33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
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 piccolo player – a little pint-sized flute – thinking perhaps amid so much music, that his contribution would not be missed 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 being: to the Conductor there are no insignificant instruments in an orchestra. Sometimes the smallest and seemingly least important one can make the greatest contribution. Even if it does not seem to make that big a difference to the audience at large, the Maestro knows it right away!
The third servant in today’ gospel parable did nothing with his one talent, perhaps because he feared failure. Another possible reason: perhaps because he played the game “if only.” If only I had been given the talent of these other two men, then I could have accomplished something. To me, however, neither of these reasons really gets to the heart of the issue. I believe that the one-talent man did nothing with his talent because he thought to himself: “Well, my one little talent would not make any difference anyway.” There are a lot of people who feel that way.
Today’s gospel is reminding us not to bury the gifts that God has given us. To do so is to be a “wicked, lazy servant!” Ouch! We all have some “buried talents” – God-given gifts we have not fully used according to God’s purpose. There is more we could be doing for the kingdom of God, but we think, “Not me. I’m not talented or gifted enough” or “Someone else can do it better that I can” or “God cannot be telling me to do that… I do not have the time, the know-how, the experience, the financial resources” or “I am retired now and I have been waiting a long time to finally focus on my own desires.” We can find all the excuses we want… But there is no holy excuse for wasting anything good that God has given us. But sad to say it happens quite often, because we do not realize how necessary our gifts and talents are for the Church and its mission of spreading the Good News of God’s love.
There was a flier that was handed to me in a church in San Diego. It goes like this: Would our church be empty on Sunday, or full to overflowing, if everyone attended as I do? How much Bible study and prayer would occur if everyone took the time I do? How many needy and afflicted, wounded and hurting, sad and lonely people would be touched and healed if every member acted exactly as I do? Would we need fundraisings and repeated appeals for financial support if everyone gave like me? Would the church just be an attractive social club, would it be closed, bankrupt, out of business; or would it be a dynamic force for Jesus Christ in our community and in our world if everyone were just like me? What would the church be like if every member were just like me?
“To everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” The meaning is this: If a person has a talent and uses it, he or she is progressively able to do more with it. But if he or she has a talent and fails to exercise it, he or she will inevitably lose it. It is the lesson of life that the only way to keep a gift is to use it in the service of God and neighbor.
This leads us back to the principle of stewardship. We must realize that stewardship is a source of grace because it gives us a golden opportunity to share in God’s provident and generous love. It gives us an opportunity to participate in the very life of God – which is a life of generous sharing, a life of self-giving love.
Let us end by praying this Stewardship Prayer: Almighty and ever-faithful God, gratefully acknowledging Your mercy and humbly admitting our need, we pledge our trust in You and each other. Filled with desire, we respond to Your call for discipleship by shaping our lives in imitation of Christ. We profess that the call requires us to be good stewards of Your gifts. As stewards, we receive Your gifts gratefully, cherish and tend them in a responsible manner, share them in justice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord. Amen.