Father Dajczer, in his book The Gift of Faith, writes about the parable of the talents, the Gospel for this Sunday. He states that the talents God gives us are not just gift and material, but opportunity. Opportunity is found especially in the absence of things and in suffering.
He says that God is continually bestowing his gifts upon us, and that how we use those gifts, especially the gift of difficult experiences, is the way that we are transformed. It is easy to see the possession of certain "talents" or abilities as gift; but what about sickness as a talent, or the pain of loss as the gift with which to transform our world and us?
Not long ago I attended a special reunion of my father's Second World War army regiment. Only 25 men of his group are still alive, and nine attended the weekend.
I talked with sons and daughters of his comrades and we shared some stories of the struggles we had seen our fathers overcome or succumb to, as the case might be. I was left with a deeper appreciation of my father's story.
He enlisted the summer of 1940 and returned home from Europe in October 1945. I was born 10 years later, the fourth of five children.
'To all those who have, more will be given.'
I did not understand my father in those early years. It seemed to me that much of his time was spent withdrawn from me, or angry at the many frustrations found in the life of the small farmer.
Years later I recognized that what I saw in those first years were the consequences from his time at war. He didn't know what to do with those experiences, those losses, the humanity and the inhumanity that he had seen.
At the same time, I also observed his intense desire to understand more deeply the process of the descent of a social group into the normalization of injustice. And I saw him as a man increasingly concerned with the evidence of that same decline in North American culture.
I remember the day in the early 1970s that I came home from university to hear the latest campaign that he was working on. He had heard of a social studies exercise in the Grade 11 class at the local school in which they were given the "lifeboat" scenario – four people in the boat, only enough resources for three, which life do you measure as the least valuable and thus throw out of the boat.
Though he no longer had children in the school system he spoke to teacher, principal, superintendent, board members and department of education officials – fighting so that truth might stop the decline, which had already begun, into moral relativism and the devaluing of human life.
He took the gift of the suffering and anger of seeing a concentration camp on the day of its liberation and transformed it into a hunger and passion for justice and the protection of life, especially for those most vulnerable. I think that is what Father Dajczer is talking about.
May we have the grace to likewise use the blessing of God's difficult graces.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)