19 November 201733 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
33 Ordinary Time
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A - Matthew 25:14-30

I know a man with Down syndrome who is a bus boy in a greasy spoon. He smiles and is kind to all. He uses all his limited talents. He lives the aphorism that the woods would be silent if no birds sang their song except those that sing best. The apostles must have looked upon their Leader as a dreamer. Rumor said He had managed a successful carpentry shop in Nazareth and set up a financial trust for His mother. But they said that, with His lack of economic smarts, He probably bought worthless junk bonds. What could you say of a man who, when the IRS came knocking, found tax dollars in a fish's mouth? He acted as though this was the most natural place to find them. He was hardly equipped to work in the real world. Then the Teacher unloaded a smart bomb on them. He spread the Parable of the Talents over them and, by extension, over us. It was the final parable and last major speech before His murder.

Like Cana, He may have kept the best to the last. The first thing the twelve learned was that Jesus had a sophisticated knowledge of finance. He was aware not only of low interest savings banks but also of the more profitable field of the stock market. He was a natural hedge fund manager. Once again His followers received a valuable insight into the forever unfolding mosaic that is Christ. He was continually displaying fresh facets of His personality. And, furthermore, He does the same to this day. That unfolding plays a vital part of His ongoing charm for a billion and a half people. It is the reason that of all people who ever lived Jesus has been written about the most. It was common for the rich to leave their millions in the hands of agents while they beat the winter ice in Florida. The wealthy man of this parable parceled his Euros out to three agents and jetted out.

The first two ran off to a Wall Street stock wunderkind. He doubled the dollars by buying blue chip stocks. The third ran scared. He was not about to risk anger from his employer. So, he buried the money among the tulip beds. He did not even have the chutzpah to put the money in a savings bank to draw nickel and dime interest and get a free tool chest. He was a bust as an risk-taker. The chief returns home from Palm Beach tanned and fatter. Before he shows the color slides to his bored in-laws, he checks the books. He jumps out of his monogrammed velvet sandals with his first two agents. Their profits will pay off his maxed out credit cards and the loansharks. He gives each a bonus and sends them off to Las Vegas with expenses paid.

Then he yells at the Caspar Milquetoast still blowing dirt off the dollars he had just dug out of the tulip bed. FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real), as someone defines it, had paralyzed the useless servant. The chief shouts, "You're fired." Here is a fresh dimension of the Christ. He is a gambler. Christianity without boldness is Christianity without the prime beef. God encourages us to jump into life and run the risk of growing. He doesn't want Milquetoasts in His company. He wants corragio. Mere avoidance of serious sin does not make for good Christians. We must use all the gifts God gave us. If we are not moving forward, chances are good we march full speed backwards. The Nazarene does not want us to hide in church but move out into the street. He would tell us, "You are never more wonderful than when you are taking big chances." Jesus told us in Luke 5:4, "Launch out into the deep." Some of us have received short straws.

Still we are supposed to give life a first class run with these gifts. The ultimate aim in the Christian life is to say before the undertaker nails down our coffin. "I have given life my best shot." The bus boy with Down syndrome will be able to say that. We can sin not only by deed but also by omission. The ancient Confiteor says it well, "I confess what I have done and what I have failed to do." A melancholy line in a John Denver folk song says, "I am sorry for the things I didn't say and didn't do." What you are, says a savant, is God's gift to you. What you become is your gift to God. Mark Twain advises, "The safe thing is to run risks; the risky thing is to play it safe." 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
33 Ordinary Time
33rd Sunday: Now We Begin

"The baby will come when the baby decides to come," the doctor tells every expectant mother during her eighth or ninth month. And then, when the baby does come, there is no stopping him or her, as many would confirm, including police officers, EMT personnel, taxi drivers, and frazzled husbands. It is the same thing with the end of time, or the end of our own personal time, our deaths. For most of us the end comes when we least expect. Or as I often say, "Death comes at an inconvenient time, particularly to the dying." It is true that some people have a better grasp of when they are going to be leaving us. When the doctor told my buddy and our parishioner Jack Witeck that he might not make a week, Jack said to his wife Rita, "Don’t buy any green bananas, I might not get to them." But most people, even those in their nineties and up, are shocked that death has come.

Should we be frightened? Should we be afraid of death? Should we be afraid of the end of time? St. Paul tells the Thessalonians and us that we know we should be ready for the end, but we shouldn’t be afraid that it will catch us off guard. We won’t be in the dark as long as we live in the Light of the Lord. Some of the people in Thessalonica were so convinced that the end of time was coming soon, that they stopped working. Paul had to write a second letter to Thessalonica saying that those who were unwilling to work should not eat and condemning those who instead of remaining busy were acting like busy bodies. We need to devote our lives to developing the talents we have been given, as in our Gospel reading, and fulfilling our responsibilities in our families, as exemplified by the worthy wife of the first reading. As I was considering this, my thoughts roamed to my favorite place in Rome, the Basilica of St. Peter. My favorite place within the Basilica is not Bernini’s magnificent baldocchino, the canopy over the main altar, nor is it standing near the many statues, the huge statues under the cupola, Michelangelo’s Pieta, or the statue of Peter that the faithful kiss.

My favorite place in the Basilica is the altar of Saint Pope John XXIII. This was the Pope of my youth. He served from 1958 to 1963. Pope John XXIII was a simple man, a humble man. He embraced a motto for his life which was as simple as he was. His motto was, "Now, I begin." Every day is an opportunity to begin the work of the Lord once again. We need the determination to live each day as the first day and greatest day of our lives. Every day we need to begin again, to find new ways to live in the Light of the Lord. Perhaps some sort of an addiction has derailed our lives, causing serious damage to ourselves and others. But that was then, this is now. We have been graced with the ability to let God work through us despite the addiction. His power is made perfect in our weakness, 1 Corinthians 4:13. Now we begin. Perhaps the lure of sin seriously damaged our spiritual lives.

Everybody was getting drunk, so we joined in. Everybody was taking drugs, so we joined in. Everybody was treating others for their own personal enjoyment, so we did the same. We were in the darkness. But we are not now. We are here, aren’t we? We are now in the Light. We cannot allow our past failures to diminish our determination to fight for the Kingdom of God. Now we begin. Addictions, sinful life styles, sinful choices, no matter what we have fallen into, no matter what lies we have fallen for, the end is not upon us yet. There is still time to live for the Lord. We can live in the Light. We need to look for new ways today and every day to serve the Lord. For today and everyday we must begin.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
33 Ordinary Time
Partnership with God (November 19, 2017)

Bottom line: Even those who have less still have a partnership with God. It's a matter of recognizing who God and who we are, then start each day with gratitude. Today's parable of the talents follows the one we heard last weekend: the ten virgins in the wedding party. The two parables have a similar point: our partnership with God and how he surprises us by arriving at an unexpected moment. For me these parables bring back memories of my first year as a priest. Archbishop Connolly had assigned me as parochial vicar to Fr. Joseph Petosa. When Father Petosa took his vacation he didn't give me an exact date for his return.

I had a general time frame but not the specific day. I have to admit that for the first two weeks I sloughed off. My own room and the rectory in general got messier and messier. The refrigerator accumulated food that started looking like a general science experiment in mold. Then it struck me. Fr. Petosa may be back today! I started cleaning up and putting things in order. In our parable today we see that God is like Fr. Petosa. He arrives at an unexpected moment. As St. Paul says, Jesus will come "like a thief in the night." This Sunday, however, I want to emphasize not so much the suddenness of God's arrival, but our partnership with him. I was concerned about Fr. Petosa's return because we had a partnership - to take care of the same parish.

Granted he was the senior partner and I the junior. Still, while he has away I had a big responsibility - not only for the rectory but much more important the spiritual care of parishioners. The parable of the talents dramatizes the partnership with God by the fact that the master entrusts talents to his servants. A talent was actually a cast of precious medal about the size of garbage can lid - about 75 pounds of gold. Not exactly pocket change! By entrusting so much to us God makes us partners in a major enterprise. Pope Francis observes: "The book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work." So God gives the earth to all us. We become partners with him in caring for our common home. God not only entrusts us with a common home; he gives individual gifts.

We each have a life span and a certain measure of health. Like you I have aches, pains and maladies. Yet is it not admirable how most aspects of our bodies work well most of the time? God is good. And even though we are hardly the richest people in this Valley - or in this region that includes Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos - God has entrusted us resources that people in other parts of the world would envy. We want to use those gifts as partners with God. To return to my experience with Fr. Petosa. I wanted to be ready for his return not because I feared him. Although he sometimes got upset, he was a gentle man. Rather than fearing him I wanted to render a good account because I loved him and because his approval meant a lot me.

I wanted to repay his confidence. After all, we had a partnership in something vital - the care of souls. That Fr. Petosa didn't share an exact return date with me may have simply been an oversight or maybe I wasn't great at listening. Still it had a good effect. It motivated me to attend to details, to not slack off. Jesus does something similar for us and we can count on him keeping his promises. When I was young priest and I looked at the mess in my room and throughout the rectory, it seemed like the new normal. But thinking about Fr. Petosa I set to work. It wasn't as insurmountable as I imagined. Even though the fridge and rectory weren't up to Fr. Petosa's standards, he gave me credit for the effort. Jesus will do the same. This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. We each have reasons for gratitude. The fact someone else has five doesn't mean my one talent is nugatory. On the contrary the master gets upset when the servant buries his talent. Even those who have less still have a partnership with God. It's a matter of recognizing who God and who we are, then start each day with gratitude. How beautiful to hear those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
33 Ordinary Time
Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Modern Prv 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31, 1 Thes 5:1-6, Mt 25: 14-30

In two weeks we begin the Advent Season, and we end the church year with the reminder that Jesus will come again. The Gospel today calls us to be busy about the work of the Lord. Jesus tells his followers that "we know not the day nor the hour," and Saint Paul wrote to the Thessolonians; "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." We can respond to Jesus' coming in two ways; with fear of the end, or to continually conform our lives to Christ and to be at peace. Saint Francis of Assisi supposedly followed the second approach. There is a legend that one day while working in the garden a pilgrim saw him and asked, "What would you do if you knew that today the world would end?" Saint Francis paused, thought for a moment and" What would you do if you learned that today the world would end? Would you be in fear and panic, or would you peacefully go about your regular business?

The Gospel parable about the talents, and Saint Paul's letter to the Thessolonians both tell us to be at peace, for if we are doing the Lord's work there is nothing to fear. In the Gospel parable a master, before leaving on a journey, entrusted three of his servants with talents. A talent was a coin of value, and two took their talents and invested them and the value was doubled when the master returned. The third buried his talent out of fear of the Master and it did not increase in value. The first two servants were rewarded, while the third was punished. The parable tells us that we are each given talents, not the Old Testament coins, but gifts and abilities that are to be used to build up God's Kingdom.

Saint Paul in First Corinthians speaks of the many gifts, and tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are intended for the community. In order for us to appreciate these readings it is important for us to take stock of ourselves and to see what gifts God has given us. These could be the seven gifts we all learned for Confirmation; Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Awe of the Lord. Do we see any of these gifts as being evident in our lives? The gifts need not be limited to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but can be looked at in a much broader way. There are the people with the genuine gift of hospitality who stand at the entrance of the church and warmly welcome people, those who are gifted administrators and can organize all sorts of parish events, those who gather people together to pray for members of the parish, and so on.

These are not only wonderful gifts, those who use them are like the wise servants who invested the talents, but their use of talents builds up God's kingdom. How do we use the gifts God has given us? The readings today call on us not to be shy and hide them, but to be bold and to generously use them. As we use these God-given gifts those who benefit from them might come to see Christ in us. For some people this is all that is needed to draw them closer to Christ in their lives.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
33 Ordinary Time
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are gradually coming to the end of the Liturgical Year, it actually concludes next Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King. Over the last few weeks the Gospel texts have been increasingly stressing the importance of being ready for Christ's Second Coming. This is appropriate since on the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year we look at the Last Judgement. Today, however, we are given the Parable of the Talents for our consideration and this too puts an emphasis on the Final Judgement and how that judgement will be based on the way we have used the gifts that God has given us. This parable at first sight appears to be about money and investments. However, it would be a mistake to see this text as upholding a capitalistic view point. Of course, a talent is very valuable sum in gold or silver weighing about forty kilogrammes. According to Wikipedia, one talent would be worth about £1.25 million today.

Nevertheless, in the parable the talents are intended to represent spiritual riches and not merely material wealth. God has given us many things, not least the gift of life itself. He has placed us in loving families and in the particular circumstances of our life. It would be true to say that here in the middle of London we are, compared to the vast majority of the people in our world, living a rather privileged life. I'm not saying that our lives are always easy, but not many are living mired in poverty or experiencing severe economic need. God has bestowed many graces on us. We have access to education, to employment, to leisure opportunities and to the possibility of fulfilling relationships and for all this we are extremely grateful. But God has also bestowed on us numerous spiritual gifts, but we are often not quite as aware of these gifts as we should be. We don't always realise that the ability to pray and to worship God is a real gift and maybe one that we don't use as well as we ought. Perhaps too we don't appreciate how many other spiritual gifts we possess.

Things such as reverence and healing, faith and insight, the ability to do penance and to meditate, the talent for exercising mercy and for giving hope to others; all these are spiritual gifts and many of us possess these gifts in greater or lesser measure. An important spiritual gift is that of teaching. This is especially vital for those who are parents because they have the responsibility of handing on the faith to their children. But as with many of the spiritual gifts, if we feel we don't have much ability in a particular area we ought to realise that we can develop and extend our ability. As they say, practice makes perfect. The more we use a particular gift the better we become at exercising it. The spiritual gifts, while they help and benefit us, are principally a gift to the whole Church. We need to realise that these gifts are given to us in order that we share them.

To give an example, some people are particularly good at adoration; they can spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament deep in prayer without any difficulty. Others of us don't have the same level of patience and cannot sit still for so long. But those with the gift for adoration are in a certain sense exercising it on behalf of us all. Their quiet hours of prayer and meditation benefit the whole parish and indeed help to change the world around us. We express our gratitude to them that they are exercising their gift and we feel enriched in the knowledge that they are spending time in adoration for the benefit of us all. At the end of the parable the master commands that the talent that was buried in the ground should be given to the one who had the five talents and had made five more. He then says, ‘To everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.' This seems to us to be a bit unfair, that the one who has plenty should get even more. But we have to remember that we are dealing not with money but with spiritual gifts. And actually, this seems to correspond with reality since we often come across people who seem to be overloaded with gifts.

Certain people seem to be overendowed with gifts while others seem to have very few or even none at all. Of course, what we must realise is that in the beginning those individuals may not have been given more than anyone else but maybe it is that they have simply used their talents and gifts. They have used and developed them and on the way perhaps discovered other talents that they didn't even know they had. There is a lesson for us all here and that is to use whatever it is that we have been given. The more we utilise them then the more we will develop and therefore multiply our talents.

You may not think that you have a gift for prayer or healing, a gift for teaching or communicating the Gospel. And the reason you don't think that you have these gifts is because you haven't used them. By applying ourselves and actually doing the praying, or healing, or teaching, or communicating the Gospel we might surprise ourselves and discover that we really do have a God-given gift for one or other of these things. The fact that we are here in Church each Sunday is a sign that we have a deep affinity with the things of the Spirit. Our presence here week-in-week-out is a sign that we certainly are endowed with some spiritual gifts. Perhaps by getting more involved we might be able to develop these spiritual gifts and so enrich ourselves and this community.

We rely on a lot of different talents within the parish. We need singers, readers, teachers, servers, flower arrangers, cleaners, maintenance men, collectors, counters, secretaries as well as those who are able to take on the role of catechist or animator of different groups within the parish. We need too, those who come to daily mass and who sustain us with their prayers. We also very much need the sick and incapacitated who also enrich us through their suffering and their prayers. Most vital of all are all those, especially parents, who are involved in handing on the faith to the next generation. It is not easy to answer the searching questions of the young but it is a vitally important work. Thankfully it is obvious to me that there are plenty of people within this parish who are blessed with many spiritual gifts and who put them to good use. And by reflecting on these things perhaps more of us will decide to do what we can to utilise the gifts and talents we possess and put them to the service of our parish community.
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