Little Things with Great Love

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.”

Matthew 25:21

When we hear the word “talent,” we usually think of those things that we’re especially good at, whether that be art, athletics or arithmetic. We don’t usually think of the little things we do each day like washing the dishes, doing homework, or checking in on our friends. 

The origin of the our modern understanding of “talent” comes from this Sunday’s gospel passage. Originally, a talent was a Jewish coin. In the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 25:14-30, a master entrusts three servants with talents — one receives one talent, another three, and another five. What makes the difference in the end is not how many talents they have but what each one did with the talents he received. The servants who used their talents to increase their master’s wealth are praised. The one who buried his talent and did nothing with it is condemned. 

Parables are symbolic, so we aren’t really talking about money, but other things that God has entrusted to us. God wants us to use what He’s given us to increase His kingdom. He doesn’t give us gifts just so we can hide them away.

So what has God entrusted us with? What are the “talents” He has given to you and me? We have to think beyond idea of a talent as a specialized skill. Maybe God has given you the ability to be an opera singer or an acrobat, but what we mean here goes beyond that. It’s a notion of “talent” that is broader and more deep, though not nearly as flashy.

Consider the description of the “worthy wife” in the first reading this Sunday from Proverbs 31, and the work she is described as doing: basic domestic tasks like spinning wool, but also taking care of the poor and needy. She’s not a queen or a rock star or a powerful politician. She’s just tending to her obligations and doing what she can to care for those around her. But for these simple things, the scripture says she is valued beyond pearls (Pv 31:10) and will be given a great reward (Pv 31:31). We might be tempted to dismiss this as a charming description of domestic life, but there is a lesson for all of us here, not just for wives and mothers. 

Every one of us has a particular state in life that comes with certain responsibilities. That might be a wife and mother, or a husband and father. Or it might be a college student, a senator, a CEO, or a mailroom clerk. Wherever God has planted us, He has given us certain obligations — as well as the ability to fulfill them. Our reward comes when we do them well. Usually this does not mean doing big, flashy things that others will notice and praise, but doing little, everyday things that almost no one may notice. 

In God’s eyes, there are no small things. St. Teresa of Lisieux was a sickly Carmelite nun who died at the young age of 24. For a time, she was frustrated that her frailty meant she couldn’t do more for God, but she became a saint precisely because she realized that she could do little things with great love. Another saint, St. Josemaria Escriva, once said, “Do everything for love. Thus there will be no little things: everything will be big.” He is the founder of the Opus Dei movement, the central charism of which is serving God in the midst of the everyday work of life. 

Our natural tendency may be to look upon the daily chores of our life as burdens and not things of value, but the scriptures this Sunday challenge us to rethink that perspective. The duties of our state in life — most especially our duties to love our neighbor — are truly treasures entrusted to us by God. If we are faithful in these small matters, using them to build up His kingdom, then our reward will be truly great as we share in our Master’s joy.