11/16/08

Homily for November 16


Image from MarysRosaries (click on image for larger version)

Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 16, 2008

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30


As tempting as it might be to interpret this parable
in light of the current economic crisis,
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 is wailing - and grinding of teeth:
- no bailout for this guy!

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 and use them wisely.

The Church, in choosing today’s scriptures,
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 (apparently she works out!)
- 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
- laughs at tomorrows problems
- speaks with wisdom and offers kindly counsel
- keeps her house in order
- is careful about what she eats
- and is never idle.
You go, girl!

But what we need to see in this woman is not her success
or how many talents she was – that’s not the point.
The point is simply that she used what she had and she used it 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 working?”

These scriptures are about more than financial and personal success:
they are about the fruitful harvest of whatever I have to offer
and not for financial gain or personal acclaim
but for the needs and service of others.

Sometimes we are like that third servant.
We may not dig a hole in the ground to bury our gifts, but we might:
- pack up our gifts in a box that we label
“my puny gifts, won’t make a difference, not worth anyone’s notice;”
- or we might stuff them in a package labeled, “Return to Sender,” saying
“I don’t like the gifts I have; they’re not the ones I wanted;
I wanted her gifts; I like the gifts he got better!”
- maybe my gifts are buried in a busy schedule with the notation:
“Sorry – no time to offer my gifts – much too busy about other things!”
- or my gifts might be hidden in my fear that others find that I have them,
because if they knew – they might expect me to share them;
- or perhaps I blindfold myself, refusing to acknowledge any gifts,
convinced that I just didn’t get any!

Sometimes we subject ourselves to such prejudice and judgment;
sometimes others teach us to deny or bury our gifts;
sadly, sometimes the Church fails to recognize the gifts of its members.

Gifts?

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 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 spare minute, a day's help or a lifetime commitment;
my gift might be phone call, a letter 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,
truth on my lips or a helping hand;
my gift might be volunteering, joining – or just showing up…

I think we're probably getting the message.

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 comes in the 25th chapter of Matthew
with two other parables
about how our lives will be measured at the end:
by how we used everything we were given - for others.

Wherever we find ourselves in these scriptures, it’s not too late!
Even if our gifts were long ago stashed away,
it’s never to late to unpack them and find ways to offer them now.

After the 25th chapter of Matthew, the remainder of his gospel
is the story of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.
The Cross shows us how willing Jesus was to offer everything he had
in service of the needs of others – in service my needs and yours.

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 what we’ve been given – for others…

-ConcordPastor

8 comments:

A Concord Carpenter Comments said...

use your gifts, whatever they are,
no matter how large or small they might be use your gifts and use them wisely. . . very powerful!

This is one of your best to date - right up there with the sniker bars!

I'm sad to have missed hearing your homily. I really would have chucked at you saying, "you go girl!"

Anonymous said...

Father...

I am one of your parishoners and am very aware of your sensitivity to how women are treated in both in the Bible and by the Catholic religion. I applaud you and your sensitivity, so I hope that what I am about to write does not come out the wrong way...


The truth is, today's homily inspired me in some ways, and brought sad emotions in others. The women in the Proverbs reading today clearly mirrors the image of today's "super moms". "You go, girl!" to women who are exhausted...have been putting 150% of themselves forward for years, more effort than their husbands in many cases...somehow just does not feel like the right message. It is always women who are painted in this light. In business, women need to DO so much more than men to be as appreciated. It is "normal" for women to be expected to be multi-tasking, gracious, great cooks, expert housekeepers, good moms....and, in this society, successful businesswomen. U.S. society does not revere the woman who focuses solely on home and not in the business place. Where exactly does the "partnership" in marriage supposed to balance? Why are men not held to the same standard?

Anonymous said...

Father...

I am one of your parishoners and am very aware of your sensitivity to how women are treated in both in the Bible and by the Catholic religion. I applaud you and your sensitivity, so I hope that what I am about to write does not come out the wrong way...


The truth is, today's homily inspired me in some ways, and brought sad emotions in others. The women in the Proverbs reading today clearly mirrors the image of today's "super moms". "You go, girl!" to women who are exhausted...have been putting 150% of themselves forward for years, more effort than their husbands in many cases...somehow just does not feel like the right message. It is always women who are painted in this light. In business, women need to DO so much more than men to be as appreciated. It is "normal" for women to be expected to be multi-tasking, gracious, great cooks, expert housekeepers, good moms....and, in this society, successful businesswomen. U.S. society does not revere the woman who focuses solely on home and not in the business place. Where exactly does the "partnership" in marriage supposed to balance? Why are men not held to the same standard?

ConcordPastor said...

One of my resolutions for the new year is to get some equipment in church for videotaping liturgies. Have had offers of advice from readers and will be meeting soon with a tech guy about hardware we need. Would love to be able to post homilies here and to have the liturgy available to the homebound.

ConcordPastor said...

As I have mentioned before: this blog is not the place for registering or dealing with anonymous complaints particular to my parish.

ConcordPastor said...

Anonymous: I had hoped that others might respond to your comment first but it looks like that's not going to happen so I'll add my own here.

I found the picture of a woman in Proverbs to be a positive one in which she is presented as having a very full life - far beyond the usual boundaries the scriptures set.

So, just as your comment was "Yes, but..." - it left me, a male, feeling a little "damned if I do, damned if I don't."

Perhaps we sometimes, all of us, look to a scripture passage to answer more issues than any one passage possibly can.

Heather said...

HI Pastor,
I'm mailing you from England to say a huge 'thak-you' for the wonderful blog! I'm doing a reflective Prayer Labyrinth in my Amglican church on Sunday, based on Advent, and I needed some fresh pictures. I've done quite a few now but wanted some new stuff. Your site has been a real blessing and an answer to prayer. God bless! from Heather

ConcordPastor said...

Welcome aboard, Heather - gladd to have you with us and I hope you return again, soon.

And Happy Advent to you and your parish!