From the Pastor – November 13, 2011

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one – to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” (Mt. 25:14-15)

When I was a child, I remember having a picture book outlining this week’s parable. And in the book, the word “talent” was translated “bag of gold.” And that’s precisely what Jesus is talking about here. In the original Greek, the word used is τάλαντον (talenton), which is a unit of measurement. It was the amount of a precious metal that would fill an amphora, which was approximately one cubic foot.  The weight (and value) would depend upon the type of metal. While certainly a “liberal” translation, the term “bag of gold” accurately describes what the servants were given. In terms of weight, a silver talent would be about 3000 shekels. Since a shekel was approximately 4 days wages for a Jewish worker, one talent was about 12,000 days wages or more than 30 years of salary! That’s a lot of money.

But it’s interesting that we no longer use the word “talent” to mean a unit of measurement. We use it to mean “a special natural ability or aptitude.” Where do we get that meaning? In fact, we get them from this parable. The “talents” in today’s Gospel would have been understood by the people listening to Jesus as money. They received money without having to earn it. But over time, we’ve gotten used to an interpretation of the parable that translates talents as “gifts or blessings received,” which goes more to the “meaning behind the parable.”

So what are our “talents;” what gifts or blessings have we received from God? The funny thing is that many people still look at their “blessings” using a monetary formula. A devout Catholic who has been very successful in his career might look at his properties and investments and say “I have received a lot. I am blessed by the Lord.”

But I think there’s something deeper here. True blessings are permanent, not temporary. Nothing “inanimate” (meaning, nothing without a soul) in this world lasts forever. So how can material things be truly considered blessings if they don’t follow us to Heaven? I believe our greatest talent is our faith. And if that’s so, we need to see what we’re doing with that talent. Are we increasing it, or hiding it?

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty