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What did the Church do with the talents bestowed at Vatican II?

Sebastian Gomes

Monday, January 16, 2012

Recall the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30).  A man is preparing for a journey and entrusts his possessions to his servants.  To one he gives five talents; to another he gives two talents; and to another he gives one talent.  The first two servants are proactive and trade with the talents; each doubling what was given to him.  But the servant with one talent digs a hole and buries it for fear of losing it.  When the man returns, he praises the efforts of the proactive servants; he entrusts more to them and he invites them into joyful fellowship.  The servant with the one talent, on the other hand, is criticized and condemned for doing nothing with it, and it is taken away from him.
On Friday, January 6 we celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord.  Canadian Catholics were especially joyful as the announcement came that Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto will be elevated to the Cardinalate in February.   There was other news coming from the Vatican that day.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its Note with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith.  You may recall Pope Benedict’s pronouncement of the Year of Faith back in October 2011, which is set to begin on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 2012).  “The Year of Faith,” wrote Benedict “is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.” (Porta Fidei, 6)
It is a timely summons and, in the spirit of the New Evangelization, its aim is not only those outside the Church, but especially those within it.  There is, without question, a great number of people who identify themselves as Catholics but have little or no association with the Church.  And there is a great number of Catholics who, though inspiringly devout, have little or no understanding of the breadth and depth of our tradition.
The call to a Year of Faith is in part an attempt to confront these current realities. Benedict’s Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, and the Note with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith mentioned above, are honest evaluations of the current state of the Church (the Pope mentions the “profound crisis of faith” affecting many people), yet they are filled with hope and promise.  Specifically, the texts stress the importance of studying the Vatican II documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the latter is cited by Benedict as “one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council.” (P.F., 11)  Of the Council itself, the Pope quotes JPII: “I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century.” (P.F., 5)
It is important for Catholics today to hear this affirmation of the Second Vatican Council.  It certainly was a great grace to the Church in the 1960’s considering, not only the many social and cultural shifts which had taken place globally since Vatican I (1869-70), but also the breaking of a long-standing mentality of authoritarianism within the Church itself.  The result of the Council was a great paradigm shift in the Church’s relationship to the world and its peoples, emphasizing dialogue and communion.  Today it may be worth asking why those documents, which are so revolutionary in nature and filled with the Spirit, have not been consistently and zealously implemented at every level of the Church over the past half century.
Recall once again the parable of the talents.  It is our responsibility as servants to be proactive with the graces entrusted to us.  We cannot bury them.  The resources are there; the teachings are there; the examples and testimonies are there, if we will only start digging.  The Holy Father is handing out shovels.
There is another parable earlier in Matthew’s gospel about a man who digs up buried treasure in a field, and out of joy sells everything he has to buy the field (Matt 13:44).  I sometimes wonder if he is really the third servant, who, fifty years later discovers his precious talent once again.
Photo courtesy of CNS

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