So my New York Football Giants are now 1 and 8, and so I am once again learning lessons in humility. Even worse, I have to admit that I am now a fan not of the Philadelphia Eagles but a fan of one Eagle in particular. It’s just plain hard to not like Carson Wentz, who is not only the future of NFL quarterbacks, but just an amazing guy. If you’ve been wondering why lots of ESPN viewers have been crying like children lately, just google Dutch Destroyer, and see the story of Lucas Kuster, an 8 year old football prodigy who was cut down by cancer, and how Carson Wentz went above and beyond in befriending Lucas and his family. Chris Long, the Eagles excellent pass rusher, was on the radio last week and warned the hosts not to hang out with Carson Wentz because you’ll just feel bad about yourself, Wentz being the best person ever. It seems no one with Wentz’s talent could possibly be so humble.
Now, some “people think that humility is a matter of taking yourself to be small, unworthy, not up for much. But, in the Gospel parable (we just heard), the servant who thinks he is too little to do much with his talent is dismissed as wicked and useless, and his talent is taken away from him. The Lord doesn’t praise him for humility.
“So what is humility? It is the opposite of pride—but what is pride? Pride isn’t thinking that there is some excellence, some talent, in yourself when there really is. Rather, pride is a failure to recognize that talent as given by the Lord.
Not everyone is as insanely talented at one thing as a Carson Wentz or a Chris Long, or Sergey Brin or Maya Lin or Elon Musk or Yo Yo Ma, for that matter, but everyone has talents, everyone has been given something or lots of things that they are good at. Not all talents are showy, of course. Perhaps you have my favorite talent in others, the ability to listen patiently to the concerns of others. Or perhaps the Lord has granted you an empathetic heart or the ability to knit or to fix mechanical things or you know, all the stuff you’re good at.
Now, that said, “Our talents are not a function of what we are and can do. Every excellence in us is a gift of the Lord’s. We can acknowledge the excellence that is truly in us without danger of pride, provided we remember that such excellence comes from the Lord.
“Not only that, but in the Gospel Reading our Lord announces a funny distribution principle: to him who has, more will be given. So here is the idea. A person who does not refuse a gift of the Lord’s receives it and consequently has more. Then, because he has more, the Lord will offer him another gift. If he does not refuse that new gift, it will be given—and so he will have more. And then more will be given to him. And so on and on, till a person blazes in glory for the Lord.
“Unlike the useless servant in the parable, then, we can aim as high as we like, with true humility, provided we recognize as gift every excellence we have. Everything is gift, and everything is meant to be given back in service of love for the Lord.”1
But we can’t do that if we’re afraid of using our talents. That fear manifests itself in so many ways. What if I fail? What if I go for it and fall on my face? What if I feel the Lord calling to me to do something, but I feel totally unprepared to do that? Well, the good news is that the Lord doesn’t call the prepared, He prepares the called. Those talents are already in you, waiting to come out.
If this parable tells us anything, it’s that when you are generous in the use of our talents, when you use them to bring light into the world, happiness to those we love, and glory to our God, God will reward you, reward you with opportunities to use those talents, with work that challenges and engages you; He will set you at tasks which demand your best efforts, and lead you to accomplishments which satisfy and delight you.
Or, you know, you could just dig a hole, hide your talents, and hope God isn’t mad when you see Him.
1Eleanor Stump: http://liturgy.slu.edu/33OrdA111917/reflections_stump.html