Always ‘Bank’ Your Talents

User’s Guide to Sunday, Nov. 19

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Sunday, Nov. 19, is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30 or 25:14-15, 19-20

Today’s Gospel helped shape my life.

In it, a man going on a journey entrusts his possessions to his servants, giving one five parts, another two and just one to a third. The currency used here is “talents,” and we get our meaning of the word for “talents” from this parable.

The one who gets five talents goes and works hard to double them. We can picture who this kind of person is: the captain of the football team who is also the valedictorian or the woman who is articulate, professionally respected, volunteers and runs the book club. These high performers use their talents to make a difference.

We can also picture the kind of people who get only two talents. They sacrifice for their families, are always at important events, and finish what needs to be done at home. They also double their talents through hard work, but when they’re done, they still don’t have as many talents as the first started out with.

The last kind is familiar, too. They only have one talent. Maybe they are only good at one thing and not that great at everything else. I have at certain times in my life aspired to be the first or second kind of person, but I have to admit I identify more with the third.

When the master comes back, he is disappointed in the third servant, who kept his talent but did nothing with it. My favorite line from the whole parable is this: “Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?”

That’s the line I hang my hopes on. If you do one thing well, you can at least commit that thing to “the bank” — the Church. If your talent, to take one at random, is writing — then write in support of the Church. Maybe the Church will add some interest so you can squeak by when you are called to account.

Of course, we should also always strive to do more than squeak by. Give your talent generously, and you may find you are one of the ones with two or even five talents. But don’t neglect the bank: Volunteer with your parish, share spiritual reading with your friends, and teach the faith to your children. Let your talent earn some interest.

The wonderful wife described in the first reading may be a two- or even five-talent woman. Or she could be a “one.” It’s hard to tell. What we do know is that she is banking her talents by doing her duty.

St. Paul in the second reading makes the point that, whatever our talents are, we best stay awake and use them. Jesus may return at any moment.

When he does, be ready to say, one way or another, “Here are the talents you gave me — and more.”

Tom Hoopes is writer

in residence at

Benedictine College

and author of The Fatima

Family Handbook 

(Holy Heroes).