My mother would have been practically living alone for years in our home if it were not for the company of working students she had sent to school. I remember Lynlyn who had been with my mom for several years. While staying in our home and assisting my mom with the domestic chores, she diligently completed her college degree in Education. I think Lynlyn was truly admirable. Instead of complaining about life’s poverty and deprivation, she faithfully faced every single day doing what she could with the little that life had given her. Whenever I was home, I would notice her industriousness in doing the house chores and her capacity to endure extended hours of studying and completing her class requirements. She graduated two years ago and took the teacher’s board examination. I was, by chance, at home on the day of the release of the result. I asked her if she made it. She smiled sheepishly and raised her eyebrows! Lynlyn is now a teacher.
When life seems to have given us very little as compared to the abundance the others enjoy, it’s so easy to wallow in the mud of self-pity. Lynlyn stands for a person who has been given less in life but does not succumb to the temptation of defeat. Instead, she rises above the seeming unfairness of life by capitalizing whatever little she has got.
Today’s gospel is the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30). Three servants are entrusted with five, two, and one talent respectively to be invested in the master’s absence. Talent was the largest unit of currency known at that time. Other translations render a talent as a thousand silver pieces. Hence, the first servant is entrusted with five thousand silver pieces, the second with two thousand, the third with one thousand silver pieces. Today we understand talents as some skills and personal qualities we are gifted with. While the parable does not intend to legitimize, much less glorify, the inequalities in life, it instructs us about our sense of responsibility especially in view of the final accounting at the end of time. We are accountable to our Master. Our accountability is in direct proportion to the abilities with which we have been entrusted.
Much is expected from whom much is given. Hence, the master in the parable is happy with the first two servants who manage to double the amount they have entrusted with. But while the master does not expect much from him who has been given very little, he still expects at least whatever enterprising spirit that could be harnessed with whatever little resources made available. Hence, the third servant who just buried his talent out of his negative notion of his master is rightly met with his master’s anger and punishment.
In application to life, I submit the following lessons:
There is no use complaining about what we do not have in life. Focusing too much in what we do not have can lead us to self-pity and defeat. We would rather do well appreciating who we are and what we have, even how little it is. This appreciation brings hope and strengthens our determination to overcome the lack in our life. To those who are given less in life, God does not expect much more than what He has given them. But He surely invites them to show that they can be trusted even in small matters: “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities” (Mt. 25:21). Mother Teresa of Calcutta is known to have said this: Not all of us can do great things but we all can do small things with great love.” So, stop complaining. Be faithful with the small things entrusted to you. Carry it out with great love. You’ll see that the world is a little better because of you.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” To those who are blessed with plenty in life, it’s good to remember that much is expected from you. Many people end up as underachievers because they do not put to use the gifts they have been blessed with. Or they recognize their gifts but they refuse to accept the responsibility. So they spend life wasting what they have been given unable to contribute to the transformation of society and the world into a better place. Underachievers are, needless to say, a real disappointment to God, the giver of gifts. When we experience God’s generosity, let us be grateful. Gratitude is appreciation of what we have been endowed with and a commitment to return the favor.
Whether we have received plenty or little in life, we will all be held accountable. Again, our accountability shall be in direct proportion to the capacities we have been endowed with. After all, we are invited to be responsible and trustworthy stewards. We pray and hope, then, that our life shall be a proof that we can be truly trusted with small matters on earth and, hence, deserving of greater things in heaven.