Homily for 11/19: You go, girl!

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily 

As tempting as it might be to interpret this parable in economic terms
Jesus’ words here are simply not about the stock market,
or investment strategy or clever entrepreneurship –
even if the imagery he uses is that of return on funds loaned.

And if you think otherwise, just look at what happens
to the foolish one of the three servants:
he’s thrown outside into the darkness,
where there’s wailing - and the grinding of teeth:
no bailout for this guy!

Well, you don’t have to be a scripture scholar
to figure out the message here:
use your gifts, whatever they are,
no matter how large or small they might be
use your gifts wisely - and in the service of others.

In choosing today’s scriptures, the church pairs the woman in Proverbs
with the three servants in the gospel.
We heard that she’s a faithful wife, that she weaves her own cloth
and is generous to the poor.
But that’s only a snippet from the 31st chapter of Proverbs
where we also learn that this same woman:
- secures provisions for her family
- sets a good table and is a good cook
- works late into the night and gets up early every day
- finds fertile land to purchase and plants a vineyard
- is strong and has sturdy arms
- is successful in business
- reaches out to the needy
- weaves her own blankets
- makes warm clothes for her children in the winter
- dresses herself in fine linen and beautiful colors
- makes clothes and belts and sells them to local merchants
- is known for her strength and dignity
- speaks with wisdom and offers kindly counsel
- keeps her house in order
- is careful about what she eats
- is never idle - and laughs at tomorrow’s problems

You go, girl!

But what we need to see in this woman is not her success
or how many talents she has – that’s not the point.
The point is simply that she used what she had
and she used what she had well -and she used it for others.

So, I need to ask myself, you need to ask yourselves,
 “What do I have to work with?” 
Am I working with everything I have? 
And, for whom am I offering my gifts?”

These scriptures are about so much more
than fiscal or personal success.
They’re about the fruitful harvest of the gifts I have to offer -
not for financial gain or personal acclaim -
but for the glory of God and the needs and service of others.

Sometimes we’re less like the woman in Proverbs
and more like that third servant in Jesus’ parable.

• We might not dig an actual hole in the ground to bury our gifts,
but we might pack up our gifts in a box that we mark
“My Puny Gifts,”
they won’t make a difference, they’re not worth anyone’s notice;

• or we might stuff them in a package labeled,
“Return to Sender,”                         
telling God, in effect:
“I don’t like the gifts you gave me; they’re not the ones I wanted;
I wanted her gifts; I like his gifts better!”

• Or maybe my gifts are buried in a busy schedule with the notation:
“Sorry – no time to offer my gifts
– I’m much too busy about other things!”

• Or my gifts might be hidden, in fear that others find that I have them -
because if they knew – they might expect me to share them;

• Perhaps I blindfold myself, refusing to acknowledge any gifts,
convinced that I just didn’t get any!

• And sometimes others teach us to deny or bury our gifts;
sadly, sometimes the Church fails to recognize
the gifts of all its members.

Gifts?  What gifts am I talking about?

My gift might be time, treasure or talent;
my gift might be warmth, compassion, or humor;
my gift might be a smile, a word or a gesture;
my gift might be my art, my strong arm or my particular skill;
my gift might be a friendly gesture or a lifetime of love;
my gift might be a token of appreciation or an act of sacrifice;
my gift might be support, encouragement or consolation;
my gift might be my silent presence;
my gift might be sharing my faith with another person;
my gift might be spare minute, a day's help or a lifetime commitment;
my gift might be a phone call, a letter, an email, a text or a visit;
my gift might be a dollar or a hundred thousand dollars or a prayer;
my gift might be a forgiving heart, an understanding ear,
my gift might be truth on my lips or a helping hand;
my gift might be volunteering, joining – or just showing up…

The woman in Proverbs saw what she had to offer - and offered it
- and in doing so, everyone around her found their lives enriched.

This parable of the talents,
about how our lives will be measured at the end
might prompt some questions for us.
What are my gifts and talents?
Am I using them - or hiding and burying them?
Am I using them for others?
at home, in my neighborhood, in my parish, in my community,
and where I work or go to school?

Wherever my answers to those questions - it’s not too late!
Even if my gifts were long ago stashed away,
it’s never too late to unpack them and find ways to offer them now.

The Cross hovering over our prayer
shows us how willing Jesus was to offer everything he had
in service of the needs of others
– in service of your needs and mine.

And at this altar, across this table,
he continues to offer himself for us -and to us- in the Eucharist.

May the bread and cup of this sacrament
nourish us to offer all that we’ve been given
in service of others.


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 11/19

Image source

you will not fail today
to show me your face,
speak to my heart,
and touch my soul with healing...

You will not fail today
to walk by my side,
to show me the way,
and lead me to where your peace awaits...

You will not fail today, Lord,
to help me carry the burdens I bear,
to be the light in my darkness
and to offer some joy in my sadness...

You will not fail today
to give me what I need,
everything I need,
to come to this day's end
in peace...

So, help me then not fail this day
to look for you
and listen for your word, Lord;
to open my heart
to your presence and touch;
to find you at my side, guiding my way
and lifting me up each time I fall...

Help me not fail today, Lord,
to find and accept
your saving presence in my life,
in my heart and in my prayer...

This is the day that you've made, Lord,
and you will not fail
to live and walk it with me:
help me not fail
to live and walk it with you... 



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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 11/18

Image source

I know the things I really want today
but you know, Lord, the things I truly need...

And you know how you plan
to help me find this day whatever I might need
to live in peace with you, with those around me
and with myself...

Help me discern between my needs and wants:
make me unselfish and self-giving,
thinking first of others' needs
before my own...

And when you offer me your help,
your grace, your strength and deeper faith:
open up my heart and hands
to take in all your gifts
with thanks and praise...



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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 11/17

The Empty Chair by Dena Cardwell
Thanksgiving and "the holidays" are just around the corner and for many this can be a very difficult time - especially those grieving the loss of a loved one.  In one way or another, we're all getting ready for Thanksgiving: some of us are looking forward to this day while some of us may be dreading it.  I'm posting this prayer today, a week before Thanksgiving Day: you might pray this as Thanksgiving approaches or print, forward, share and post it for others who might find it helpful...

A Prayer at an Empty Chair 

This Thanksgiving, Lord, 
there’ll be an empty chair at our table,
an ache in our hearts
and tears on our cheeks...

We might shield others from our grief
but we can't hide it from you...

We pray for  (name your loved ones) 
whose loving presence we'll miss 
at this homecoming time...

Help us remember and tell again 
the stories that knit us as one
with the ones we miss so much...

Open our hearts to joyful memories 
of the love we shared
with those who've gone before us...

Let the bonds you forged so deep in our hearts
grow stronger yet 
in remembering those who've left our side... 

Help us pray and trust that those we miss
have a home in your heart
and a place at your table forever
and that one day we'll be one with them
once again...

Teach us to lean on you and on one another
for the strength we need 
to walk through these difficult days...

Open our eyes and our hearts 
to the healing, the warmth
and the peace of your presence...

Give us quiet moments with you in prayer,
with our memories and loss,
with our thoughts and tears...

Be with us to console us 
and hold us in your arms
as you embrace the ones we miss...

Even in our grief, Lord,
this is the day that you have made:
help us be glad in the peace you've promised,
the peace we pray you share 
with those who've gone before us...

For ourselves, Lord,
and for all who find the holidays to be a difficult time,
we make this prayer...


Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 11/16

Will I ever learn, Lord?

Will I learn not to panic
when times are tough,
when I'm overwhelmed,
when things fall apart,
and nothing feels right?

Will I ever learn, Lord?

Will I learn to hope
that things will get better,
that peace will be mine,
that tomorrow will come
and that all is not lost?

Will I ever learn, Lord?

Will I learn to trust
that you're on my side,
that you have my back,
that you are my strength
and that all shall be well?

Will I ever learn, Lord?

I have learned, Lord!

I've learned once again
in the last three days
that you're right by my side,
that your love is abiding,
that I've every reason to trust and believe
that all shall be well,
all shall be well,
that all manner of things shall be well...



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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 11/14

Image by victormeldrewsyou

Trusting Trees 

For many weeks now
I've watched the trees along my way,
their green leaves turning
draping the highway's shoulders
in a last gasp of color and beauty,
taking my breath away...

And then one night
(I'm sure it was under cover of darkness)
the trees did quietly conspire and begin, together,
to shake off their faded frocks and take a bow
in a coppery, brown farewell...

Soon they'll all stand bare
against a chilled November sky,
stilled with scarce a shiver,
their branched arms stretching long,
bracing for the weight of ice and snow:
their December sparkle,
their wintry armor...

O, would that I were bold enough
to stand as naked before my God:
my arms straining, reaching in the cold
for the warmth of winter's love...

But I'm not so brave and so I pray
that I might trust, as do the trees,
how spring will come again
and make of frost the morning dew
and the leaves all green again...


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Monday Morning Offering: 11/13

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

What a week it was, Lord!

My path has crossed so many others' paths
and the routes have been many:
through my work, through prayer,
through sickness and death,
through good times and bad,
through joys and disappointments...
through meeting newcomers
and bidding farewell to old friends...

I offer you all the moments of meeting
in the week just past, Lord,
and most of all I offer you the hearts and hopes
of those whose steps walked close to mine...

I offer you the tears of loss I saw,
damp upon cheeks of grief...

I offer you the smiles of faith
on parents bringing their children to the font...

I offer you the small steps forward
taken by some who are afraid to move ahead...

I offer you the anger of those who've been hurt,
left out and let down...

I offer you the new resolve bold in the hearts
of those picking themselves up, dusting themselves off...

I offer you the gratitude of those who've worked hard
to learn, to grow, to become again the selves they knew...

I offer you the Spirit's nudge in my own heart on Friday
and pray for the grace to be faithful to it...

I offer you those who asked me for help I could not give
and pray you'll help me find a way to assist them...

I offer you those whose hearts are bound
to hearts far away or in harm's way...

I offer you the moments of grace I saw and seized
and the moments I missed or messed up...

I offer you the many ways you showed me your face,
took me by the hand, walked by my side,
asked for my help, listened to my prayer,
lifted me up, settled me down, forgave my sin,
calmed my fears, strengthened my will,
and held me in the palm of your hand...

Now I offer you this day, Lord,
and the new week there before me...

Cross my path, Lord,
in the lives of all I know and meet
and guard my steps in the shade
of the Cross of your mercy and love...



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Homily for November 12

Homily for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

A dad in the parish emailed me this past week and wrote:
It's been a really tough couple of weeks of tragedy
witnessed by all of us and especially our kids. 
 I've found my own teens far more agitated than normal,
more argumentative and, given all the bad news,
questioning the whole “God thing."
I know that talking about it with them is the best thing to do
but I have no great eloquence or answers or solutions...
I pray God help us all find the words to say...

Well, I don’t think you have to be the parent of teenagers
to understand what this dad is writing about.
And I don’t think you have to be a teenager
for the daily headlines to cause you to wonder,
 “So where’s God in all this mess?”

Like the dad who wrote to me,
I don’t claim any particular eloquence,
much less do I pretend to have answers and solutions
for the problems of the day.
Like you, perhaps,
I would love to have more wisdom about these things.
I’d love to have the wisdom - if not to solve today’s problems -
then to understand them in a way that would deepen my faith
and not weaken it or cause me to question it.

Would that Lady Wisdom in today’s first reading
would pay us all a visit.
Seems to me it’s time she came calling on us.
I certainly see no traces of her in the headlines or in social media.
If anything,
it’s the absence of wisdom in our midst that’s most striking.
And I’m not talking about the kind of “wisdom”
that folks on one side of an issue claim to have
over their opponents on the other side.
I’m talking about a wisdom deeper than the partisan divide,
a wisdom beyond the terms of our debates,
a wisdom that takes us by surprise
in its simplicity, its selflessness and its truth.

I don’t claim to be a very wise person but I’m sure of this:
the wisdom we need, the wisdom we long for,
is not something we ourselves will ever devise or invent.
Rather, the wisdom our world needs is a gift
and its source, though not beyond our reach, is eternal.

If we put all our faith and trust and hope
in our fellow human beings
I’m confident we can expect to be disappointed.
As it is sometimes is with love,
we often look for wisdom “in all the wrong places.”

But if we hope to critically understand the times in which we live
and find a way to move beyond tragedy to triumph,
we need a wisdom far greater than our native human discernment
will ever, on its own, be able to offer us.
We need that “resplendent and unfading wisdom”
promised in today’s first scripture.
And she is closer to hand than we might imagine.
We read that “she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.”

So, before we dismiss all this as pious prattle,
let’s ask ourselves, each of us,
“Do I indeed seek wisdom? 
Do I want, do I desire, do I look for a wisdom greater than my own,
greater than the thinking of all those who think like me,
who agree with me?
“Do I look for a wisdom that might surprise me when I find it,
when I discover that wisdom has been seeking me,
and seeking me more earnestly than I have been seeking her?”
 If I’m not looking for wisdom, seeking her out,
might I miss her when she comes calling at my door?
in my heart? in my thoughts?”
What if wisdom comes - and I miss her arrival?

And that brings us to the wedding scene in today’s gospel
where there are ten bridesmaids,
only five of whom were wise enough to be ready
to receive the bridegroom when he came calling for his bride.
The other five, in their foolishness, were caught unprepared.
If we’re waiting for human ingenuity to resolve the world’s problems,
if we believe that holding out for our side in the debate
is the pathway to truth,
if we believe we have in ourselves all the wisdom we need
then we mock the whole of recorded history in which, to date,
humanity has yet to find what it needs to make all things right.

The wisdom we seek is a wisdom deeper than our partisan divisions.
Lady Wisdom is beyond the paltry terms of our debates.
and she offers us a wisdom that will take us by surprise
in its simplicity, its selflessness and its truth.

The foolish and unprepared often dismiss true wisdom
because in their estimation, it is too simple, too naïve.
The foolish and the unprepared often reject genuine wisdom
because it asks of them more than they’re prepared to give..
And the foolish and the unprepared shy away from raw wisdom
because it often confronts them with uncomfortable truth.
In which group of bridesmaids, then, do you and I find each other?

As I said , I don’t consider myself a particularly wise man,
much less do I pretend to have solutions for our times problems.

But I hope and pray I have enough wisdom to know
that any wisdom worthy of that name
comes not from me - and not from us - but from God
and that we would be wise, like those five bridesmaids,
to wait for the Lord and be prepared
for when he shines the light of wisdom upon us.

I hope these reflections might help the dad who emailed me
talk with his teens about the mess the world is in,
the “God-thing”
- and our need for a wisdom greater than our own.
On the other hand, I’m 70 years old
and I’m still learning to be prepared to answer
when the gift of wisdom knocks on the door of my heart
and shines on my mind and its thoughts.

Perhaps the best we can do is to acknowledge
how foolish we can be and how foolish we have been.
Acknowledging our foolish ways
may be the beginning of wisdom -
whether we’re 70 or 17 years old.

The scriptures also tell us that Lady Wisdom has
 “…built herself a house
She has set her table, prepared her food, and mixed her wine;
To those who lack understanding she says,
 Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Forsake your foolishness and live,
and walk in the way of understanding.’”

Wisdom’s table, the Lord’s Table, stands in our midst.
In our foolishness and with whatever wisdom is already ours,
we gather at this altar and pray to be nourished with wisdom,
with the gift of Christ Jesus who, in his wisdom,
gave his life for us that we might walk in his ways.


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