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Talents for the year
November, at the dying of the agricultural year, marks the end of the Christian calendar.
It is a time to reflect on our own mortality and to remember those who have gone before us. Then comes the start of the new year with Advent, the weeks preparing for the second greatest festival of the year, Christmas.
First comes November, often wet and cold as well as dark. We read in the scriptures the stories Jesus told to his followers, knowing that among them were spies for the powerful people who were plotting his death. He warns us of the consequences of our actions, but lives with zest, affection and humour. There are plenty of jokes in the Bible. Jesus, a consummate teacher, knew when to flavour hard issues with laughter at the right moments.
The parable of the talents tells of a rich man giving large ‘start-up grants’ to people who respond with varying degrees of initiative, and either keep or do not keep their household relationships and responsibilities. They are then told that having been trusted with ‘little things’, large sums of money, they are ready to be entrusted with much greater things.
The word for this unit of financial wealth ‘talent’ has been taken into our language to mean innate gifts, so powerful is the encouragement to use them to the full.
Immediately afterwards, Jesus speaks of the last days when God judges the world, and people found they had met God when giving water to the thirsty, clothing to those who had been stripped of dignity and, most of all, their time, their kindness and listening, to people isolated through being ill, or in prison.
True ‘talents’ it appears, are essentially about relating to other people, especially those in need. Many needs can be met through financial giving to people nearby and overseas whom we do not know personally, and other needs met through the offering of our time. God’s work depends on ordinary people, rich or poor, caring for their neighbour.
We are called to serve people across the spectrum of wealth or poverty because everyone has needs. Where we can alleviate poverty of need, mind or spirit, provide warmth and a sense of being valued to any other human being, that is our Christmas calling.