Under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars
Homily on 33rd. Sunday of Year. _A.
St. Raphael Kalinowski was a Polish Carmelite , whose feast occurs next Saturday; he was both beatified and canonized by fellow Pole Pope John Paul 11, who has been proclaimed Blessed by Pope Benedict. He was exiled for ten years to Siberia for taking part in a struggle to free his country from the Russians.
St. Raphael`s Letters and Memoirs are a rich source of information on conditions among those exiled to Siberia by in the 19th century. We learn how the exiles had to live on their wits and use their talents to survive . Likewise Alexander Solzhenitsyn who won a Nobel prize in 1970 would inform us about conditions in the Russian Gulags in the following century which were even worse than the preceding one. The The Tsarist regime had some elements of humanity, the Soviets none.
Writing from one stopover in the Siberian town of Tomsk , Raphael Kalinowski tells us: `Here we have painters, musicians, sculptors who by using their talents earn their daily bread. Artisans can also find work; other people however only with difficulty, there is nothing available in business places.` These unfortunate people had no choice but tho use their talents if they were to survive. Its different in our culture. Here people sometimes don’t have to use their talents in order to survive – they can sign up for state assistance. But this is wrong and no one knows what the solution is.
We know from experience that different people have different talents or abilities. A talent in the gospel indicated a large sum of money and this is where the word comes from. I think the word has snarrrowed in meaning nowadays and any young lady who can hold a portable microphone correctly and gyrate accordingly is descrobes as being `talented`.
Bu tthere is an enormous range in the way people are talented. We learn from experience who is good at what, and we relate to people accordingly. Like the Lord in the gospel, we tend to entrust people with responsibilities and tasks that are in proportion to their ability. We also learn from experience what our own abilities are, and what our limitations are, and we tend to take on tasks that correspond to our abilities and to avoid those that do not.
The rich man in today’s parable was well aware of the abilities of his servants. Before he set out on his journey he entrusted his property to each, ‘in proportion to his ability’. He knew what each of his three servants was able for, and he only gave as much responsibility to each of them as each could carry. The man who received five talents was capable of making five more; the one who received two talents succeeded in making two more; but the person who received one talent though was capable of making one more, he didn’t bother doing anything . so we might ask, what held him back. It was probably fear, ‘I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground’.
Many of us may find ourselves having a sneaking sympathy for the third servant, because, deep down, we are only too well aware how fear can paralyse at times and prevent us from doing what we are capable of doing. Fear can be a much more powerful force in the lives of some people than of others. There can be many reasons for this. Those who have experienced a lot of criticism growing up can be slow to take a risk and may develop a fearful approach to life. There is an Irish proverb, `Mol an oige agus tiochfaid siad.` The phrase means praise the young and they will make progress.` The converse, unfortunately, is also true. Criticize the young and they will be held back. Unfair criticism can stunt our growth and prevent us from reaching our God-given potential. I remember a colleague of mine onece writing to me and saying : `I am keep my head below the parapet`. This was because for fear someone would take a pot shot at him . We hide what we have been given in the ground. There it remains safe, but ueless.
Jesus was only too well aware of the disabling power of fear in people’s lives. It is striking the number of times in the gospels Jesus addresses people with the words, ‘Do not be afraid’.
We have each been gifted by the Lord in different ways for the service of others. If we hide what the Lord has given us, others are thereby deprived. Most of us need a bit of encouragement to place our gifts at the disposal of others. Part of our baptismal calling is to encourage others. Our very presence is to communicate to others the message, ‘Do not be afraid’.
The Lord has entrusted to us the treasure of the gospel. Now is not the time to hide it in the ground out of fear. Rather, it is a time to encourage each other to share this treasure, so that the church may become all that God is calling it to be.
Today I was called to say prayers at a service in Perth for a 23 Irish boy killed in New Norcia recently. He had ony been four weeks in the country. It was sad to see so many of his young friends devastated by this experience. Because of today`s gospel I asked them what talents Kieran had . After a while one of them in the front seat said , `socialising`. In this context I think it meant drinking pints of Guiness in an Irish pub. But yet he had brought numerous young people together who loved him and enjoyed his company.
So in a real sense everything we have can be regarded as a talent – our faculties, our senses, our eyes and ears. All can be used in the service of God and neighbour.
In one of his sonnets, John Milton bemoaned the loss of his eyesight ..It was poem I learned at high school, it contained the line; `That one talent, which was death to hide, lodged with me useless`. Only when we lose something valuable do we appreciate it for what it was.In the same way we should be careful not to wait until it is too late to use our talents for the building up of God`s kingdom.