To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. (Mt 24:15)
When we discuss or consider the Christian life - what it means to live as a faithful member of the Church, to follow Christ, to keep the commandments - we are likely to focus on a few things which we must do and a few other things which we are supposed not to do. The commandments make it fairly clear. They speak of our responsibility to God: to pray, to go to Mass, to honour his name; and to our neighbours: to tell the truth, do no harm, be faithful in relationships, respect others’ property, to avoid envy. It is not always easy to keep to these precepts, but they are straightforward yes/no do/don’t requirements. To use a very modern phrase, we can approach them with a tick-box mentality, and people often do - a bit like the rich young man who came to Jesus. Yes, we might say, I’ve been to mass, not robbed any banks or committed adultery, told no really bad lies. Surely (we might think) we’ve met the admission criteria, haven’t we?
But in today’s parable Jesus invites us to take a further step. Here, in the Parable of the Talents, he is telling us that living as a Christian, imitating Christ, walking in his way, is much more than just a matter of whether or not we meet a set of criteria. It is about using the gifts which God has given us to our fullest potential. It is about making a better world, about exploiting the gifts which he has given us to their fullest extent.
Jesus says that God have given to each “in proportion to his ability”. We are all different, with different skills, different abilities, different aptitudes - and to follow him, to serve him, is about fulfilling the potential which he has given us.
It is about living life to the full - which is not simply about enjoyment or pleasure - but about our impact on those around us.
So the Christian life It is not simply about whether we have stolen, or lied, but about whether we have improved the lives of others, respected their dignity, helped those who are in need. It is not simply about whether we have been faithful in our relationships, but whether we have treasured those closest to us, put their needs before ours, been attentive to their concerns. It not simply about whether we have done no harm, but whether we have done good, improved our environment, made our own contribution, however small, to the good of our neighbours, our communities, and the rest of mankind.
It is, quite simply, not about how many talents, abilities or aptitudes we have, but about what we have done with the gifts that God has given us.