Sunday, 13 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury

Mt 25:14-30
We just heard the parable of "the talents". Its message is very simple: that we must use the gifts that God has given us, and use them well.

Let me start with a comparison: I've been thinking a lot about the martyrs of ancient Rome recently. As most of you know a group of 20 of us recently went to Rome on our parish youth pilgrimage, and we saw many of the sites of ancient Rome, and chief among them for a Christian are the sites where the early Christians were martyred, put to death: the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus, and so forth. Each of those martyrs sacrificed the greatest "talent" that they'd been given by God, namely, their very lives. They chose to be martyred rather than deny Christ. Many of those martyrs were martyred at a very young tender age, an age when what they were sacrificing would have seemed it all the more poignant –they had not lived long enough to use their lives for anything in particular.
And yet, the point I want draw your attention to is that the early church CELEBRATED their deaths, celebrated their martyrdoms, rejoiced that they had put their lives to this use. They had taken their lives, that “talent”, and laid it down in martyrdom.

Human existence is full of examples of people who manifested the truth that often the greatest use we can make of our life is to lay down in sacrifice for someone else. Today, being Remembrance Sunday, is a day when we recall in a particular way those who have lost their lives in warfare, and those who have lost their lives in many DIFFERENT ways in warfare. Most typically, we recall those who died bravely sacrificing themselves for others. Those who took the "talent" of life and used it to the full.
But we also recall those who had the “talent” of life taken from them in violence.
And both such types of death call on us who live to use our lives well, to use our talents well, to not waste them, to not fritter them away by doing nothing in particular.

Today’s gospel parable of the “talents” is given to us by the church for this Sunday on a cycle that is quite independent of the fact we keep Remembrance Sunday in England today. Nonetheless, it seems to me that this is a fitting connection.

We all have talents, and yet we all know it is easy to waste our talents. We can tell ourselves, like the man in the parable who had only one talent not 10, we can tell ourselves that our talents are not enough to be worth using. And yet, the very obvious point that the Lord is making to us is that it does not matter how GREAT our talents are, what matters is how FULLY we use them –not least because it is for this that will be rewarded in the next life.
Today's parable gives us a rather frightening motivation to use even our small talents -the fact that will be held accountable for how we use or fail to use them. But we would do well to remember also the lesson of the widow’s might, of the woman that Jesus praised for being more generous than others even though all she had to give were her last few coins.

As we recall today on Remembrance Sunday the great loss of life in warfare, let us ask ourselves how well we are using our talents, how much we are laying them down in service to others, whether we are living our lives as worthy of being offered to God as "a living sacrifice"(Rom 12:1).

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