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Ten Talents

  • International
  • September 1, 2012
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The word ‘talent’ has passed into common use as a natural ability given at birth, which when used brings fame, fortune and a sense of one’s resourcefulness. We are encouraged to ‘develop our talents’, not to ‘hide them’ – expressions which originate from this parable, one of the better known in the Gospel, and often quoted. In its original form, a ‘talent’ was not a coin of value, but a weight, a measure.

The setting is simple: a rich landlord, about to set out on a journey, entrusts three of his slaves with different amounts of talents. “Trade with these until I return”, he commands. On his return, he demands an accounting. He praises those servants who have multiplied his wealth, and rewards them generously. One of the three however, afraid of the risks of losing what he has been given, has hidden his talent in a safe place, and returns it intact to his master. He receives the greatest censure.

The story is a metaphor for the endtime. The point is not when the master will return, but that he will surely return and demand an accounting. Is this parable addressed therefore to those with responsibilities in the Church, as a challenge to them not to fail through inertia and diffidence? Do not be nervous and afraid, the story says, but be bold and enterprising.

In recent years, the charismatic renewal has brought to a common awareness the numerous gifts – or ‘charisms’ – which so many ordinary people have been blessed with. These are not meant to lie dormant; but to be used -- used for the benefit of the community, to encourage it, to build it up, to witness to the world. If over the centuries, ‘talent’ has come to have a somewhat self-centred meaning, then surely today ‘charism’ is a better translation. It stands for a gift from God, which truly enhances the powers of the individual, but which is meant for service in the community.
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