16 November 2008 - Fr Terry Tastard

 It is amazing how many parables of Jesus deal with money. There is the woman who loses a precious coin and turns the house upside down until she finds it. There is the parable of the Good Samaritan, which as Margaret Thatcher pointed out, has the Samaritan paying the innkeeper to look after the mugging victim until he is properly healed. There is the Prodigal Son, who demands his inheritance even before his father has died and squanders it. Today, we have the parable of the talents (Matt. 25-14-30) which uses huge sums of money to make its point. But what is the point?

True spirituality is not something other-worldly. It is about how we use our time, our money, our bodies, our emotions and our place in society. It is about all these things, and how they are shaped and influenced by prayer, the sacraments and the disciplines of our faith. True spirituality brings together the world and the Spirit of God. True spirituality helps us temper our ambition and shape it in a responsible way. True spirituality is about the love of God made visible in the flesh of Jesus Christ. The parable asks us to take our material world seriously, the blessings that we have, and to do something with them. This includes the material things of life. A spirituality that was divorced from the material realities of our life would hardly be worth living. It would exist in our heads only and would lack reality.

Money is like a passport. It opens doors and introduces us to whole new worlds. If you doubt that then you are one of the few people who have never dreamed about what they would do it they won the lottery. In the parable of the talents each person has been given a sum, and it represents all the social potential of money. The servants with whom the master is pleased have been out there in the world, engaged with the world. They have used the money to make more money. Perhaps we are uncomfortable with the material image, but perhaps Jesus meant to shock. Spirituality cannot be a private faith, but must lead us to engage with the world in a way that shapes it in keeping with God the Father's love. As we say in the Lord's Prayer, 'Your kingdom come, on earth as in heaven.'

As an amount of money, a talent was an enormous sum, over 3,000 shekels. In English the word talent also means an innate gift, a skill or ability. This neatly makes the point of the parable, that each of us has been given certain talents. What do we do with them? Are these linked to our faith? Do not for one moment think that you do not have talents. These do not have to be grand, flashy gifts. I think of one woman I know whose talent was hospitality. Her table was a place where people met and made friends and found a welcome. What is your talent? Is it buried away? Or is it something that leads you in faith to do what you can to the profit of God and his kingdom?

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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