“To some he gave five talents, to another two and yet to another one talent ….”

I think of talents more as gifts and blessings which I have received from God, all given freely and with love to everyone he has created. Yes, each one of us has been blessed with different gifts, with a variety of talents uniquely put together in various measures, I am unique, there is no one else on earth just like me, and there never will be. I can truly say I am a very special person!

I have many gifts and talents, but do I realise their existence? Do I accept with gratitude the gifts I have been given? Do I use my gifts and talents to try and make this world of ours a better place?

I think we very often equate “talents” with gifts like intelligence, judging one’s worth with the ability to achieve in exams and delighting with the number of letters one has after his/her name. Or seeing someone who has become a famous dancer, singer or musician, we laud them and aspire to emulate them. It may also be that someone has excelled in the “Sports” area and has been a participant in local, regional or worldwide games like the Olympics. The young people dream of becoming a famous footballer or runner or gymnast and then feel disillusioned and dispirited when they fail to achieve their goal.

I believe there is too much competition in the world, whereas we really should be aiming at co-operation. We have beauty contests, musical festivals, the X-Factor, cooking competitions, gardening competitions, where the emphasis is very often put on achievement and success with little regard for those who are gutted when they fail to become a winner. And thinking of our Education System at the moment, all we hear about are Schools’ Leagues for results and very often young students get so stressed by work that they lose all sense of self-worth because they failed an important exam or did not get enough points to enter a Course at Third level.

At the end of our lives we will not be judged on our scholastic achievements, nor on our giftedness at sport, or our artistic or musical prowess. Somehow, I do not think God will be asking us: “How many A’s did you get in your Leaving? How many degrees have you or how many letters do you have after your name?” No, I believe we will be judged by the simple question: “Did you use your gifts and talents to make the world a better place?

Personal talents are not the only gifts we have! We can think of great gifts like honesty, truth, gentleness, sympathy, forgiveness, joy, generosity, goodness, respect …… all qualities of life which lead to peace and happiness. These are the true talents and gifts which when used would bring about a better world in which to live. How great our world would be if everyone were to use their gifts to promote the Kingdom of God?!

I love this little story which I heard when I was in Brazil.

“One day, there was a blazing fire in a forest in the Amazon and all the big strong animals headed off through the forest for safety. But a tiny little bird, the humming bird, flew to the river, filled her little beak with a few drops of water, flew back to the fire and dropped the water on the flames. Time and time again throughout the day she repeated this act, until exhausted she stopped for a breather. One of the big strong animals said sarcastically: “What on earth are you doing?” Whereupon the little bird replied: “I am doing my part.”

And this is the challenge set before us in our Readings today. It is the responsibility of each one of us to do his/ her part to try and build a place where people can live in harmony and peace. Am I using my God-given talents, be they one, five, ten or more, to really work for justice and equality where people can live in peace? Do I recognise and acknowledge the gifts I have or do I hide them and say: “I’m no good. I could not do anything?” Remember, “God does not make Junk” and he won’t start now. I have many talents; I am unique; I am important in God’s plan and he is relying on me to do my part.

Remember: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do I will do, and I will do it now. So help me God. Amen.”

Sr. Padraigín Mc Kenna OP