical, mental, spiritual) intended to be a blessing for families and societies, become things to be bought and sold. We celebrate the “Jesus person” who made us conscious of this betrayal.
The parable is not all negative. It shows another possibility – the first two servants, trusting and free spirited,  and experiencing abundance. We celebrate people who have followed that path, communities too and social moments.
Jesus our greatest talent
              Jesus: our greatest talent.
The master is also someone we can celebrate.
He is  the kind of leader who does not cling to power. He entrusts his “property” (his cause) to those who work with him without counting the risk.
This parable is crucial teaching for our modern Western culture which glorifies mistrust as not merely necessary but actually beneficial. This aberration has affected the way we Christians now tend to see Jesus – our first concern becomes to “protect” his message against our “competitors” notably the adherents of other religions. Our faith then makes us mean spirited and elitist – we are no longer life-giving for the world.
Verse 29 is a teaching found in other contexts, e.g. Matthew 13:12 and Luke 8:18. We are free to meditate on it by itself therefore.  Here again, the saying seems unfair but if read creatively turns out to be a little gem of wisdom. This “thing” that when people “have it” they are “given more” whereas when people “don’t have it” even the little they have is “taken away”, is trust. People who have no trust in themselves, in others or in life, end up losing “even what they have”. On the contrary, people who have that kind of trust end up being “given more”.
The  verse invites us to celebrate Jesus the teacher (and those who have played a similar role in our lives):
– he reassures those who trust that they are on the right track; there is not the slightest trace of
cynicism in him, on the contrary his message is, “go ahead and trust”. How we need teachers and leaders like that!
– he issues a stern warning to those who have no faith. “Learn to believe in yourself”. Jesus doesn’t molly coddle people, “Get off your butt and stop pitying yourself! Otherwise you will lose everything you have.”

Scriprture
Prayer Reflection

“If at times we are inclined to feel discouraged, let us not be dismayed.  The human will remains the great force the Creator designed it to be.” … President Hassanali of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking to the nation after the attempted coup, July 1990
Lord, we thank you for the gift of free will.
It is this that enables us, even when we are discouraged,
to receive what life brings us,
like servants being entrusted with a certain amount of talents by their master,
to go off promptly and make something of our opportunities,
and when the time for accounting comes,
to come forward cheerfully and show what we have accomplished.
“If someone tells me that he doesn’t believe in God, I ask him to describe the God he doesn’t believe in, and I nearly always have to tell him that I do not believe in such a God either.”     …….Lord Hailsham
Lord, forgive us Church people that we have given others a wrong impression of you.
Many have heard that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered.
As a result, they are afraid,
afraid to take risks, to trust themselves or to trust life.
And so the talents you have given them, they dig a big hole in the ground and hide them.
Humanity suffers, and so do they.
Lord, when we get into positions of authority we become afraid to trust people.
Teach us to be like Jesus.
He walked the earth for some years, instructed his little community,
then, when he had lived his appointed time,
he entrusted his mission to his followers
giving each of us talents according to our ability;
then he set out on his journey back to you,
knowing that he would return after a very long time
and go through his accounts with us,
that even though some would hide their talents in the ground,
others would trade with them,
and his word would multiply indefinitely.
Lord, a mark of our civilization is that everyone is afraid to fail.
That is because we demand too much of one another.
We expect to reap where nothing has been sown,
and to gather where nothing was scattered.
Then people do not take risks
and do not make of their talents what they could.
Lord, help us to face old age with trust in you and in ourselves,
knowing that you give us responsibilities
each one of us in proportion to our ability,
and once we are faithful in the small things you ask us to do,
you will trust us with greater things, and we will join in your happiness.
“Our deeds do not simply disappear into the black hole of time. They are recorded somewhere and judged.”   …President Havel of Czechoslovakia

Mother Teresa1

Lord, we thank you for those who keep alive in our society the idea of judgement,
that you have entrusted your propert to us,
and you will come back to go through your accounts with us.
We are not on earth as museum keepers, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life
and prepare a glorious future.” …Pope John XXIII
Lord, we thank you for good Pope John
and for all those who have made humanity more free,
urging us to see life in positive terms,
reminding us that the only thing which seems to make you angry
is when we are afraid to use the talents you have entrusted to us
as if the world were ruled by a hard man
who reaps where he has not sown
and gathers where he has not scattered.
Lord, trust is the most precious of your gifts.
It is the kind of thing that when we have it we are given more
and end up having more than enough;
but if we do not have it, then even the little we have is taken away.
We pray that we adults may hand on that gift to our children.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

 Friends in Jesus Christ, we are all called to build the kingdom of God, but no two people have exactly the same task in this divine project which we call ‘creation’. Each of us is called to bring God’s love, presence, light and peace into a particular world in which we are the centres. This is our vocation; this is the unique set of talents that has been entrusted to each of us by God. Today our thanksgiving focuses on these sets of talents that each of us has been given; and repentance is for those times when we as in­dividuals have hidden our talents and failed to build the kingdom, and our prayer is that we will each follow our unique vocation more closely in future.

Homily Notes

vocations1. ‘Vocation’ is a word that always conjures up churchy images; we know somehow it belongs to the ’sphere of religion' than the world of ‘career choices’. We also knpw that it isa word that is intensely personal and individual: it affects me and my living of my life.
2. However, many Christians – and this is true especially of Catholics – have become very confused (since the early nineteenth century) about what is referred to when we talk about the theology of vocation. For Catholics, in particular, it is ironic that the traditional theology of vocation has been re­tained for studies of Mary, but has been largely abandoned in practical spirituality. The problem is that ‘a religious vocation’ has become almost identical to ‘ a vocation to be a religious’; and, as a result, ‘vocation’ is now linked with having sufficient personnel for church offices. An example of this confusion is that recruiting men for the presbyterate is never referred to as ‘recruitment and training’ but is called ‘fostering vocations’. If a homily can try to break the link between ‘vocation’ and ecclesiastical offices, then it may have created a space where members of the community might be able to reflect on their individual vocations – remembering that each person’s vocation is unique.
3. When we speak of bishops or priests or deacons (or any other ministry) we are essentially speaking of people the community (not just this community but every local church) needs if it is to live its corporate life within Christ. One must have someone who has oversight of the practice of being disciples, one must have those who preside over the Eucharist, and one must have those who assist the community in various defined ways. These are publicly recognisable tasks and so common roles within the community. But a vocation relates to each person in the world, however small or large it is, at which that person is the centre. It could be the need to care for a sick relative. It might be that someone is the only person who can mediate and act as reconciler between those in a family dispute. It might be the need to bear witness to the demands of acting ethically in a boardroom meeting. It might be that someone has to put his/her comfort on hold as he / she is the only person who can provide a service to the community such as clearing blocked drains on a miserable day or it might be learning to sing a difficult psalm for the liturgy. It might be a parent teaching a child to know our prayers. It might be giving resources (money, time, skill) to some project that advances the kingdom of peace. Vocation is about the call each of us has to build the kingd?m in that precise part of the whole creation where we are located.
words4. A vocation is common to all the baptised, but what it calls on us to do is different for each of us: in the gospel no two people got the same number of talents. We all must build the king­dom, but the demands that commission makes are never the same for any two individuals. Church ministries are essentially similar – this is the very presupposition of ordination; while vocations are essentially different as no two individuals occupy the same position in time / space, and within a set of relation­ships and skills, in the creation. This vocation is essentially religious: it involves God’s providence and our loving co-opera­tion by which we move along our individual pilgrim’s path while at the same time the whole church moves along its pil­grim route as the People of God. This uniqueness of vocation is now almost exclusively only spoken of by Catholics in rela­tion to the vocation of Mary; but each Christian’s vocation is similarly unique: only that individual can bring the kingdom of God into existence in her /his situation.
5. Obviously there are overlaps between ministries and voc­ations: there are some whose vocation includes a formal min­istry; but even then the way that ministry is used for the glory of God will be individual to the person, his strengths and weaknesses, his skills and native genius, the place, the culture, the time, and the assortment of people who make up the community in which he uses his ministry. But if when you hear the word ‘vocation’ you think of someone wearing religious garb: then you have a problem in your understand­ing of what it is to be a Christian!
6. Here are a few slogans that can help clarify the situation:
(i) A religious vocation is not the same as a vocation to be a religious.
(ii) Ministerial tasks are common to many people; vocations are unique to individuals.
(iii) Ministerial tasks are visible to the group; a vocation is only visible to the individual.
(iv) All Christians have a vocation; only some will be given ministerial tasks.
(v) All have received talents; only you know what they are and how best to use them.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

What type of people are we? Would we describe ourselves as predominantly adventurous or overly cautious? How creative are we with the talents that God has given us? These are relevant questions to ask when determining whether or not we use and develop God’s many and varied gifts.
An Italian Ursuline singing competition winning nun
An Italian, Ursuline, singing, competition winning, nun, Sr Cristina Scuccia
The parable of the talents has universal application. It is a parable for all people and for all times. It teaches us much about human nature and the numerous types of people in our world and in our Church. In particular, it invites us to reach our full human potential by using creatively the gifts with which God has blessed us.
Our various talents are an expression of God’s love for us as, indeed, is life itself, which is the greatest of all God’s gifts. As expressions of God’s love, our talents are not intended to be hidden or to remain unused. Rather, they are meant to be developed by us as a sign that we appreciate God’s love and blessing.
God does not give us talents just for ourselves. Our strengths and talents are best used for the good of other people and for the good of the Church. This is how we honour and glorify God. Unfortunately, many of us may hide our talents or, even worse, we may waste them by using them in useless and often sinful ways.
For example, we may know that we are effective communicators. Yet we choose not to use our gift of communication to convey the teachings of the gospel and the Church because we do not want to be unpopular. We prefer to remain undisturbed. Nevertheless, if we took a risk and communicated the truth we might bring another person consolation and happiness. Ultimately we might be God’s instrument in guiding that person to salvation.
Similarly, we may have been blessed with gifts of listening and patience. But if we do not use these talents to bring peace and harmony to troubled relationships around us, we are wasting God’s wonderful gifts.
Occasionally, we think that other people are more talented than we are and we envy them. Or we observe people ignoring and wasting their obvious strengths and talents — strengths and talents that we do not have — and we are moved to self-pity. We always remember, however, that God has blessed each one of us with a unique combination of gifts and talents that he expects us to use and develop. These talents vary considerably and we do not all receive the same gifts and strengths, either in kind or in abundance.
The invitation is to trust God by using and developing our talents and strengths to the best of our ability. Thus our personal talents complement the talents that other people lack and we enable them to share with us the strengths that we lack. In effect, by refusing to be creative and generous, we cause our talents to die. By using them well we demonstrate that we are faithful and trustworthy.
 Call to love

What type of people are we? Do we use our talents creatively or do we hide them? The challenge of the parable of the talents is to recognise our God-given talents and strengths so that we can use and develop them as we help to build the kingdom of God in our world.

For meditation
You have shown you can be faithful in small things. I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness. (Mt 25:21)
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Donal Neary 
Well Done !

Why did he hide the money? Maybe he was asked to be dishonest – to use the money for purposes that diddled others. At the time of this parable  most money was made dishonestly. Today this could be like trafficking in drugs or sex, treating our migrant workers badly, paying off violence or buying in a way that diminishes others. The servant was an honest man and suffered for it.
Did you ever feel you were being compromised by being asked to do something that you knew was wrong? A person pressured into watching internet porn, or engaging in sexual activity, or trying out alcohol? They may feel they will suffer in the future if they don’t give in.
The godfathers of crime and drugs and violence have a lot to answer for. they are those that make money at the expense of others. This is one way of reading this parable: that people try to get other people to do their dirty work, and they can punish for not doing it.
The man in the end got thrown out by the greedy master – but from God he will, ‘Well done, come and inherit the kingdom.’
Today we are encouraged by the man who would not do the dirty work for anyone, would not take part in schemes that damaged others, and is the one who really ‘did well.’
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From the connections: 

THE WORD:

The “measure” of Christ’s judgment in the world to come is made clear in the parable of the talents:  The Lord will judge us according to how well we used the “talents” and gifts every one of us has been given.  The greater the “capital” we have been given, the greater God's expectations. 

HOMILY POINTS:

Whatever degree of talent, ability and wealth we possess have been “entrusted” to us by the “Master.”  Jesus teaches that our place in the reign of God will depend on our stewardship of those talents God has given us: whether we “bury” them in fear or selfishness or use them readily to reveal God in our midst.  

Each one of us is given many opportunities to “reap and gather.”  The challenge of the Gospel is to be ready and willing to respond to those opportunities joyfully and generously for the sakes of others, to build the kingdom of God in own time and place.

Jesus urges us not to “bury” our talents in the safe ground of self-interest and passivity but to “invest” them for the benefit of all.  Christ calls us to a faith that is willing take the risk of investing what we have in the greater good, and he promises us the grace to work to enable others to realize a return on the investment of their own talents in God’s kingdom in our midst.  

Too often we can become someone’s demanding, hard “master”: judging them harshy, dismissing their ideas, treating them mercilessly when they fail, making unreasonable demands of them, refusing to accept and appreciate what they can contribute to the good of all.  Jesus calls us to be aware of the many gifts of those around us, to honor them as blessings from God, and do all that we can to encourage them to develop their “talents” for good of all and the praise of their Giver.    

Every child’s future

Imagine a classroom of eight and nine-year-old children in any elementary school in any town.

See the boy in the third row who watches the clouds all day?  He’s not daydreaming — he’s fascinated by weather: he wants to know why it rains, what makes it snow, how hurricanes form.  As he gets older he could transform his inquisitiveness into a career as a meteorologist or science reporter . . . if . . .

Or the little girl in the fifth row?  She is naturally loving, generous and kind.  She helps her mom — a single parent — take care of her younger brother and sister.  At such a young age, she has already discovered the joy of being a big sister.  Some day she could be a compassionate teacher, a wise counselor, a skilled pediatrician, a loving mom . . .        if . . .

That classroom is filled with many gifted boys and girls.  Every child in that room has the potential to do great things on and any and every stage — from the laboratory to the board room, from the studio to the halls of government.  This girl could create the next Microsoft; that boy may find the cure to cancer.  They are limited only by their imaginations and the opportunities they will have to learn and grow.  The possibilities for these bright, curious, enthusiastic students are endless . . .  if . . .

. . . if they’re willing to take the risks that come with the gifts and talents they have been given . . . if they invest the time, the energy, the hard work, the humility to learn and to try . . . if they commit themselves to their studies and training . . . Every one of us — child or adult, student or teacher — has been entrusted by God with gifts and talents to contribute to the work of creation.  The challenge is to be willing to risk exposing our true selves, to risk involvement with others, to risk failure, despair and ridicule.  Jesus urges us not to “bury” our talents in the safe ground of self-interest and passivity but to “invest” them for the benefit of all.  God will hold us accountable not for what we have been given but for what we have done with what we have been given.  Christ calls us to a faith that is willing take the risk of investing what we have in the greater good, and he promises us the grace to work to enable others to realize a return on the investment of their own talents in God’s kingdom in our midst.    

ILLUSTRATIONS

From Fr. Jude Botelho 

The first reading from the book of Proverbs is part of the Wisdom literature of Israel. It sets forth how we are to live and behave in our daily life. Today’s excerpt from Proverbs idolizes the ideal wife, who is practical and manages the household so well that she is prized above all things by her husband. The reading reminds the Israelites of the great gift and companionship that an ideal wife is. She is diligent about household matters and is held up as a model of how a simple ordinary housewife can use her talents to the full in the service not only of her own family but for others as well. Are we living our lives to the fullest and making something of our lives? 

What have I made of myself?

Once a re-union took place of past pupils and an elderly priest who had come back to be present at the re-union. It was obvious from the way they flocked around him that he enjoyed great respect among them. Without the slightest promptings they began to pour out their stories. One was an architect, another was a university professor, another was a head of a company, another was a highly successful farmer, another was a monsignor in the Church, and another was a principal of a very prestigious school. The old priest listened with pleasure, as there didn’t seem to be a single failure or loser among them. Whey they had finished he complimented them on their achievements. Then, looking at them with affection, he said, “And now, tell me what you have made of yourselves?” A long silence followed. They were reluctant to speak of themselves. It seems they were so absorbed in their careers that they had neglected their personal lives. Their energies were so focused on efficiency and success that they didn’t have time to grow emotionally, with the result that in terms of relationships many of them were impoverished.

Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’ 

In today’s Gospel Jesus uses a parable of the talents to illustrate how we should live our lives to the fullest if we are to be pleasing to God. In the parable the rich man, before he leaves for a journey gives incredible sums to three servants –the first, ten talents, the second, five talents and the third, one talent, which alone equaled the wages of an ordinary worker for twenty years! Without further instructions the man departs. Hurriedly, the first two servants doubled their gifts, while the one-talent man dug a hole in the ground and hid his. Upon returning the rich man asked his servants what happened to his money. After identical responses about doubling his gift, the first two are called ‘good and faithful servant’ and are placed in charge of even more possessions and welcomed into the joy of the master. While the first two servants were praised the third servant was treated differently. When he was asked what he had done with the talent received he said “I went off and buried your talent in the ground.” The master berates the man as wicked and lazy, and tells him that he should have invested the money with bankers, and then he takes the one talent and gives it to the one who already had ten, and exiles the timid servant to the outer darkness. Why was the timid servant condemned? The tragic flaw of the timid one is that he lived out of fear even when gifted. Every gift of God is also a mandate to bear fruit in God’s vineyard. Some people are so good that they are good-for-nothing! It does not matter how many talents we have but how well we use them. We also need to realize that life and everything we have is a gift from the Lord and we have to be accountable for the gifts received. 

“Give it your best shot!”

Tom Demsey was born without a right hand and with only half a right foot. He went to school and played football. He even played on a junior college team in California. In time he began to place kick for the team. He got so good that eventually he was signed by the New Orleans Saints. On November 8, 1970, the saints were trailing Detroit 17-16 with two seconds to go. They had the ball on the Detroit 45-yard line. New Orleans coach J.D. Roberts tapped Tom on the shoulder and said, “Go out there and give it your best shot!” The holder set the ball down eight yards behind the line of scrimmage, instead of seven, to give Dempsey a split second more time to get the ball off. This put the ball 63 yards from the uprights. The rest of the story is history. Tom’s half right foot made perfect contact. Tom later said in the Newsweek magazine: “I couldn’t follow the ball that far. But I saw the official’s arms go up, and I can’t describe how great I felt.” The saints won the game by 19-17, and Dempsey shattered the NFL field goal record by seven yards. - What does the story have to do with today’s gospel? Tom Dempsey had very few, if any, talent for playing football. Yet he used the very few talents he had to accomplish a great deal. He not only played pro football; he set a pro football record that still stands.

Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ 

 “Today it is easy to let fear govern our lives. A whole political and social structure is nurtured by fear and it stalks our Christian life. Traditionalists fear the gift of Vatican II and a changing Church, and want to keep their treasure intact through a return to dated rituals and arcane theology. Those who welcomed the aggiornamento of John Paul XXIII often want to freeze it in time fearful of renewing the renewal. The wise women at the wedding feast, the enterprising servants in today’s gospel, and the good wife of Proverbs were people of foresight, initiative and independence. The Church today has been given vast treasures of ‘talents’. Will these increase or remain hidden and guarded?”

John Donahue 

Foretaste of Heaven

 The legendary American violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, was but seven when he performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in public. Aged ten, his violin recital at London’s Royal Albert Hall was so phenomenal that Albert Einstein who heard him reportedly whispered to the child prodigy, “Today you have proved to me that there is a God in heaven!” Indeed when one experiences talent developed in so short a time, one gets a glimpse of God, a foretaste of heaven. Today’s readings suggest that God wants us to use our talents and treasures before time runs out.

Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’ 

Practice, practice, practice

 Novelist Sinclair Lewis was once besieged by college students for a lecture on the art of writing. The students explained that they had a deep desire to be writers. Lewis began his lecture with: “How many of you earnestly yearn to be writers?” All hands went up. “Then,” said Lewis, “there is no point in lecturing to you. My advice to you is to go home and write, write, write!” We might add, “practice, practice, practice!” that some degree of perfection might pervade every talent we are invested with – but only so that we invest in it, ourselves. Then sometime we might hear those words: “Welcome into the joy of the Lord!”

Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’ 

Name Your Talents

 A friend of mine, a successful businessman, told me this story. Once, during a long season when his work was suffering, he began to wonder if he should find another occupation. One of his sisters’ kids listening to his doubts, took a pencil and wrote on a piece of paper what she must have learned at her catechism class: “God created you to use your talents. Name them.” The last words were underlined for emphasis. She taped the paper nearby his computer where they are to this day. –All life is a risk. People who are afraid of risking anything or taking chances do not win. Fear is not the mother of invention or discovery. Fear paralyzes action. Fearful people will be concerned about their own skin and security.

John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’ 

Never too late to make your mark

 Antonio Stradivaris was born in Cremona, Italy. He had a very high and squeaky voice. Though he loved music and wanted to be a musician, he could not take part in a choir. His friends made fun of him because the talent he had was wood-carving. When Antonio was 22 he became an apprentice to a well-known violin maker Nicholas Amati. Under his master’s training Antonio’s knack for carving grew, and his hobby became his craft. He started his own violin shop when he was 36. He worked patiently and faithfully. By the time he died at 93, he had built over 1,500 violins. Stradivaris of Cremona are the most sought after and expensive violins in the world. He was not a singer, music player or teacher of music yet he used his ability to make beautiful music.

Elias Dias in ‘Divine Stories for Families’ 

It matters not how many talents we have but how well we use whatever we have, to better life!
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FROM FR. TONY kADAVIL:

1) Chance-taking adventurous voyagers.

Columbus trusted his maps and calculations, considered his risks and sailed off to encounter the "new world."  Magellan based his charts and maps on the most current information then available, and boldly circumnavigated the world.  A few centuries later in their search for a Northwest Passage, Lewis and Clark set off, crossed the entire North American continent and explored the nation. All these explorers had at least one thing in common.  They all based their momentous journeys on maps that were mostly inaccurate, hopelessly flawed or vastly mistaken.  Yet each of these adventurers went ahead, accepted the risks, plunged into unknown territories and changed the world.  It is precisely because of their risk-taking that the face of the planet was re-drawn and the dreams of future generations were re-shaped.  Those without the vision, without the courage to take risks, are quick to label others as crazy, crackpots, fools and failures.  In the parable of the talents this week, Jesus gives a stern warning -- discipleship does not promise complete safety.  On the contrary, true disciples are called to take risks and venture beyond the known and the secure.
2) Play it safe:
 
There is an old story about two farmers visiting over a fence in early Spring.  "Jake," the first one said, "What are you going to plant this year, corn?"  "Nope," Jake replied, "scared of the corn borer."  "Well, what about potatoes?" his neighbor asked.  "Nope, too much danger of potato bugs," announced Jake. The neighbor pressed on, "Well, then, what are you going to plant?" Jake answered, "Nothing! I'm going to play it safe."   In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the story of a lazy servant like Jake, who buried his talent instead of doing business with it.

3) The man who did not bury his talent:
 
Antonio Stradivari was born in Cremona, Italy, in 1644.  Because Antonio’s voice was high and squeaky, he did not pass the audition for the Cremona Boys’ Choir.  When he took violin lessons, the neighbors persuaded his parents to make him stop.  Yet Antonio still wanted to make music.  His friends made fun of him because his only talent was wood-carving.  When Antonio was 22 he became an apprentice to a well-known violinmaker, Nicholas Amati.  Under his master’s training Antonio’s knack for carving grew, and his hobby became his craft.  He started his own violin shop when he was 36.  He worked patiently and faithfully.  By the time he died at 93, he had built over 1,500 violins, each one bearing a label that read, “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno…...”  (“Antonio Stradivarius of Cremona made in the year...”)  They are the most sought-after violins in the world and sell for more than $100,000 each.  Antonio couldn’t sing or play or preach or teach but he used the   ability he had, and his violins are still making beautiful music    today.  Antonio is a challenge to people who have only a single talent and who try to bury the talent for fear of failure -- like the lazy servant in Jesus’ parable.

 








4) A very rich person,

about to set off on a journey, entrusted very large sums of money (talents) to three of his slaves, each according to his personal ability:  five, two, and one.  A talent was worth between five and six thousand denarii -- or about 15 years’ wages for a simple day laborer.  The rich man freely bestowed responsibility and a chance for unsupervised action on all three slaves.  These amounts were enormous to these slaves who had nothing and earned nothing.  Through skillful trading and investing, the slave with the five talents managed to make five more -- doubling his master's money.  The slave with the two talents did the same.  The third slave buried his talent in the ground.  He was afraid to take the risk, afraid of the consequences of losing all the money, and afraid of the master’s reaction if he did.  On the day of accounting, the master rewarded the two clever slaves ("Come, share your master's joy" vv 21, 23), but punished the third slave whom he called "wicked and slothful" (v. 26).  He took the third slave's talent and gave it to the first slave.  Clearly the master did not want security -- but initiative.  He exposed the third slave's explanation as a mere excuse for irresponsibility and laziness.  Even the most timid person could at least have invested the one talent with bankers and gained the interest from it, the master pointed out (v 27).









5) How to stay safe without taking risk?

1.  Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents. 2.  Do not stay home because 17% of all accidents occur in the home. 3.  Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians. 4.  Avoid traveling by air, rail, or water because 16% of all accidents     involve these forms of transportation. 5.  Of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in Hospitals.  So, above     all else, avoid hospitals.     BUT, you will be pleased to learn that only .001% of all deaths occur in worship services in church, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders.  Therefore, logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is at Church!  And, Bible study is safe too.  The percentage of deaths during Bible study is even smaller.  So for SAFETY'S sake: Attend Church, and read your Bible.  IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE!




 6) Have you heard the old parachute joke about the guy who was having trouble trusting?
 
His friend said, “I know the best solution for your problem. A parachute jump will fix your problem of trust and lack of confidence.”  So they took this guy up for a jump.  But just before he was to jump he got very nervous. His friend assured him, “It’s very easy.  You jump out, and then pull the rip cord. If for some reason it doesn’t work, you pull the second cord, which is a back-up – guaranteed absolutely to work!  Trust me!  Then you just enjoy your trip down and a car will be waiting for you and will drive you back to the airport.”  So the guy jumped out of the plane.  He pulled the rip cord and nothing happened.  “Oh, no!” he thought.  “I’ll pull the back-up cord.”  He did.  Nothing happened. And the guy said to himself, “Oh, no!  And I bet the car won’t be there either.”  
*****
ADDITIONAL ILLUSTRATIONS FROM TK:


1) Using one’s talents:
 
Booker T. Washington started life as a black American slave. At the age of sixteen, he walked almost five hundred miles from his slave home to Hampton Institute in Virginia. When he got there, he was told that classes were already filled. But that didn't stop him. He took a job at the school doing menial jobs: sweeping floors and making beds and anything they wanted just so he could be around the environment of learning. He did these jobs so well that the faculty found room for him as a student. He worked his way up at the school, became a famous teacher, the first black faculty member at Hampton Institute. He became a writer and the author of Up From Slavery. He was a popular public speaker. And he eventually founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he brought George Washington Carver to teach and do all his research which changed and improved farming techniques. Booker T. Washington used his God-given talents and we all gained from it.
 


2) Buried talent: Niccolò Paganini (1782 –1840)
 
was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was one of the most celebrated violin vituosi of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. His Caprice No. 24 in A minor, Op. 1, is among the best known of his compositions, and has served as an inspiration for many prominent composers. But he  willed his violin to the city of his birth, Geno, Italy, with the condition that the violin never again be played. What a pity! The absence of use and handling resulted in the decay of the wood used in the instrument. A violin that is constantly used can be preserved and in some cases even grow richer in tone for hundreds of years, Paginini's wish had resulted in the crumbling of his precious violin in its case.
 


3) "If only I had her looks."
 
There is a story of the thirty-eight-year-old scrubwoman who would go to the movies and sigh, "If only I had her looks." She would listen to a singer and moan, "If only I had her voice." Then one day someone gave her a copy of the book, The Magic of Believing. She stopped comparing herself with actresses and singers. She stopped crying about what she didn't have and started concentrating on what she did have. She took inventory of herself and remembered that in high school she had had a reputation for being the funniest girl around. She began to turn her liabilities into assets. When she was at the top of her career, Phyllis Diller made over $1 million a year. In the 1960's that was a great deal of money. She wasn't good-looking and she had a scratchy voice, but she could make people laugh. Well, maybe God is saying something like that to us through today’s parable of the talents. Maybe when we complain that we wish that we had more, if only we were like someone other than ourselves, if only... He says to us: "Use the gifts I have given you!" Stop crying about what you do not have and start concentrating on what you do have. Use the gifts that God has given you.
 


 4) "Where is the piccolo?"
 
Sir Michael Costa, the celebrated conductor of the 19th century, was holding a rehearsal. As the mighty chorus rang out accompanied by scores of instruments, the musician playing the piccolo --a little pint-sized flute--thinking perhaps that his contribution would not be missed amid so much music, stopped playing. Suddenly, the great leader stopped and cried out, "Where is the piccolo?" The sound of that one small instrument was necessary to the harmony, and the Master Conductor missed it when it dropped out. The point? To the Conductor there are no insignificant instruments in an orchestra. Sometimes the smallest and seemingly least important one can make the greatest contribution and even if it doesn't seem to make that big a difference. Like the piccolo player in Sir Michael's orchestra, we often in our own sovereignty decide that our contribution is not significant. But the Conductor immediately notices. From our perspective, our contribution may be small, but from His, it is crucial. For all piccolos who won't play, or at least aren't playing, Jesus has something to say: "Use the gifts that God has given you."


5)  “Do you want a chance to change the world?" :
 
Steven Jobs is the man who founded the enormously successful company called Apple Computer. Jobs decided that Mr. John Sculley was the man he needed to help him fulfill his dream of building a completely different kind of computer company, one which would make computers available to every person in the world. However, Mr. Sculley was comfortably and safely entrenched as president of the Pepsico Corporation, the makers of the soft drink Pepsi. In this position, John Sculley had obtained everything that a man could want: power, prestige, public recognition, an enormous salary and a secure future. The thought of a career change requiring a move to the West Coast frightened him. He was concerned about losing pensions and deferred compensation and the adjustment to living in California, in other words, "the pragmatic stuff that preoccupies the middle-aged." He says, "I was overly concerned with what would happen next week and the week after next." John Sculley knew that he was safe and happy at Pepsico. But he also knew that he had grown to dislike the competitive nature of the business. He also knew how bored he was. Steven Jobs at Apple Computer sensed this. And so he finally confronted his new friend with this pointed question. He said to John, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" That question penetrated deep into the heart and mind of John Sculley. It changed the course of his life. He therefore went to Apple Computer and helped it to grow into one of the most successful corporations in the world. Mr. Sculley's life was changed because he took the risk and decided to invest in himself and others, and to grow. [John Sculley, Odyssey (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), p. 90.]

 
6) Talents- use them or lose them:
 
 There was an American businessman by the name of Wilson. He was tired of the Great Depression, rising taxes, and increasing crime, and in 1940 he sold his home and business and moved to an island in the South Pacific to get away from it all. Balmy and ringed with beautiful beaches, it was a paradise. Sounds like the perfect setting doesn't it. You know the name of the island? Iwo Jima. For those too young to recall, Iwo Jima, was an island where the fiercest fighting between American forces and the Japanese took place in the Second World War. You have to use your talent or lose it. 
 
7) “What we are about is faithfulness.'
 
" Back in the 1940's Clarence Jordon founded a farm in Americus, Georgia, and called it Koinonia Farm. Koinonia was a community of poor whites and blacks who cooperated in earning a living. The integrated status of the community bothered many local citizens. They tried everything possible to wreck Koinonia. They boycotted its farm products, and slashed the workers' tires when they came to town. Finally in 1954, the Ku Klux Klan decided to get rid of Koinonia Farms. One night they came and burned every building except Dr. Jordon's home. They chased off all of the families except for the Jordons and one black family. The next day a local newspaper reporter came to the farm to see what remained. The rubble was still smoldering. But Clarence Jordon was busy planting and hoeing. With a haughty spirit, the reporter said to Dr. Jordon, "Well, you got two of those Ph.D.s and you've put fourteen years into this farm, and there's nothing left to show for it. Just how successful do you think you've been?" Clarence stopped hoeing, turned toward the reporter with his penetrating eyes, and said quietly but firmly, "Sir, I don't think you understand us Christians. What we are about is not success; what we are about is faithfulness." In order to be faithful, we must be willing to take risks for that One who dared to march into the very jaws of Hell for us.
 

8) Earl Fitz was a doer.
 
According to a recent article in Christianity Today, Fitz is 81 years young and he has been the mayor of Iowa Falls, Iowa four times. But that's the easy part. In Earl's mid-fifties he left his teaching job and began a new career, selling Bibles. Earl bought 10,000 Bibles from a publisher getting out of Bible sales and sold them all. Today, Earl is the founder and president of Riverside Book and Bible House, which sold $33 million worth of books last year. He's succeeded with a lot of hard work and a commitment to get Bibles into the homes of America. Earl began a new career when most are preparing for retirement. He wasn't ready to buy into that classic American line, "I've done my time, I owe myself some easy livin'." And he's going strong nearly thirty years later [Christianity Today (August 17, 1987), p. 14ff.] I believe Jesus loves the Earl Fitzes of this world. That is the lesson of the parable of the talents.









 


9) LVA: result of using one’s talents: 
 
A lady by the name of Ruth Colvin was shocked at her hometown's illiteracy rate. So she decided that God would have her do something about it. "I felt strongly motivated by the Parable of the Talents," she says. "We're responsible for making good use of the knowledge we're given." So Ruth, a teacher, set up a makeshift office in her suburban basement, filing important matters in an old refrigerator, and launched Literacy Volunteers of America in 1962. Today, LVA has helped 90,000 people learn to read thanks to a grandmotherly woman who saw a need and put her talents to work meeting it. [Today's Christian Woman (January/February 1987), p. 23.] Life is a gift. We live in a wonderful world of opportunity.
10) Use the gift of vote:
One voter in each precinct in the United States can determine the next President of the United States. In 1948 just one additional vote in each precinct would have elected Thomas Dewey as President. In 1960 one vote in each precinct in Illinois would have elected Richard Nixon as President. Thomas Jefferson was elected President by one vote in the Electoral College. So was John Quincy Adams. Rutherford B. Hays was elected President by one vote. One vote gave Statehood to California, Idaho, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The Draft Act of World War II passed the House by one vote. Your one vote is important, and a spiritual gift is just like a vote. You either use it or you lose it.

11) One-note opera:
 
Charles L. Allen once told about a composer named Gioachino Rossini who would go out to some small village in Italy one which could not afford an opera and he would write an opera which the people of that village could perform. One summer, he auditioned all of the talent in this small village, and the only woman who could possibly be a leading lady was limited to only one good note. It was a middle Bflat. Rossini was not discouraged; he went right ahead and wrote the opera in which the leading lady had only that one note to sing. But, he surrounded that middle Bflat with such beautiful harmony that when she sang her one note, it was like an angel from heaven. That is what happens when we offer our meager gifts to God.

 

12) “Life is just a tiny little minute,/ But eternity is in it." :
 
Herman Cain, CEO and president of Godfather's Pizza, Incorporated, is an African-American man who was raised in poverty. He credits his hard-working father for his success in life. Throughout Herman's life, his father worked three or four jobs at a time in order to support his family. In addition to his father, Herman Cain also found inspiration from Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, a former president of Morehouse College. Dr. Mays taught Herman a poem that has guided him through the ups and downs of life. It is as follows:

"Life is just a minute/ Only sixty seconds in it,
Forced upon you, can't refuse it./ Didn't seek it, didn't choose it,
But it's up to you to use it./ You must suffer if you lose it,
Give an account if you abuse it,
Just a tiny little minute,/ But eternity is in it." (2)

This catchy little poem perfectly captures our first point for today. According to Jesus, parable of the kingdom, we will be held accountable for our “stewardship” of our lives.

13) “But the recruiting office is on the other side of the street!”
The French Army was having a campaign to recruit paratroopers. On one of the busiest streets in Paris they placed their poster. It read like this: “Young Men! Join the parachutist forces of France. It is more dangerous to cross this street than to jump with a parachute.” The poster was a great success until someone scribbled this message at the bottom of the poster: “I would gladly join, but the recruiting office is on the other side of the street!” [Eric W. Johnson, A Treasury of Humor, (New York: Ivy Books, 1994), p. 187.]  I doubt that many potential parachutists were deterred by having to cross the street, but there are also many people who would never parachute no matter how safe it was. The very idea turns their knees to jelly. They don’t want to take any risk in life just like the lazy servant in Jesus’ parable.






 





14) "Do you like the house?"
 
J. Wallace Hamilton in his book What About Tomorrow? tells the story of a wealthy builder. He called in his top assistant manager and said, "I am going away for a while. While I am gone, I want you to oversee the building of my home. I am going to be retiring in a few years, I have these wonderful plans, and excellent parcels of land by the lake, and I want you to oversee the building of our home." As he left on his journey, the assistant said to himself, "He lives in luxury and has done very little for me. When he retires, what will I have?" So the assistant used every opportunity to feather his own nest. He hired an immoral builder, he used inferior products, he hired inferior workmen and when the house was completed, it looked fine on the outside, but its deficiencies in workmanship and material would soon show as the test of time came. It was not a job "well done." When the wealthy builder came back, he said, "Do you like the house?" The assistant manager replied, "Yes, I do." The wealthy builder then asked, "Is this house beautiful?" "It certainly is," the assistant manager replied. "Great," said the wealthy builder, "because it is my gift to you. The house is yours." Each of us lives in the house we are building each day. Where are you in this story tonight?



15) "If you are lonely or have a problem call me.”
 
Tony Campolo told of meeting a woman who is confined to a wheelchair. Although Nancy had a handicapping condition, she developed a unique ministry to people who are lonely and hurting. Nancy ran ads in the personals section of the newspaper that read: "If you are lonely or have a problem call me. I am in a wheelchair and seldom get out. We can share our problems with each other. Just call. I'd love to talk." From that simple ad the results were truly amazing. Nancy claims that she receives at least thirty calls each week from persons who need someone to talk to and listen to their pain. Nancy spends most of her day comforting and counseling people. She has become someone for hundreds of people with problems to lean on. Campolo asked her how she became handicapped. Nancy's answer surprised, even shocked him. "By trying to commit suicide," she said. Nancy went on to explain, "I was living alone. I had no friends. I hated my job, and I was constantly depressed." Nancy decided to jump from the window of her apartment "to end it all. But instead of being killed, she ended up in the hospital paralyzed from the waist down. While she was in the hospital, Nancy said, "Jesus appeared to me and told me that I'd had a healthy body and a crippled soul but from then on I would have a crippled body and a healthy soul. I gave my life to Christ right there and then," she said. "When I got out of the hospital, I tried to think of how a woman like me in a wheelchair could do some good, and I came up with the idea of putting the ad in the newspaper." [Wake Up America! Tony Campolo (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), pp. 87-88.] Nancy does not have some of the opportunities you and I have. But she is making maximum use of the opportunities she has. She is among the blessed of this world. Today’s Gospel challenges us to show gratitude to God by making use of the talents which God has given to us.

-
16) There are actually seven forms of intelligence:
 
There is a psychologist at Harvard named Howard Gardner who is trying to revolutionize the study of intelligence. He says we have been studying I.Q. all wrong. On our intelligence tests we only measure one or two forms of intelligence. Gardner says that there are actually seven forms of intelligence. Some people are gifted with linguistic intelligence, he says. These are our writers and poets. Others have what he calls logical/mathematical intelligence. They make good accountants and scientists.
Some people are gifted spatially. These are our artists and architects. Some are gifted kinesthetically. Their bodies are unusually graceful and coordinated. These are our athletes and dancers. Others are gifted interpersonally. They know instinctively how to get along well with the people around them. These are our sales persons, counselors, teachers. Some are gifted in their ability to look within. These are our philosophers "our wise people." Some are gifted musically.
Here is the important point. Gardner claims that everyone he has ever tested has scored high on at least one of these seven forms of intelligence. All of us are gifted in our own way. Many of us are smarter than we think we are. Don't you wish that someone had told you that a long time ago? Do tell your children, please. Many of them will go through life thinking they are dumb because their form of intelligence is not valued in school. All of us are gifted. All of us have what we need to succeed. God has created us differently so that different tasks will get done in this world. But all of us have a place where we fit in. All of us have what we need to succeed. WE ALL HAVE WHAT WE NEED TO SUCCEED. God has given us all we need! The sad thing is that we do not appreciate the gifts we have.

 


17) Give it your best shot!
 
Tom Dempsey was born without a right hand and with only half a right foot. Tom went to school and played football. He even played on a junior college team in California. In time he began to place kick for the team. He got so good that eventually he was signed by the New Orleans Saints. On November 8, 1970, the Saints were trailing Detroit 17-16 with two seconds to go. They had the ball on the Detroit 45 yard line. New Orleans coach J. D. Roberts tapped Tom on the shoulder and said, “Go out there and give it your best shot!” The holder set the ball down eight yards behind the line of scrimmage, instead of seven, to give Dempsey a split second more time to get the ball off. This put the ball 63 yards from the uprights. The rest of the story is history. Tom’s half a right foot made perfect contact. Tom later said in Newsweek Magazine: “I couldn’t follow the ball that far. But I saw the official’s arms go up, and I can’t describe how great I felt.” The Saints won the game 19-17, and Dempsey shattered the NFL field goal record by seven yards. What does this story have to do with today’s Scripture readings – especially Jesus’ point in today’s Gospel? (Mark Link S. J. quoted by Fr. Botelho)

 
18) Sharing the best you have:
 
Mother Theresa of Calcutta was summoned to the court on the charges of converting children to the Catholic faith. When she stood in the dock, the judge asked her if the charges were true. She asked for a baby to be given to her. She held the baby in her arms and said, “This child I picked up from the dust bin; I don’t know to what religion this child belongs or what language it speaks… I give this child my love, my time, my care, my food… but the best thing that I have in my life is the faith in Jesus Christ. Can’t I give this child the best I have in my life?” The case was dismissed in favour of Mother Theresa. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho)
 

19) Wasted talent:
 
 I don’t believe there is any such thing as a born footballer, or writer, or painter. But Paul came very close to being an exception. He was a star footballer. Of course he had to work at it. But everybody agreed that he was a natural. He knew he was better than any of the kids around him. It came as no surprise when at fifteen he was snapped up by a top professional club. He didn’t have long to wait for his big chance. He had only just celebrated his sixteenth birthday when he found himself selected for the first team. He made an immediate impact. Almost overnight he shot from obscurity to fame.  From there on it was one success after another. Within two years he was the club’s leading scorer. By now he was also playing for his country. Everywhere football was talked about his name was mentioned. To the fans he was a hero. To the media he was celebrity. He reveled in his success. A few years ago he had been a poor kid playing in the back streets of a provincial town. Now he was rich and famous. He married a beautiful model, drove a Mercedes, and was the envy of every schoolboy who played football. However, things soon started to go wrong. There were rumors that he was drinking heavily. The rumors proved to be well-founded. His football began to suffer. His personal life began disintegrate. His wife suddenly left him, claiming that he was selfish and immature. Sadly, Paul’s glittering career came to a premature end. He was remembered as much for the manner in which he squandered a rare talent as for what he achieved with it. It is dangerous when a talent springs up overnight. Far better that it should grow up quietly and almost unnoticed, like a seed that grows into a tree. When a talent grows up like that, a kind of wholeness results. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). L-14
 
21) Foretaste of Heaven:
 
The legendary American violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, was but seven when he performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in public. Aged ten, his violin recital at London’s Royal Albert Hall was so phenomenal that Albert Einstein who heard him reportedly whispered to the child prodigy, “Today you have proved to me that there is a God in heaven!” Indeed when one experiences talent developed in so short a time, one gets a glimpse of God, a foretaste of heaven. Today’s readings suggest that God wants us to use our talents and treasures before time runs out.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds ’(Quoted by Fr. Botelho).


 





22) Practice, practice, practice:
 
Novelist Sinclair Lewis was once besieged by college students for a lecture on the art of writing. The students explained that they had a deep desire to be writers. Lewis began his lecture with: “How many of you earnestly yearn to be writers?” All hands went up. “Then,” said Lewis, “there is no point in lecturing to you. My advice to you is to go home and write, write, write!” We might add, “practice, practice, practice!” that some degree of perfection might pervade every talent we are invested with – but only so that we invest in it, ourselves. Then sometime we might hear those words: “Welcome into the joy of the Lord!”
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’23) (Quoted by Fr. Botelho).

***********
3.     In Whose Hands 

 A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.
 A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million.
 It depends whose hands it's in. 
 A baseball in my hands is worth about $6.
 A baseball in Mark Mcguire's hands is worth $19 million. 
 It depends whose hands it's in. 
 A tennis racket is useless in my hands.
 A tennis racket in Pete Sampras' hands is a Wimbledon Championship. 
 It depends whose hands it's in. 
 A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal.
 A rod in Moses' hands will part the mighty sea. 
 It depends whose hands it's in. 
 A sling shot in my hands is a kid's toy.
 A sling shot in David's hand is a mighty weapon. 
 It depends whose hands it's in. 
 Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches.
 Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in God's hands will feed thousands. 
 It depends whose hands it's in. 
 Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse.
 Nails in Jesus Christ's hands will produce salvation for the entire world. 
 It depends whose hands it's in. 
As you see now it depends whose hands it's in. 

 So we can put our concerns, our worries, our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our families, and our relationships in God's hands because --

 It depends whose hands they're in. 

 May God Bless you and those you love, and keep you safe, 

 Father Pat

**********
4.     From Sermons Illustrations:

Bertoldo de Giovanni is a name even the most enthusiastic lover of art is unlikely to recognize. He was the pupil of Donatello, the greatest sculptor of his time, and he was the teacher of Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor of all time. Michelangelo was only 14 years old when he came to Bertoldo, but it was already obvious that he was enormously gifted. Bertoldo was wise enough to realize that gifted people are often tempted to coast rather than to grow, and therefore he kept trying to pressure his young prodigy to work seriously at his art. 

One day he came into the studio to find Michelangelo toying with a piece of sculpture far beneath his abilities. Bertoldo grabbed a hammer, stomped across the room, and smashed the work into tiny pieces, shouting this unforgettable message, "Michelangelo, talent is cheap; dedication is costly!" 

Gary Inrig, A Call to Excellence.


 
We have nothing to do with how much ability we've got, or how little, but with what we do with what we have. The man with great talent is apt to be puffed up, and the man with little (talent) to belittle the little. Poor fools! God gives it, much or little. Our part is to be faithful, doing the level best with every bit and scrap. And we will be if Jesus' spirit controls. 

S.D. Gordon, The Bent-knee Time 

*************
5.     From Sermons.com  

Jesus once told a story of a wealthy landowner who was preparing for a long journey. He called his three servants and divided his money between them, each according to their ability. To one servant he gave five talents, meaning a sum of money, to a second two, and to a third one.

Why is life like that? I don't know. We are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all guaranteed equal rights under the Constitution. In an election our votes are all equal. But when it comes to our abilities, we are as different as different can be. God simply did not make us all the same. There are some people who can handle five talents; there are some who can handle only one. There are some persons who have great intellectual capabilities, and some who do not. There are some who have the ability to project and articulate their thoughts, and there are some who cannot. There are some who have physical prowess and attractive looks, and there are some who do not.

The important thing to remember is that each servant was given something. No one was left idle. You may not be a five-talent person, but you have some talent. We all do. And you know something. I think that there are a whole lot more one and two talent people in this world than there are five talent people. Oh, there are some people who seem to have it all. I won't deny that. But most of us are just one or two talent servants.
The landowner now went on his journey. When he returned he called together his three servants and asked them to give an account...
 ---------------
"America's Got Talent" is one of a dozen or more copy-cat "spin-offs" from the grand-daddy original "discover-unknown-talent" show "American Idol," a franchise we copied from Great Britain's "Pop Idol" franchise. This genre of television that includes "The Voice," "X-Factor" and "America's Got Talent" focus on finding that rare pearl of stardom embedded amidst the grit and gravel of everyday gifts. 

Ferreting out someone's ability to excel at something, identifying an individual's unique "talent," has its roots in this week's gospel text. In fact, you might call our text the original "talent contest."  

In the first century a "talent" was actually a measure of weight for gold, silver and copper. We do know it was not a specific value of currency or wealth. We do not know exactly what the weight was that a "talent" measured. We do know it was recognized as the largest weight in normal everyday use. One "talent," then, was a considerable amount, especially when it expressed the weight of such valuable commodities as gold and silver and copper.   

In this week's gospel parable these weighty "talents" are distributed by a master to his servants in varying amounts. One received ten "talents." A second received five "talents." A third was entrusted with one "talent." This master obviously "invested" in each of these three servants according to his perception of each of their individual abilities. It is because of this parable that the monetary weight of a "talent" became a term used to describe the natural ability of someone to do something...
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 "The major themes of the Christian faith - caring, giving, witnessing, trusting, loving, hoping - cannot be understood or lived without risk." 

Fred Craddock
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 God's Kingdom Comes through Small Acts of Kindness 

Have you ever felt like giving up? Have you ever wondered, even in what you try to do for God, whether it is doing any good? Let God be the judge of that! I remember reading about a little girl named Annie who in 1876 was ten years of age. She was put into a poor house for children...called the Tewkesbury Alms House in Massachusetts. Her mother had died and her father had deserted her. Her aunt and uncle found her too difficult to handle. She had a bad disposition, a violent temper...stemming in part from eyes afflicted with painful trachoma. She had been put in the poorhouse because no one wanted her. She was such a wild one that at times she had to be tied down. 
But there was another inmate named Maggie who cared for Annie. Maggie talked to her, fed her, even though Annie would throw her food on the floor, cursing and rebelling with every ounce of her being. But Maggie was a Christian and out of her convictions she was determined to love this dirty, unkempt, spiteful, unloving little girl. It wasn't easy, but slowly it got through to Annie that she was not the only who was suffering. Maggie also had been abandoned. And gradually Annie began to respond. 

Maggie told her about a school for the blind and Annie began to beg to be sent there, and finally, consent was given and she went to the Perkins Institute. After a series of operations her sight was partially restored. She was able to finish her schooling and graduate at age twenty. Having been blind so long she told the director of Perkins that she wanted to work with blind and difficult children. They found a little girl seven years old in Alabama who was blind and deaf from the age of two. So, Annie Sullivan went to Tuscumbia, Alabama to unlock the door of Helen Keller's dark prison and to set her free. 

One human being, in the name of Christ, helping another human being! That's how God's kingdom comes, through small acts of kindness! 

Robert W. Bohl, Reluctant Servants 

Making a Difference 

There is a little story that comes from a book called the Star Fisher. Picture if you will an early morning along a California beach. An elderly man is walking along the edge of the water and stops occasionally, picks up something, and then tosses it into the ocean. He then walks a few steps more, picks up something, and tosses it into the ocean. A young jogger is running along and has been watching the man. Finally his curiosity gets the best of him and he stops and goes over to the old gentleman and asks: "Excuse me, what are you doing?" 

The man answered: Well, I am saving the life of these star fish. The storm washed them ashore last night, the sun will be up in thirty minutes, and then they will all die. I am throwing them back into the water to save their lives.

The jogger was a bit astounded. Old man, he said, don't you know that you have thirty miles of beach ahead of you and that millions of those star fish were washed ashore last night. What possible difference do you think that you are going to make. The old man took another step picked up a star fish, and with all his might hurled it into the ocean, then turned to the jogger and said: "Well, son, I guess I made a difference in that one's life." 

Traditional, www.Sermons.com
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Fulfilling Your Calling 

An anonymous writer has said, "My small son and I were taking a walk. In the far corner of the field we found a small patch of beautiful and fragrant flowers. They were in the middle of weeds, almost completely hidden and unnoticed, yet these flowers were blooming in full beauty and we sensed their fresh fragrance. All of us have met persons unnoticed by many, but who in the middle of struggle and unlikely surroundings far from the center of attention live lives of beauty and fragrance. And living lives which seemed obscure they faithfully fulfilled God's calling for them. God's question on the last day will not be, 'How much were you noticed?' or even 'How much did you do?' Rather, his question will be, 'Were you faithful in fulfilling your calling where I placed you?' " 

Peter J. Blackburn, Using What We Have
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 Investing in God 

It had been a hard winter in the Appalachian area. The snow had piled up deeper and deeper, the mercury dropped, rivers froze, people suffered. The Red Cross used helicopters to fly in supplies. One crew had been working day after day--long hours. They were on their way home late in the afternoon when they saw a little cabin submerged in the snow. There was a thin whisper of smoke coming from the chimney. The rescue team figured they were probably about out of food, fuel, perhaps medicine. Because of the trees they had to put the helicopter down a mile away. They put on heavy packs with emergency supplies, trudged through heavy snow, waist deep, reached the cabin exhausted, panting, perspiring. They pounded on the door. A thin, gaunt mountain woman opened the door and the lead man gasped, "We're from the Red Cross." She was silent for a moment and then she said, "It's been a hard winter, Sonny, I just don't think we can give anything this year." 

You might think this message is about a plea for money, but it's not. It's not about investing in stocks or bonds or IRA's. It's about investing in God and what God wants to do in the world. 

David Beckett, Spiritual Investment
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 Service

Sir Michael Costa, the celebrated conductor, was holding a rehearsal. As the mighty chorus rang out, accompanied by scores of instruments, the piccolo player, a little pint-sized flute, thinking perhaps that his contribution would not be missed amid so much music, stopped playing. Suddenly, the great leader stopped and cried out, "Where is the piccolo?" 

The sound of that one small instrument was necessary to the harmony, and the Master Conductor missed it when it dropped out. The point? To the Conductor there are no insignificant instruments in an orchestra. Sometimes the smallest and seemingly least important one can make the greatest contribution and even if it doesn't seem to make that big a difference to the audience at large, THE CONDUCTOR KNOWS IT right away! 

In the Church the players and the instruments are diverse - different sizes, different shapes, different notes, different roles to play. But like the piccolo player in Sir Michael's orchestra, we often in our own sovereignty decide that our contribution is not significant. Our contribution couldn't possibly make a difference. And so we quit playing. Stop doing that which we've been given to do. We drop out. But the Conductor immediately notices. From our perspective, our contribution may be small, but from His, it is crucial.

I just have to believe I'm talking to some piccolo players this morning, who have dropped out of the orchestra, for whatever reasons: pain, exhaustion, insecurity, criticism, laziness, misbehavior. Convinced that your contribution doesn't mean a hill of beans in the bigger scheme of things. We have buried our talent in the ground. 

For all piccolos who won't play, or at least aren't playing, Jesus has something to say. 

Adapted from Richard Love, Blowing Your Horn, Sermon Illustrations.
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 Starting Is the First Step 

Starting is the first step to succeeding. We cannot be afraid of failure. I am a baseball junkie so I can bring you this: in 1915 Ty Cobb set the record for stolen bases, 96. Seven years later, Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates became second best with 51 stolen bases. Does this mean that Cobb was twice as good as Carey, his closest rival?

Look at the facts: Cobb made 134 attempts, Carey, 53. Cobb failed 38 times; Carey only failed twice. Cobb succeeded 96 times, Carey only 51 times. Cobb's average was only 71 percent. Carey's average was 96 percent. Carey's average was much better than Cobb's. Cobb tried 81 more times than Carey. But here is the key: His 81 additional tries produced 44 more stolen bases. Cobb risked failure 81 more times in one season than his closest rival and Cobb goes down in history as the greatest base runner of all time. Why? Because he tried.

The one in the middle - the faithful servant who does the best he or she possibly can with what has been given - the one who tries. And the result is pleasing, perhaps even surprisingly pleasing, to the Master.

David E. Leininger, www.Sermons.com
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 Indifference 

In this passage Jesus, in judging the nations, reveals the importance of caring for believers. We all consider it proper to share food, and other things, to others in the church who have needs. We would all acknowledge that it is important to do so. But Jesus considers it of the utmost priority. Here He judges people by how much they care. 

In the book The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, a devil briefs his demon nephew, Wormwood, in a series of letters, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. In his writings, the devil says that the objective is not to make people wicked but to make them indifferent. This higher devil cautions Wormwood that he must keep the patient comfortable at all costs. If he should start thinking about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans and not to worry so much because it could cause indigestion. And then the devil gives this instruction to his nephew: "I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care." 

Dan Vellinga, What Would You Do?
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 I Can Be a Good Business Man 

Henry P. Crowell contracted tuberculosis when a boy and couldn't go to school. After hearing a sermon by Dwight L. Moody, young Crowell prayed, "I can't be a preacher, but I can be a good businessman. God, if you will let me make money, I will use it in your service." 

Under the doctor's advice Crowell worked outdoors for seven years and regained his health. He then bought the little run-down Quaker Mill at Ravanna, Ohio. Within ten years Quaker Oats was a household word to millions. Henry P. Crowell faithfully gave 60 to 70 percent of his income to God's causes, having advanced from an initial 10 percent. 

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
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 Our Greatest Enemy 

The greatest enemy of faith is not doubt; the greatest enemy of faith is fear. Most of the world is controlled by fear, petty and big. Petty fears control people; great fears control nations. We could feed all the people in this world if we would stop building arms, but we are afraid. In the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) Jesus said, "Those of you who make peace will he happy. You will be God's own." Yet even Christians are preoccupied with fear and protecting ourselves because we don't believe what Jesus said. The Sermon on the Mount is an antidote to fear. But we have never seen fear as the crucial issue, only "doubt." 

Richard Rohr, Radical Grace, p. 349
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 A Little Effort 

Apathy is the opposite of Faith: Some years ago in South America, a crew of Peruvian Sailors, headed up the Amazon river came upon a strange sight. It was like a scene from "The Twilight Zone." A Spanish ship was anchored off the coast and all the sailors were stretched out weakly on the deck of the ship. As the Peruvians drew closer, they saw that the Spaniards were in terrible physical condition. They looked the picture of death itself, their lips parched and swollen. They were literally dying of thirst. 

"Can we help you?" shouted the Peruvians.
The Spaniards cried out, "Water! Water! We need fresh water!"
The Peruvian sailors, surprised at this request, told them to lower their buckets and help themselves.
The Spaniards, fearing they'd been misunderstood cried back, "No, no we need FRESH water! 

But they received the same reply form the Peruvians to lower their buckets and help themselves. They finally did lower their buckets into the ocean waters and when they brought the buckets on deck they discovered to their amazement fresh water....
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Memorable quotes from world great leaders
 
Without your involvement you can’t succeed.
With your involvement you can’t fail.- Dr. Abdul Kalam


1. Henry Ford
Ford is known for his innovative success but he failed five times before he founded the FORD Company.

2. R. H. Macy
Before the success of MACY, he failed in seven businesses and finally succeeded with his new store.

3. Soichiro Honda
The billion-dollar business, that is Honda, started initially with a series of failures. He started making scooters of his own at home and spurred on by his neighbors, finally started his own business.

4. Bill Gates
Gates didn’t seem like a shoe-in for success after dropping out of Harvard and starting a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data.

5. Harland David Sanders
Sanders founded KFC and his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

6. Walt Disney
Walt Disney had a bit of a rough start and he was fired by a newspaper editor because, ‘he lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.

Scientists 7. Albert Einstein

Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, and his teachers and parents thought he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. But he caught on pretty well in the end, winning the Nobel Prize and changing the face of modern physics.
8. Charles Darwin
In his early years, Darwin gave up on having a medical career and considered as a lazy boy. Now, Darwin is well-known for his scientific studies.

9. Isaac Newton
Newton was failed so many times in his school days and was sent off to Cambridge where he finally blossomed into the scholar we know today.

10. Thomas Edison
Edison was fired for being unproductive In his early years. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.

11. Orville and Wilbur Wright
After numerous attempts at creating flying machines, several years of hard work, and tons of failed prototypes, the brothers finally created a plane.

Public Figures 12. Winston Churchill

This Nobel Prize-winning, twice-elected Prime Minster of the United Kingdom struggled in school and failed the sixth grade. After many years of political failures, finally became the Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 62.

13. Abraham Lincoln
After Lincoln was failed many times in business and defeated in numerous runs, he became a greatest leader.


14. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah faced a rough and abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks in her life to become one of the most iconic faces on TV.

Writers and Artists

15. Steven Spielberg
Spielberg’s name was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times. Thirty-five years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.
16. J. K. Rowling
Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel.

Athletes

17. Michael Jordan
Most people wouldn’t believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. ‘I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’
“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have almost lost 300 games.
26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and I missed.

I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.”