“Co-Workers with God”
A Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Co-workers with God
(16th Sunday after Pentecost – Mt. 25:14-30)
The Bible tells us that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created him”. And the text goes on: “God blessed them, saying: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28).
The image of God in us is our spirit and our intelligence that enable us to continue the work of creation started by God. Since all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, they are all equal in dignity. Here is the source of human rights. We do not owe our dignity and our rights to the generosity of men, but to God our Creator. Because of this, we all have equal and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But apart from this – our relationship to God – there is literally nothing in which all persons are created equal. For example, we are not equal in native capacity or intelligence, we are not equally talented. This is what Jesus tells us in the parable of the talents. The three servants in the parable were not equally endowed. One was given five talents, another two, and the third one, “to each according to his ability”, and this ability is due to many causes: biological, psychological, hereditary, etc. No two persons are alike in ability and thus no two persons are alike in talents. Some have stronger bodies than others; some have more brilliant minds; but every child born into the world receives from the hand of God a specific endowment. No child of God ever receives less than one talent. And the majority of men and women are endowed neither with five talents nor with two, but with one. In every generation there are a few people who are born with exceptional ability in the field of life.
No two persons have the same number or kind of talents. Sometimes we forget this and we begin to compare ourselves with others. We say: “If I had So-and So-‘s wealth, or his great influence, or his power, or his personal gifts, how much I could do!” But the real question is: “What use am I making of what I have?” No man is judged by what he would do if he were something else, but rather by what he is doing with the gifts he has.
There is great danger here with parents who make unreasonable demands on their children, expecting them to achieve things they are not talented for. Or the parents who compare one child to the other, forgetting that no two children have he same number of talents or the same kind. The result is that the one-talent child develops the idea that it is not worthwhile to develop the talent that he does have. “Why try? I can never hope to do as well in school as my brother or my sister!” Thus the talent that the child has is oftentimes lost, and a sense of inferiority is permitted to ruin his life. Here is the greatest contribution of the parent to their children: to discover what talent God has given each child and to encourage the child to develop it.
St. Paul calls these talents “charismata”, which mean gifts given by God for the service of the Community, for the service of Christ’s Body. He says: “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Notice the Trinitarian form of the sentence: Spirit, Lord, God. By our talents we are endowed by the Holy Trinity, we are related to the Holy Trinity, and we continue the work of creation done by the Holy Trinity.
God has given each one of us some unique talent or capacity which no one else in this world possesses. How many millions and millions of human beings lived through centuries, and how many are still living now. You do not find two faces which are similar. In the same way, each one of us has a particular ability to do certain things as no other person can do them. This gives every man, every woman, and every child the value of uniqueness. Each and every one of us is called to add something to God’s creation something that was not here before we were born. That something is from God, and it is precious beyond all price. God has entrusted us with something He gave to no other person. Let us not do like the third servant: hide in the ground the only talent God gave us. It is an offense to God and an injury to us. God says to every one of us, as we read in the book of the Prophet Isaiah: “You are precious in my eyes”. That gives our life an eternal meaning, its full significance.
We may not do miracles, but we can transform our life by transforming the lives of other people. We pray with S. Francis of Assisi:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy”.
All of us can be instruments of God’s peace by sowing: 1) love; 2) pardon; 3) faith; 4) hope; 5) light; 6) joy.
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen! “