Sunday 19 November 2017, 33rd (A)
● Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
● Psalm 128 ● 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 ●● Matthew 25:14-30 ● ●
Title: “HIDDEN TALENT”
[__01__] In school, I recall a classmate who did not want to be in the choir. Intentionally and with great acumen and poise, he went to the required choir audition and sang all the notes off-key.
He had and – and still has -- perfect musical singing pitch and is a very talented singer and guitarist.
This is one way to hide your talent. The parable today is about HIDDEN TALENT, the hiding of one’s talent.
[__02__] On a recent Sunday, we were reminded about the 2 great commandments: [Love God …. Heart …soul …mind …strength] and [Love neighbor as yourself.]
And, this love also requires talent and technique. Sure, you might say that this is not the same talent or agility that is prized because someone can play a musical instrument, hit a three-pointer, or speak four languages. But, love is also a talent and technique.
And, it gets better the more we practice. This is the message of the parable and the message of our Holy Communion, that we receive Jesus Christ so that we can not only keep him to ourselves but also give him away. He is our hidden talent who we share.
[__03__] Louis [Louie Zamperini] was unbreakable. Louie as unbreakable, tough, strong, a World War II soldier and hero and the subject of Laura’ Hillenbrand’s biography and history: UNBROKEN which also became a film titled, also UNBROKEN.
I cite Louie as an example of one who certainly did not hide his talent.
Louie operated the bomb-sight on a fighter plane/bomber in World War II. On a mission taking from Hawaii in May 1943, Louie’s aircraft goes down in the Pacific Ocean.
Louie – with 2 others – Phil and Mac survive the crash. Louie would survive on this raft for 47 days, a record. This was one of Louie’s remarkable feats of endurance which continued after he became a POW prisoner of war of Japan in World War II for the next two years.
[__04__] Before the war, Louie was a well-known and successful middle-distance runner who made the Olympic team in 1936. He was the youngest runner ever to make the team.
As a boy, his talent for running and feats of strength had landed him in lots of trouble, his talent in a way turns into a danger and liability, a childhood and youth – for Louie – of stealing and petty crime.
Louie was on his way to juvenile delinquency when his elder brother and others try to focus him on running that involves wearing a uniform and not breaking into houses.
[__05__] An important message of the parable is that TALENT and using our TALENTS involves risk, struggle, adventure.
In the Gospel, there is the famous episode of the brothers James and John who – when asked if they will accept the baptism with which Jesus is to be baptized and cup which he is going to drink. (Matthew 20:22)
They are asked, can you …?
They say, “We can.” (Matthew 20:22)
However, they are saying “we can” because they are – they believe – simultaneously negotiating their guaranteed seats and salvation.
Jesus is asking you and me to use our talents – to say WE CAN – even when we do not know – when we cannot guarantee the results.
In the parable, I encounter an individual with whom I can identify. He wants guarantees.
Jesus offers us something more than guarantees, something better. He offers us GIFTS.
[__06__] The invitation to love is not a guarantee. It is a GIFT.
The invitation to forgive is not a guarantee it is a GIFT.
Sometimes, these are challenges. For example, we might say – someone might say – I have been away from church too long…or from going to confession too long… It seems risky.
Or, we might resist forgiving someone or admitting a wrongdoing. It seems risky.
True, I cannot guarantee you a particular experience or emotion or immediate result. God does not make guarantees. He offers gifts.
Soon, we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior. He was not a guarantee. He was even a contradiction, as the prophecy of Simeon reads. (Luke 2:34)
Nevertheless, Jesus is a gift.
Imitating him, we bring his gift to others.
[__07__] Louie Zamperini.
Much was expected of Louie. And, he had great physical strength, intelligence and vision.
Much was expected of Louie after he was stranded on the raft on his 47-days of floating in the Pacific. He used every brain cell and bicep to fight off the sharks, to dodge bullets from Japanese ZERO fighter planes.
But there was one crisis that did not involve shrapnel or storms or the sharks or. It was more internal – inside the raft. After inflating their raft, Louie and his comrades found the emergency provisions which were a few squares of chocolate and few tins of water. They immediately began to ration. Inventory was taken and the rules were established, as Hillenbrand wrote. (Unbroken, page. 129)
These rules of rationing, however, did not remain unbroken. On the second day at sea, Louie woke up to divide up their ration of chocolate. It was all gone. He turned to look at the sergeant who was across from him who was at this point doing what is the inclination of many of us if we were caught in something dishonest and guilty – he was grinning, smiling.
The discovery of this enraged Louie and the others seemed to notice the resentment (Unbroken, p. 142).
But, over time, Louie decided to forgive him, noticing how contrite and hard-working this sergeant was. And, it was really by that act of forgiveness that the 3 of them were able to pull together and row and survive.
They dodged the bullets and survived the 47 days. Louie was unbroken, not because of what he did with his physical strength, but his spiritual reserve. Louie, the thief, forgave the one who had stolen.
Forgiveness is also our talent, our strength. We are called to trade and multiply it.
We are all entrusted with much. [__fin__] [Bibliography: Hillenbrand, Laura Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House, 2010]