Tag Archives: gifts

God’s gift of individual grace is not egalitarian

All human beings, regardless of their religion, nationality, or circumstance, receive a sufficient amount of grace to be saved. God actively desires our salvation; it is incumbent upon us to respond to Him. At the same time, however, it is undeniable that God gives more grace to some than to others. St. Paul explains that “grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7), to which St. Thomas Aquinas adds that “what is given in measure, is not given to all equally. Hence all have not an equal grace.”

This may strike us as unfair of God, but the varying quantity of supernatural grace conferred on each person mirrors the varying range of natural gifts each person has received. In the natural order, there are an immense range of personalities and abilities among people: some are intellectual geniuses, quick-witted and funny, and physically attractive; others are sickly, have physical ailments and intellectual processing difficulties. In the same way, there is a range of grace received among people in the supernatural order: some are inclined to prayer, to service of others, and to moral living; others struggle daily to relate to God and to keep His commandments.

The parable of the talents (Matt 25: 14-30) provides an insight into God’s diffusion of His grace. The owner of a property entrusted three of his servants with five, two, and one talent, respectively. (One talent, a monetary sum, was worth more than 15 years of wages.) Then, after a long absence, the owner summoned the three servants to settle their accounts with him. The ones who received five and two talents had each doubled their master’s money. The second servant, although his total money was far less than that of the first, heard the same commendation as the first servant from the owner: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter the joy of your master.” But the third servant, fearing his master’s wrath if he were to lose the money, had buried the single talent and returned it to him in full at the reckoning. The master reprimanded him for not using his money, claiming that he at least “ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” The master then ordered this servant’s talent seized from him, and given to the other one with 10, and he ordered the servant cast “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Grace, we learn analogously from this parable, is given to each person as God sees fit.

Excerpt from Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism, by David G. Bonagura, Jr. Published by Cluny Media (2019), from Chapter 5, “Living the Catholic Faith,” pp.110-111, www.clunymedia.com Used with permission.

DAVID G. BONAGURA, JR., is an adjunct professor of classical languages at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York, and an adjunct professor of theology for the Catholic Distance University. He has published scholarly articles in Antiphon, New Blackfriars, and Nova et Vetera, and has written popular essays, articles, and reviews for The Catholic Thing, First Things, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Unleashing our gifts for Christ

Dr. Paul Kengor

It was 30 years ago, December 1987. Speaking from St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II urged Catholics to seek God’s will with the talents we’ve received, in causes small or large. It was a poignant message in time, and also poignantly timeless.

That year had seen tremendous breakthroughs by leaders of the world’s temporal powers. That very month, on December 8, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty—the greatest nuclear-missile-elimination treaty in history. The Cold War was peacefully ending.

Ronald Reagan personally saw such achievements as him using his talents to accomplish God’s will. “Whatever time I have left is for Him,” Reagan pledged after surviving an assassination attempt in March 1981. He would use his talents for God, especially against an evil empire.

John Paul II might have had such larger achievements in mind (and smaller ones, too) when he gave a blessing from St. Peter’s at the close of the year, Christmas week, where he pointed to the parable of the talents. “The story of the human race described by Sacred Scripture is, even after the fall into sin, a story of constant achievements,” said the pontiff, “in response to the divine vocation given from the beginning to man and to woman.”

The Pope applied this philosophical statement to practical realities, to all men and women and their gifts. Such could be a challenging task, but it was a duty nonetheless. “Anyone wishing to renounce the difficult yet noble task of improving the lot of man in his totality, and of all people,” averred the Pope, “with the excuse that the struggle is difficult and that constant effort is required, or simply because of the experience of defeat and the need to begin again, that person would be betraying the will of God the Creator.” The Pope pointed to “the Lord Jesus Himself, in the parable of the talents,” who emphasized the severe treatment given to the man who hid the gifts he received.

“It falls to us,” said the Holy Father, “who receive the gifts of God in order to make them fruitful, to ‘sow’ and ‘reap.’” A deeper pondering of these severe words “will make us commit ourselves more resolutely to the duty, which is urgent for everyone today,” to work together for others, for the whole human being, and for all people.

The achievements then being made by men like John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were an extension of their commitment to do the work of God on behalf of others, for the whole human being, for all people. It was always a struggle, often fraught with defeat. It was, nonetheless, a commitment to be resolutely pursued.

In a speech at Notre Dame on May 17, 1981, Ronald Reagan had stated: “When great causes are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

Yes, duty—to do right, and to resist evil.

As John Paul II’s Catechism stated (section 409): “The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, often at great cost to himself.”

That applied not just to John Paul II, to Ronald Reagan, and their battles, but ours. Yes, also ours.

Will you use yours? Will you use the talents God has given you? Will you stand up to the secular forces today threatening our religious freedom, or will you cower in fear of being called names for standing for what’s right?

At Christmas time, we think of Christ and gifts. Well, here’s a gift that we, in turn, can return to Christ by putting to good use the unmistakable talents bestowed upon us.

DR. PAUL KENGOR, PH.D. is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.