"Well done, my good and faithful servant— (Matthew 25:21). The new year beckons
us to take inventory, to size up the past while also setting goals for the future.
The parable of the talents provides a challenging focus for looking at what
we have—or have not—done with the gifts God has given to us.
A —talent— today refers to a gifted quality or a natural ability.
The word has its roots in the Greek talanton, meaning a weighted amount
of money of significant worth. A —talent— in Jesus— time was a valuable coin.
Invested wisely, its worth could greatly increase.
I can imagine Jesus looking around at the people he taught and
noticing the differences in age, size, facial features and social conditions.
He knew that beneath these externals was an immense treasure of love in each
one. He longed for them to recognize and share their goodness. Then he thought
of the talent, the precious coin, as a way to teach them.
In this parable three servants are each given talents —according
to their ability.— They are expected to use them so the value will be multiplied.
Two of the three do so and are praised for being —faithful servants.— Not so
the fearful servant who did nothing with what he was given. He worried about
displeasing the master, feared getting hurt by doing the wrong thing and doubted
he could meet the challenge. In doing so his gift lay unused, and he was reprimanded
severely for his inaction.
The greatest talent all of us have is our capacity to give and
receive love. This gift is in all of us and, like the parable—s coin, it has
immense value. Love has the potential of growing in worth when invested in the
lives of others. It has the ability of increasing in strength, depth and quality.
Like the fearful servant, we can let the treasure of our love
lay idle in our hearts. When we are in situations that challenge us to invest
our love, we can easily lean toward holding back. Who wants to forgive someone
who has deliberately harmed them, do a kind deed when there will be no gratitude
for it or take time to visit a lonely person when the day—s schedule is already
too full? At these times we would much rather hoard our love and keep it to
One good deed can generate many more if we are willing to share
our love. Kyle Sawyer, a 10-year-old boy, decided to raise research money for
a spinal disease affecting his younger sister. Kyle—s dedication and enthusiasm
led him to find others who would help him make 2,000 paper cranes as a fund-raising
project. They were sold as decorations for a hospital lobby and after much hard
work fueled by love, his efforts brought in $12,000. Amazing what a young boy
can do with one talent!
Many times we invest our love by the simple, genuine ways we extend
kindness to another. A local pastor asked some parishioners to describe a loving
deed others had done for them that had made a significant difference. The responses
he received were not about grandiose gestures. They were about simple, loving
actions like coming to visit a widow after a spouse died, helping an older person
buy groceries, offering child care when a single parent was seeking work, listening
to a confused teenager, hugging someone who was crying.
Often it—s the wounded ones who share the fullest amount of love.
Parents whose young children have died reach out to other parents with similar
loss. Recovering alcoholics spend long hours supporting others struggling with
sobriety. Disabled persons volunteer as receptionists for charitable organizations.
We are never too old or too young, too wounded or too busy to share of ourselves
with others in a significant way.
Whether large or small, our deeds of love can make an immense
difference. As we prepare our hearts for the new year, we might ask ourselves
these questions: How can I loosen my tight grip on the precious coin of my love?
What keeps me from sharing this valuable talent God has given to me? In what
ways can my love grow and multiply this year?
When have you seen one good deed generate more
As you look over last year, when did the gift
of love most touch your life?
this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
Moving Beyond Fear
By Judith Dunlap
the parable of the talents the servant buries the treasure entrusted to him
because he is afraid of losing it. Giving in to his fear ends up costing him
everything. Fear that is rooted in an uncertainty of our own power and worth
can be like that. Fear of failure or rejection, or even the fear of being laughed
at, can paralyze us. But it needn—t.
Over and over, Jesus told people not to be afraid but to have
faith. What a wonderful gift to give our children: faith that can overcome any
fear! Unfortunately, we can—t gift wrap it or swallow it like a vitamin. What
we can hand on to our children is the story of faith, giving them a glorious
sense of power and worth by making sure they understand their part in that story.
If I had to tell this story in a hundred words or less, this is what I would
When God made the world he had a plan—everything and everyone
together in peace and harmony. Right from the beginning we messed up, but God
stayed with us. He kept sending prophets, heroines and heroes to call us back.
Finally, God sent his own son, Jesus, who lived the plan with every breath he
took. Jesus shared his life with everyone he touched. He died and rose again
to share that life with us. That makes us God—s sons and daughters. We are God—s
prophets, heroines and heroes working together to make the plan of God happen.
That—s who we are. We have God with us and in us. We—ve got important
things to do. We have to take the love and life Jesus shares with us to everyone
we meet. We are part of God—s plan. Sometimes it can be scary to step out, but
when we remember who we are we won—t let fear stop us.
Read stories about the Bible's heroes/heroines as well as stories of the saints. Talk about how they worked for the plan of God to happen.
this month's FAMILY CORNER.
sharing of food has forever been a way to show our humanity. Mostly Martha
is a film treat in which food becomes the central metaphor for our need
of love and caring.
Mostly Martha is one of a recent spate of foreign and independent
films that bring a breath of fresh air and renewed sense of humanity to the
movies, helped along by a huge new market of DVD rentals and sales. (Mostly
Martha is already available on DVD.)
Martha (Martina Gedeck) is an extraordinary chef so totally fixated
on her work that she spends her psychotherapy sessions describing menus and
food preparation. She is able to prepare the perfect meal, but she cannot navigate
human relationships. She regularly retreats from the restaurant kitchen into
the walk-in food cooler to be alone. She feels so alone that she compares herself
to a lobster: Left too long in a tank, it will eat itself from the inside out,
Martha—s carefully calibrated life is thrown totally out of whack
when her sister dies and she finds herself responsible for her sister—s preteen
daughter, Lina (Maxime Foerste). Martha—s relationship to Lina is defined from
the first by food. Seeking to console the girl on the death of her mother, Martha
can do no better than, —I—ll make you the best meal you—ve ever had.— But Lina
refuses to eat and becomes a difficult charge. She wants to live with the Italian
father she has never known.
Martha—s natural talent is in the kitchen, not in mothering, and
her relationship with Lina continues to be difficult no matter how hard she
tries. —I wish I had a recipe for you that I could follow,— she tells Lina.
Martha—s life is further turned upside down when a new chef is
hired to help out. Mario (Sergio Castellitto) is an Italian who sings and dances
in the restaurant kitchen, bringing joy to the staff in a way that Martha would
never countenance. Mario—s presence is threatening to Martha, although she recognizes
the good that he brings.
It is clear that in the course of the movie Martha is destined
to make a journey from repressed perfectionist to a cook who savors life. But
the plot is not formulaic. There are unexpected twists. Mario, for example,
is the first one to break through to Lina—getting her to eat. We begin to suspect
he will become Lina—s substitute father, at least for a time.
But it—s the pleasure of watching Martha—s journey unfold that
makes this movie so enjoyable. Mostly Martha is a German-made film with
English subtitles, but the story is told so carefully and sparingly in images
that it is minimally dependent on words.
Mostly Martha makes a joyful, authentic statement about
embracing life. It—s a delicious treat.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
St. Angela Merici (c. 1474-1540)
women in 15th- and 16th-century Italy had two choices before them: enter into
a marriage, often arranged, or enter a convent. But young Angela Merici created
a new option. She would devote her life to God and to service in God—s name,
but live her life in the world as a single laywoman working alongside other
similarly committed women.
From an early age Angela wanted to share with others the faith
she so loved. Her father, in particular, had instilled in her a deep love of
the saints. As a young girl she developed a prayer life and fasted regularly.
She sensed that God had something special in mind for her.
Angela grew to be a woman of great charm and appeal who naturally
drew others to her. In 1535, she and 27 other women in Brescia, Italy, officially
became the Company of St. Ursula, popularly known as the Ursulines. Members
lived at home and wore no special habit. They took no formal vows, though their
Rule required the practice of poverty, chastity and obedience. They filled their
lives with prayer, good example, hard work and faithfulness to Jesus.
Angela and her companions were especially drawn to working among
poor young girls. But they were also devoted to helping prostitutes, the sick
and poor, the homeless and orphaned. People especially came to Angela for her
guidance and advice as well as material support.
St. Angela was a quiet pioneer who sought to chart a new path
for herself and the Church through the secular institute she founded. Two generations
after her death the French Ursulines adopted a cloistered religious life and
began educating girls in convent schools.
St. Angela—s feast day is January 27.
Stephen J. Sweeny
the name of St. Angela to Stephen Sweeny, and he—s off. Off and running on one
of his favorite topics. President of the College of New Rochelle (CNR) in New
York—s Westchester County, Dr. Sweeny is deeply devoted to Angela and the college
founded by members of her community.
With Dr. Sweeny at the helm, St. Angela Merici is not just a museum
piece in the hearts and minds of students and staff. Every student learns who
she was and what she stood for. Twice a year, at orientation sessions for new
employees, Dr. Sweeny reserves to himself the honor of —telling the story of
Angela. It—s just glorious,— he told Every Day Catholic.
Dr. Sweeny, 59, is in his sixth year as president at CNR, but
he has been associated with the college for almost 30 years. By now, he has
fully imbibed St. Angela—s values, including her commitment to women and to
justice, as well as her courageous and forward-looking spirit. He recalls the
statue of Angela in the central plaza in Brescia, which he has visited several
times. It shows a —very vibrant, active woman...with one foot forward.—
Rather than bemoan the fact that Angela—s daughters have declined
in number over the years, Dr. Sweeny notes, —We all have to be the Ursulines,
to be modern-day Angelas. We move into the future.—
The College of New Rochelle, which turns 100 years old next year,
is thriving with seven campuses and 7,000 students, 92% of them women. Surely
St. Angela would affirm the college—s commitment to lifelong learning and to
upholding the Ursuline heritage through the education of the whole person. Like
her, the college moves into the future with one foot forward.