Homily for November 16

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

Audio for homily 

Well, who hasn’t heard that story before?
And who hasn’t already heard a dozen homilies on this parable?
And how many of you figure you know exactly what I’m about to say?
And does that mean that we might all be wasting our time here?
Or is it the case that we need to hear this story over and over again?
That we need to hear it preached, time and again,
because its lesson is one that we might easily fail to grasp,
regardless of how many times we hear it.

A good key to unlock this parable
 (and it’s not a key I’ve used before in previous homilies)
a good key is found in the word entrust.
A man going on a journey called in his servants
and entrusted his possessions to them…

Entrust: to hand over to another, to assign to another’s care,
to give on loan, to put in another’s hands…

All that I am… and everything I have…
has been entrusted to me by God.

All that you are…  everything you have…
has been entrusted to you by God.

Every gift, blessing and talent, and skill,
every inclination I have towards what is good
is God’s gift to me.
All that I am and everything I have
is on loan from God, put in my hands, assigned to my care -
not for my own ends, not for our own purposes –
but for the Lord’s.

Never will this be clearer to us than when we die.
When my soul stands before God with nothing in hand,
when I’m bereft of everything, even my body,
then the Lord, like the master in the parable,
will look to settle accounts with me,
to see what I have done with what he entrusted to me.

This parable is one of three in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel
and each of them is about the end times:
the end of our lives and the end of the world
- and settling accounts with God.

This scripture invites me to look at the whole of my life as gift from God
and asks me what I’m doing, how I’m doing,
with all that God has entrusted to my care.
• What am I doing with my body and my health?
How do I care for the life God entrusts to me?
• What am I doing with my capacity for warmth and compassion,
for encouragement and consolation,
for forgiveness and understanding, for humor and joy?
• What am I doing with my time?
How do I spend it?  How do I waste it?  How do I share it?
• What am I doing with my soul?
What of my prayer?  my contrition for sin? my love of God?

• What am I doing with my personal strengths, my skills, my gifts?
Am I using them, developing sharing them –
or hiding and keeping them to myself?
• What am I doing with family and friends
entrusted to my heart and my care?
How do I serve them?  Do I treasure them
– or do I take advantage of them?

The list of questions can go on and on precisely because:
all that I am and everything I have has been entrusted to me by God,
not for my own ends, not for my own purposes, but for the Lord’s.

So, although this parable might prompt me
to be more generous with what wealth I have
or quicker to volunteer my voice to sing in the choir,
the gospel calls me first to a deeper level, a deeper demand:
to take stock of all that I am and everything I have
and to acknowledge, before God,
that it all comes from the Lord, belongs to the Lord
and is given to me for his purposes first – not my own.

The first reading, from Proverbs* gives us the example of the woman
who is a model for using and sharing all that she is and all she has
for what the Lord asks of her in her life,
as a mother, as a wife, as a businesswoman.
She sounds very contemporary, not at all ancient!

These “end time gospels” (we’ll hear another one next week)
they come annually, just at the end of the liturgical year
and just before Advent’s inauguration of a new year of grace.
These pre-Christmas weeks provide a whole season for us
to take inventory, to take stock of our possessions,
as we stand before God who has entrusted to our hearts and hands
all that we are and all that we have.

Following the three end-time parables in Matthew 25,
the remainder of his gospel is the story of the suffering and death
and resurrection of Jesus.

The story of the Cross shows us how willing was Jesus
to acknowledge that all he was and all he had
was his Father’s gift to him, given not for his own ends,
but to be handed over, entrusted to the needs of others,
my needs and yours.

At this altar, across this table,
he continues to entrust himself to us,
he hands himself over, his Body and Blood-  in the Eucharist.
May the Bread and Cup we share here strengthen us
to hand ourselves over and to entrust to others
all that has been given to us through the grace of God.

*The first reading from Proverbs, as presented in the Lectionary, has been heavily edited.  In my parish we offered our lectors the opportunity to proclaim an unedited version of the text:

A reading from the Book of Proverbs 31:10-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.

Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.

She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.

She obtains wool and flax
and makes cloth with skillful hands.

Like merchant ships,
she secures her provisions from afar.

She rises while it is still night,
and distributes food to her household.

She picks out a field to purchase;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She is girt about with strength,
and sturdy are her arms.

She enjoys the success of her dealings;
at night her lamp is undimmed.

She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

She fears not the snow for her household;
all her charges are doubly clothed.

She makes her own coverlets;
fine linen and purple are her clothing.
Her husband is prominent at the city gates
as he sits with the elders of the land.

She makes garments and sells them,
and stocks the merchants with belts.

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs at the days to come.

She opens her mouth in wisdom,
and on her tongue is kindly counsel.

She watches the conduct of her household,
and eats not her food in idleness.

Her children rise up and praise her;
her husband, too, extols her:
     "Many are the women of proven worth,
     but you have excelled them all."
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Give her a reward of her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.


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