“For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’
Mathew 25, 14-3
The brief reflections that follow are neither located in an exegetical sphere nor on an academic level. Instead, they are situated on and in that of the experience of an existence that, for a long time, has been confronted with the parable of The Talents. In so doing, here it considered as a text that can encapsulate an entire life program. The level is not exegetical because many others, particularly specialists, would be able to deal with it certainly better than I can, and point out those aspects that can only emerge following a long and careful study. On the other hand, the level is not academic either, since the intention here is not to show off doctrine and erudition, but simply to share the stimuli and suggestions that the parable has inspired in me and continues to do so.
This does not mean, however, that here I try to bend the meaning of the Gospel passage to my needs and my search for meaning; on the contrary, I let myself be directed and shaped by the words that Matthew reports.
In my experience, the reading of the talents parable is structured around two fundamental questions; the first, what are the talents for me? The second, what did I receive them for? Consequently, my first objective is to try to answer these questions and, subsequently, to try to synthesize them with certain conclusions that always refer back to the concreteness of experience.
To answer the two questions mentioned above, it is necessary to establish a premise to which Matthew’s text immediately indicates, namely: talents are not and cannot be demanded, but are freely given to each person according to a measure that is not for us to judge. If we now address the first question, two related but distinct answers can be formulated. First of all, talents for me are time, the existence that I am allowed to live, while remembering that each moment is not just an instant of the inexorably flowing kronos, but a unique and unrepeatable kairotic moment, in which I must know how to put all my strength into play.
Therefore, the talents are my aptitudes and abilities, however few or many they may be. These I must learn, first of all, to discern and recognise, and then strive to make them bear fruit with a logic of multiplication that is precisely what the parable reminds us of. In wanting, therefore, to answer the second question and speak as a believer, I must emphasise that the first purpose for which the talents have been given to me is the building of the Kingdom of God. In the parable, this is precisely the return of the master, which certainly has an eschatological scope, but also concretely earthly because the Kingdom must be realised now in our lives and in our commitment.
Talents, then, must be invested for the good and for the growth of the ecclesial community in which no one is a spectator or passive recipient, but the protagonist of initiatives and actions for which his or her irreplaceable contribution is absolutely necessary. Finally, talents are given to each individual for his or her personal growth and to make one’s existence increasingly conform to the plan that God has for each of us.
In order to cooperate effectively with this plan, it must, first of all, be known, -and this is where the crucial issue of discernment comes in-, which must be followed, as we said at the beginning, by a clear life program, which is God’s plan for us, and to be implemented responsibly at all times and in all circumstances.
At this point, it is possible to draw some brief conclusions, and the first, which applies to everyone, and which is particularly significant for me, can be summed up in four key words: know how to dare.
It does not matter how many and what talents we have received. Instead, what matters is to have the courage to invest them and to take risks in the first person without becoming lazy or resting on what we already are and have. Meanwhile, we should recall that these talents could always be taken away from us if we do not cooperate in the continuous growth of ourselves and of what we have.
Therefore, in our efforts to invest our talents, we must never forget that everything is a gift and that we are called to be effective stewards; but never masters of that which we did not give ourselves, because they come from the gratuitous goodness of God.
The last and final consideration is a direct consequence of the previous two. If everything is given to me and if I have not given it to myself, I will be called to account for it, having to justify not so much the concrete result -whether they be ten or four talents-, but my attitude and my vital adherence to God’s will.
by Giorgia Salatiello