Joe Egan who always had a generous and kind word for everyone–and still does.
Sonja Priest who always brings vibrant energy wherever she goes…and that continues today in her work in a hospital.
The gospel today is the parable of the talents. A man gives his servants talents (coins)…and the important thing to note in this story is that he gives them a different number of coins according to their ABILITY. So the one with the most “talent” if you will, gets 5 coins. Another less talented person gets two and a third, probably with minimal talents gets one. The first two servants do great things with their talents and make more money. The rich always seem to have an easier time making more money –don’t they? The least talented one, the one who didn’t have much to begin with, essentially gives up. He buries his money in fear and just returns it…much to the master’s disappointment.
There’s much for me to reflect on here. Yonkers is a working-class city. Many of my high school friends were the children of postal workers, police officers, and in my case, a custodian. Good working-class, union workers who gave their children all they could with what little they had.
As I looked around the room last night, I saw that everyone had turned out to be pretty successful in whatever role they chose. My friend, Liz is now a successful engineer–a successful woman in a very male dominated industry. Karen is in management at an accounting firm. Joe designs sets for the theatre and Sonja cares for the sick as a technician in a huge suburban hospital. None of us had all that much starting out with but, our one talent has indeed become many thanks to our own hard work, the committment of our parents and the training that our high school and college teachers gave us.
The common misnomer of this parable is that the servant who buries the money is one who can’t be trusted in large matters. The truth is that that servant can’t even be trusted with small matters. That with all the odds already against him he doesn’t even try to do something worthwhile. He doesn’t discern what might be a good route to go into. He simply settles for what his lot in life is. His is a one-talent life.
I loved looking around that room last night and seeing that everyone I knew had done so well. Many have children of their own and are building their own families now. Many had successful businesses. Many had to get creative and invent their own way of being in the world. And many didn’t stop with one career but expanded out into 2 or 3.
I loved having people tell me that I look more confident now than I did 20 years ago–that my skinny frame filled out (perhaps a bit too much), a few asked me for a copy of my book or when my next retreat was, and that, as our first reading also tells us, I married a wonderful woman.
I didn’t however, feel like either of those first two servants–who doubled and tripled their master’s wealth. I felt like that last servant, the one that many people don’t expect much from–but who succeeds despite the odds against them. When everyone tells you to simply accept the cards you are dealt and you don’t and you make everyone see that you are worth more than that one talent…that God has given you far more than the world has given to you and God regards you as more than what the world tells you your abilities are. Perhaps you even exceed your own parents expectations.
Surely, the spirit was at our party last night. As the wine flowed and the music blared, we celebrated life. And we all saw that we had made the most of the last 20 years! And that more awaits all of us in the future.