I sit staring at my one-eyed gingerbread man who I have managed to dismember piece by piece. He is delicious by the way. When I contemplate my own talents, I get a sense of what they are as I look back at my life. If the “inability to say no” is a talent, I have tons of that. (It is not by the way) How about the need to constantly feed people desserts? I have that in spades. What about impulsive, fast acting, take charge, bossy? Sure, and those talents get things done. I like to write. I pretend I can draw, and I can make stuff. As I think about this and consume what is left of gingerbread Bob, I admit that I also have been gifted with creativity. There is no doubt I have done some wild things over the years with that talent. Ask anyone who ever went on the “Cold Testament” Jr. High retreat, which by the way, was not the actual name of the retreat. It was the Old Testament Retreat.
As a new Youth Minister, we re-created a time when the twelve tribes of Israel wandered the desert, I imagined that this great hands-on learning experience for sixth through eighth graders would deepen their understanding of that period in history. They stayed overnight in tents, were divided by tribes, learned to make unleavened bread, and heard amazing talks. It was epic. The unanticipated challenge was I had planned it in February at Estrella Mountain Park. When the sun went down, so did any hope of warmth. It was a long freezing night. My sleeping bag that was supposedly “good to thirty below zero”, was ineffective. I instead deposited myself by the fire. This became my custom for the next six times we did these retreats, and that way the kids knew where to find me. That night we burned through a quarter cord of wood. I could hardly wait until daylight. Water froze in the dog bowls, as it had dropped to twenty-eight degrees. For the kids, it was a roaring success. So, we created the New Testament Retreat for the following year, this time in November. We were not made aware until we arrived that the “Faire Festival” was happening simultaneously. They were “casting spells” that evening. We were praying the Rosary, to counteract that dark nonsense. I kept waiting for the “Goblin King” to show up in the middle of the night when I was by the fire and scare the creativity right out of me.
I could not have pulled off most of my ideas without others who also invested their talents in the work of making something unique and memorable for the kids. Together, we made unbelievable things happen and we still do. The joke that has surfaced over the years is, “Barb made eye contact with me, so that’s why I volunteer.” I love it. Maybe that is a talent I have too? Blessed be God!
We all have been gifted with talents. That is a fact. In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus is going to remind us of that. He gives talents, “each according to his ability.”(Matt 25:15) The really incredible thing about talents is that when we use them, they grow and God is able to increase the yield through our willingness. I have been blessed to share my talents on a variety of initiatives. God is so good and ready to help us, help Him, help one another.
“For everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matt 25:29)
In short, use them or lose them!
We need faith to bear fruit. What is faith? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines faith as, “man’s response to God, who reveals Himself and gives Himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life.” (CCC 26)
Jesus paid the ransom for our sins and through that singular act we were redeemed. I don’t know if we fully realize the priceless nature of this supreme gift and respond to God in gratitude. Faith is the response and discovering our talents helps us uncover the meaning and purpose of our life. Faith is an action. Sometimes we mistakenly think we “don’t have any talents,” so we do not nurture them. Or we are “not as talented as others,” so they go fallow from lack of use. Or we use them in all the other aspects of our life and save nothing for the Church “because we are too busy.” Or sometimes we take Christ at His Word and jump in with both feet and see what He does with our yes.
“What will we give the Lord for what he has given us? Before we existed he made us, gave us life, gave us a lifetime, gave us a free will, gave us worldly goods, gave us talent, gave us reason, gave us knowledge, gave us all his creation that it might become [ours]” (St Quodvultdeus)
If you are not sure what your talents might be or how to use them at the service of the Lord, there are lots of ways to discover that. But none is more excellent than through Christ’s superabundant light. Spend time in prayer and in the Presence of Christ. He will enlighten and guide you. Yes, it is that simple. Then talk to those who know you best and ask them to tell you about what gifts/talents they see in you.
I have found the “Clifton Strengths Finder, Catholic Edition” useful. It helped me to put a name to actions which energized me, which further motivated me to use them. It was also excellent in suggesting areas where your talents would be best utilized and brought to fruition. Just a suggestion.
I will say this, it all started for me with saying “yes” to a need at Church. I never knew where it would lead, and I did not have to know- because God knew the plans, He had for me. I cannot imagine my life without the incredible friends I have made through my willingness to share my gifts. Nor the inconceivable joy and energy of working in the vineyard of the Lord. God has blessed the work He has called me to do. He has supplied all the ideas, people, and resources, so that even a lowly pile of clay like me, can make a difference.
If He can use me, He can use you too. Blessed be God forever.