Column by Jonathan Nagy
School is out and summer has arrived! As everyone knows, this school year was particularly challenging for everyone, including myself. I have looked forward to a little break and relaxation as the weather warmed up. I always enjoy the first few weeks of summer vacation when I get to do things that I did not have time to do during the school year. My yard received some much-needed TLC, the house was cleaned from top to bottom, and several little projects were finally completed. As good as it feels to accomplish all of those tasks, one of the things that I look forward to in the summer is spending time reading and escaping reality for a while.
Reading at any age is a worthwhile activity. My nephews, now ages 6 and 4, both enjoy reading and being read to every day. It is amazing to witness their growth of vocabulary through reading, as well as their sense of imagination. As students progress into middle school and high school, they find different genres that appeal to them. One of the goals of instituting a program in schools is to develop a life-long love for reading. My go-to books are political thrillers, with my favorite authors including Joel Rosenberg and Steve Berry. I find myself getting lost in books for hours on end, imagining every scene and dialogue. Being able to fully immerse in a story assists in understanding the context and appreciating the meaning.
Books are just one of the great reading resources available to everyone. Over the past few months, a Facebook group entitled “Central PA Catholics” has been created by a few young people. The group has grown to well over a thousand members. Meaningful content for reading and prayer is constantly being posted by many people from around our diocese and area. Recently, a friend and fellow Catholic school teacher, Bob Sutton, posted a question asking everyone what their favorite Bible story was. The reader in me started to review all of the great stories and parables that I have read, heard, and studied over the years. Reading what others posted as their favorite story and what it meant to them was inspiring. It is nice to see that so many people value the stories from the Old and New Testaments.
My personal favorite Bible story is the Parable of the Talents from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 25:14-30). I love this story and its meaning and often use it for teaching in my history and economics classes. Every time I reread this story, I find myself immersed in it and can envision each action and scene. The real-life symbolism that Jesus presents to each of us through that parable is palpable. The master entrusted his servants with the talents (money) while he was away. Upon his return, he asked what they did with the talents. Two of the three servants used the money to cultivate more wealth for the master, while the third squandered the opportunity by burying the money for safe keeping because he was afraid.
Two quotes especially stand out to me from this story. The first quote is the master’s words to the first two servants: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Those are the words that I long to hear when my time on earth has ended and I am hopefully afforded a place in Paradise. The second quote that stands out to me is the master’s proclamation about the third servant: “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” There is an old phrase that says, “God doesn’t give anyone more than they can handle.” Saint Teresa of Calcutta added to that by saying, “But I wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
That second quote from the Parable is what I believe is the entire sum of the story. God provides so much for each and every person, and the talents he gives are varied and different. Everyone has their strengths as well as their weaknesses. It may take years of searching, trying, and often failing before individuals discover what their God-given talents are. Once those are found, the worst thing that could be done is to squander those talents.
We are all tasked with helping each other out. I truly believe that in the Parable of the Talents, the ‘take away’ is that God gave us the talents to help cultivate more positive growth for our neighbors here on earth. I am continuously amazed at some of the remarkable things that people do and how they use their abilities to help others. We need to make it a daily goal to not only grow and improve upon the things we are good at, but also use those abilities to assist others who may struggle.
Some may think that they have nothing to give. Not true! Everyone is gifted with some ability to show love and compassion for others and give in their own way. No one can tell anyone else how to use those talents. It is up to the individuals to discover how they can use what God has given them to help grow his kingdom on earth and assist others in drawing closer to Him.
I believe everyone needs to write their own story. A phrase I hear often, and even more with unprecedented events happening around the world is, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Often, what follows are some of the best stories! I try to imagine how my life would read as a story to someone else. I find myself wondering how I would want to be remembered by others. I strive hard to do my best to help others, but that is not necessarily how I would most want to be remembered. When asked about me, the biggest compliment would be to hear someone say, “He is a good person.”
That is all that God asks of any of us, to be good people. We are always able to use our talents and abilities to become good people and assist anyone we can, however we can. Write the story now that people will read. Let your life become the inspiration that others need in their lives. Allow the last line in your story to be the words from God, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Jonathan Nagy, M.Ed., is the Director of Admissions and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg. He is also the Music Director at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.