Discover Talent, Live Strengths
We are at our best when we do what we do best
This simple yet profound statement is at the heart of strengths development. When parishes help each person to discover his or her talents, develop strengths, and grow as a good steward of his or her talents and strengths, people's lives are transformed, and so is the parish.
Strengths Theological Foundations
Created in God's Image
Our beginning point for exploration of the theological foundations for strengths development is in the moment of creation. We are created in God's image, intended to be that image in our world. We are given freedom to choose to be people who do this well or poorly; we can become blind and deaf to the grace of our talents in our lives, or we can become attuned to them, willing to develop and offer our talents throughout our lives. As people who are created in the image and likeness of God, each of us is unique: we have different combinations of talents and interests, life experiences and circumstances. In recognizing our talents, we realize that our lives are filled with tremendous potential to positively impact our world. We are called to live as collaborators with God in the ongoing process of creation, and to do so with others. Each person is "fearfully and wonderfully made," bearing many talents, and it takes each of us doing what we can to bear the fullness of God's image.
Baptized into Christ, Called to Self-Giving
We who are baptized are drawn deeply into Christ and Christ's Body, the Christian community. As Christians, we are to bear the image of Jesus, who shows us the depths of God's love and compassion. Fr. Michael Himes captures what this means for us: "And who, finally, are you? You are the image and likeness of God. If God is pure self-gift, then self-gift is the image in which we are made, the blueprint on which we are built. Therefore, to give ourselves away is what we most deeply desire." (Doing the Truth in Love, 56-57) Knowing our talents gives us insight into the practical ways we can live in this self-giving way. We find that building on the grace of God in our lives which we perceive in our talents is a way of intense joy and meaning. In giving, we find abundant life and satisfaction.
Called to Discipleship, Called to Serve
As Christian people, we are called to live as disciples. A disciple is one who is learning the ways of a master. Our Master and Teacher is Jesus Christ. Learning Jesus' way means learning to serve, to see and fill in others their need for God's love and mercy, forgiveness and justice, peace and compassion. Jesus shows us how to put our lives in the hands of God in trust, and knowing our talents helps us to do this well. When we become more deeply aware of the talented persons we are, it is easier for us to discern the ways in which we may give of ourselves for others. While the things we are called to do will change in the course of our lifetime, drawing on our God-given talents equips us to answer God's call, in our lives at home and at work, in our parish and community.
The U.S. Bishops, in their pastoral letter on stewardship, discern in John 1:35-40 two lessons on the vocation of a disciple: "This fast-paced narrative at the beginning of John's Gospel (see John 1: 35-50) teaches us a number of lessons. For our purposes, two stand out. One is the personal nature of a call from Jesus Christ. He does not summon disciples as a faceless crowd but as unique individuals. He knows people's personal histories, their strengths and weaknesses, their destinies; he has a purpose in mind for each one.
“This purpose is individual vocation. "Only in the unfolding of our lives and its events," says Pope John Paul II, "is the eternal plan of God revealed to each of us" (Christifideles Laici, no 58). Every human life, every personal vocation, is unique.
“And yet, the vocations of all Christians do have elements in common. One of these is the call to be a disciple. In fact, we might say that to be disciples -- to follow Christ and try to live his life as our own -- is the common vocation of Christians. Discipleship in this sense is Christian life." (Stewardship: A Disciple's Response, 14)
Stewards of the Persons We Are and Will Be
Discovering and accepting our talents gives us a means for developing a real appreciation for the persons we are. We see God's hand as the Giver of these talents, and we grow in gratitude for the abundance we recognize within ourselves. This growing sense of gratitude leads us to respond generously. We know in our hearts that we can never measure the lavish love and grace of God in our lives, and so our best response is to be generous in giving, sacrificially generous! Not only this, once we have discovered our talents and we appreciate the personal nature with which we are endowed, we realize we must develop our talents, building strengths. Given much, we are called to be good stewards of all we are and have and will be. To paraphrase the wisdom of our U.S. bishops' pastoral letter on stewardship, being a good steward of our talents means "to receive them gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord."
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