The parable of the talents in Matthew’s Gospel is familiar to most of us. In fact, many of us have probably been told of its stewardship message time and again. But in my blog post today, I want to hit on a portion of that Gospel’s message that I believe is particularly important and pertinent as we all strive to live stewardship today.
In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who goes on a journey and entrusts his servants with his money while he’s gone.
“The one who received five talents came forward bringing the additional five … Then, the one who had received two talents also came forward and sad, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See I have made two more” (Mt. 25: 20, 22).
To both of these servants, the Master replies: “Well done my good and faithful servant… come, share your master’s joy… For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.”
What does this mean for us as stewards of God’s gifts today? He expects us to cultivate and develop the gifts He has given us and return them with increase. And for what? It is definitely not for His sake, but for ours. He knows that in doing so we will become better people and grow deeper in our faith.
To illustrate that reality, I would like to tell a story.
When I was pastor of St. Francis Parish in Wichita, Kan., one of the things we did to encourage young people to live stewardship as a way of life is offer free organ lessons. In exchange for the lessons, the youth were asked to serve as organists at Mass. It worked wonders. Numerous young people signed up for the lessons, and the parish gained a few organists out of the deal.
This wasn’t a clever rouse to obtain free organists for the parish, though it might seem that way at first. In fact, I saw this as an opportunity to help the young parishioners identify a God-given talent, develop it, and give it back to God in service – all very important elements in the stewardship way of life. It was an opportunity for a hands-on life lesson, and it warms my heart to see how much of an impact that one small decision, that one little opportunity has had on the lives of some of those who took it.
Mindy Hatzmann, the daughter of St. Francis parishioners Carolyn and Dan Loughman, was one such youth. She spent time during her fifth-grade year learning to play. Mindy took to the organ quite well. It was obvious that she did indeed have a great talent, and the lessons were helping her cultivate it. In addition to practicing during her school recesses, Mindy played the organ for Sunday Masses, and she developed, not only a musical talent, but an understanding of how important it is for us to recognize the gifts God has given us, cultivate them, and, then, return them with increase to the Lord. As she continued to play the organ, she became a better organist and, in turn, as she gave back to the Lord by using her talent to serve the Church. Ultimately, she became a more faith-filled Catholic.
“I fell more deeply in love with the Mass the more I played,” Mindy once told me. “I began to understand a lot more about our Faith, and the more I used my God-given talent to serve, the more I understood about why God calls us to be good stewards.”
Today, many years later, as a wife and mother, Mindy’s life continues to bear witness to the importance of recognizing, cultivating, and returning our God-given gifts as she continues to use her talents to serve the Lord. The Church has benefitted through the years from the beautiful music Mindy has played that turned many people’s hearts to God. The Church also continues to benefit, as Mindy not only continues to serve herself, but as she raises her children to be grateful, giving stewards, as well.
I highlight Mindy’s story not to pinpoint a decision I made at pastor, nor, for that matter, to pat Mindy on the back (though I do believe she and her husband deserve to be recognized for the decisions they’ve made and the life of stewardship that they live). I wanted to call your attention to Mindy’s story because it bears witness to two of the most important aspects of the stewardship way of life – cultivating our gifts and returning them with increase to the Lord.
God has given each one of us many gifts. If we cultivate them responsibly, and then return them to the Lord in grateful service, we are sure to grow in faith and we are sure to bring many others closer to the Lord as well. That is the beauty of discipleship lived through stewardship – it builds the Church.
I challenge each and every one of you to follow suit. Then, God-willing, one day you, too, will hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share your master’s joy.”