This is a reprint of “Good News,” the weekly reflection written by Campus Ministry staff and students that is distributed at Sunday Masses at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.
By Mike Klein, coordinator of Volunteer Services
Last week my two-year-old daughter came running up to me in the kitchen. She was upset and held in her hands one of her many toys. “My toy broken. Buy new one.” Instead, we found some glue and put the part back on. In a little while the toy was fine, my daughter was happy, but I was distressed. At that tender age, she already has adopted the attitude that so many of us take for granted: there’s always more where that came from; just throw it away, buy a new one.
There is another two-year-old living in a very different situation. Her toy was carved by her father who works abroad and sends money home when he can. Her sister watches her during the day because the girl’s mother works 10 or 12-hour shifts. The mother rides her bike down a sandy road along the coast before the tropical sunrise brings its steaming heat. An hour later she arrives at the textile plant. There she assembles black fleece fabric that came to Myanmar from far away and will leave for the United States when the quota is filled. Then it’s on to the pile of red fleece at her sewing machine.
What do these stories have to do with each other? I’ll get to the point through this week’s Gospel (Matthew 25:14-30). It is commonly known as the parable of the talents. We can understand “talents” as first-century currency and, metaphorically, read the word to mean our God-given abilities. At first reading, the passage is a good reminder to offer our gifts in the service of God. And while this is not necessarily easy, there may be an even more challenging message complementing the first.
We, as members of the university community, live in relative privilege to the rest of the world. It may not seem that way as we eat mac and cheese for the third night running or struggle to pay tuition bills. But I think most of us have the choice to be here — and the privilege to educate ourselves — without being directly affected by civil war, devastating poverty, hopeless economic conditions, or malnutrition. (A mac and cheese diet is bad nutrition, but not necessarily malnutrition.)
With our privilege comes choice, and with that choice comes responsibility. Yet many of us want the first two without the third; myself included. So here’s where the stories connect. You see, I ordered fleece jackets for the VIA and VISION Leadership Team. I wanted a good jacket, cheap. Who wouldn’t? We were enthusiastic when they arrived, until we saw the tag inside which read, “Made in Myanmar.” Now, I like to think of myself as socially aware and a good steward of my God-given gifts. But even in the light of recent media accounts of sweat-shops and exploitative labor practices in developing countries, I didn’t stop to think. I made a choice without consideration beyond my own needs; and certainly these fleece jackets are more wants than needs. What I really need is to be more responsible about the choices I make and the way I chose to use my “talents.”
My daughter already understands her power of choice. But she is only beginning to understand the responsibility that goes with that privilege. How old must we be to consider the full implications of our choices? How may each of us be attentive servants of the kingdom of God? Whether spending our money Christmas shopping, spending our free time, or spending our life in a chosen career, we need be intentional about our choices and responsible about how we use our talents.