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Mum once said to me, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ As a young boy I perceived this as a kind of warning – did my stack of Christmas presents come with a set of terms and conditions? How about the guitar I received for my fifth birthday? I wondered just what I was expected to do in return. But as I grew older the intent of mum’s words became clear to me; it was a gentle reminder of the responsibilities that come with being a much-loved, highly fortunate human being. Mum’s words still occur to me from time to time, and they echo in the gospel reading we have heard tonight.
In the parable, Matthew speaks of a master who entrusts his servants to look after his ‘talents’ – that is, his gold. The ‘talents’ are symbolic of our special natural abilities, which are, as Matthew suggests, gifts bestowed on us by God our master. We are sent into the world with a unique set of skills and passions, and God expects that we use them to the fullest. Sure enough, in the story two of the servants return to their master having rightfully used their talents – they are then rewarded for their efforts, as they have shared God’s gifts with the world. However, the last servant must confess to his master that he has buried his talents without using them; his opportunity has been squandered, and his blessings left hidden.
As God-given gifts, our talents are sacred. The parable expresses that it’s our duty to use them for the good of the world. It’s not only wasteful to lock up our talents, but it lets God down – after all, he has trusted us with these incredible gifts in the first place. Now, present at tonight’s mass are so many young men who have used their talents authentically. I see great sportsmen, artists, writers, dramatists, comedians and musicians. I know that all of us have, in our own ways, played some part in God’s grand design.
Our talents are important because they give us a path towards our full potential, and it feels good to do what we’re good at. Even more than this, it feels right; when I am applying myself to a task which engages me, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. It might be when I’m playing guitar, or learning about classical literature at school – it might be when I’m simply speaking with friends in the corridor. In each of these moments I have something to offer, and by sharing this I am in turn fulfilled. Through employing my talents I come to understand the essence of who I am. I’m not living out anyone else’s role, only the role which I myself have been given.
Yet there is another reason that God, the master, bestows talent upon us; it is a fundamental of the Catholic faith that we must apply our gifts in support of others. We have the task of bringing God’s kingdom down to earth, through compassion, courage and our talents. The first reading of tonight’s mass stated that ‘faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.’ The same can be said of our gifts; if, like the servant in the story, we tuck them away, then they might as well not be there.
Honestly, this is a daunting idea to me. I can be quite a reserved person, wary of sharing too much of myself with the wider world. But if I choose to hide my talents instead of putting them to good use, I am denying myself a unique opportunity – the opportunity of living out God’s intentions. And so, whether I am tutoring immigrant children at Friday Night School, together with many other Xavier students, or posing my ideas to family and friends, I find so much joy in sharing my talents. Indeed, Xavier College is a place for all students to explore and exercise their God-given gifts. Back in year 7, my history teacher Mr Mulcahy told me during a parent-teacher interview; ‘It’s okay to excel.’ He was right, and we should all bear this message in mind.
The challenge for us is to harness our talents in pursuit of a greater future for all. Like St Francis Xavier, with his talent for devotion, Martin Luther King Junior and his gift for inspiration, even Jesus with his gift of compassion; all of us here tonight can put our talents to good use. We have so much, and therefore much is expected.
Hamish Adams (House President of Spinola)