Good morning Father,
I would like to submit to you the following observation , which surely has an extremely selfish taste, but which I find no means to contradict it by myself.
Here is just my observation on the Parable of the Talents.
The Master entrusts a different number of talents to his three servants, to one he gave five, to another two, and to the third servant he gave only one. This may appear to be a minor detail, but, in my opinion, it is not.
The aim of the parable is to highlight the importance of “making the most of” what one has received, regardless of its amount.
It is undeniable, however, that the quality of the earthly life, of those who have received five talents, is superior to that of those who have received only one talent. I am not referring, of course, to the simple availability of money, but to all those gifts (health, affections, and, why not, success …), which God bestows in a differentiated way and at His own discretion.
The person to whom life (namely God himself) has entrusted the five talents is considered especially “blessed by God” within the Protestant culture. On the contrary, as through the Beatitudes, the last ones or whoever loves and serves his neighbors first, as St. Francis did, for example, that is those who bear fruits are glorified by the Catholic culture even if this often means, forgive me for saying so, throwing away one’s existence for the benefit of others. This is exactly the point: what are then the importance and value of our temporal existence? Is it right to debase it to the point of considering it only an instrument to prepare (or not to prepare) for eternal life, without any other reason for being? Why is it called a “gift” if the search for a better quality of life, even from a strictly personal perspective, cannot be considered a value? How can the positive connotation of the term “gift” be reconciled with the Beatitudes, which exalt suffering?
Thank you very much, for the important work you are doing through this column.
Have a great day.
The Priest’s answer
1. Earthly life is not only to be considered as a mere instrument to prepare for eternal life since eternal life begins with earthly life. Eternal life consists in what Our Lord said: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (Jn 17:3).
In the Gospel of John, and not only in the Gospel of John, the verb “to know” does not only mean “to have knowledge”, but also “to love”and “to possess” .
Then the words of Jesus have this meaning: eternal life is knowing You, loving You, being possessed by You and the One whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
2. The talents mentioned in the New Testament correspond to a Greek coin of enormous value.
One talent was equivalent to 6,000 denarii and one denarius was the daily wage of a worker.
3. The talents represent the natural and spiritual gifts that are bestowed upon us to accomplish the purpose for which we were created and redeemed, that is our participation in divine life which means sanctification.
If they are not useful for this, it is as if we were hiding them under the ground . They are wasted.
Therefore, Jesus said: “whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Mt12:30).
4. Living our earthly life seeking “the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33) through knowledge, affections, activities, various initiatives, and also through tears, sufferings as well as enduring various ailments, does not mean debasing our life, but on the contrary it means giving it the utmost importance.
5. Jesus said: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
The life Jesus speaks about is not simply earthly life, to which very little can be added.
John Paul II says: “Jesus is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying Spirit. It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance.
Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence. It is a process which, unexpectedly and undeservedly, is enlightened by the promise and renewed by the gift of divine life, which will reach its full realization in eternity (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2)”(Evangelium vitae, 1-2).
6. Living a high quality life is an excellent thing, and everyone instinctively tries to achieve such a standard. But both earthly life and quality life lose all their preciousness should earthly life be the only life to live or, even worse, should it end badly because of immortality.
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16:26).
7. On the other hand, earthly life remains very precious even if the so-called high quality life is not achieved as long as by living it we reap what we sow together with Christ with a view to “accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life”. (1 Tim 6:19).
8. Finally, I would like to clarify that it is not the Protestant culture that considers the person who has prosperity during earthly life to be blessed by God. But it is the Jewish mentality of the Old Testament that is inclined to consider it more properly with respect to the teaching of Christ . Nor it is the Catholic Church that says that the last ones are especially blessed by God, but Jesus Christ, even if not really through these words. In fact, He says: “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:16).
And along with Him the Catholic Church and the Protestants as well.
Wishing you the fullness of life both on earth and in heaven, I gladly remember you in my prayers and I bless you.