33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Date: 
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Speaker: 
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     Some of you may know of Fr. John Powell, an author who I think had a TV show briefly many years ago.  In a book of daily meditations taken from his writings, the one for December 31 sums up much of his thought.  He says, "The greatest gift of God, I would think, is the gift of life.  The greatest sin of humans, it would seem, is to return that gift ungratefully and unopened."

     That is the message of today's Gospel, the parable Jesus tells about using and increasing our talent, or the other option of burying it in the ground.  Jesus is clear that God has been incredibly generous as a giver of gifts to us.  In the parable, the term talent does not refer to something like the ability to play the piano.  A talent here means a huge sum of money.  God is generous as a giver of gifts, but he expects something back.

     There are three small points that deepen the obvious meaning of this parable.  The first is the it's the master's money.  The servants do not own the talent.  It is not theirs.  It belongs to the master.  They are simply stewards of it.  If we find ourselves stingy with our time, talent or treasure, it is a good sign that we subtly think we own what has been given to us.  We think it is our possession instead of God's gift.  We have forgotten we are simply stewards of it.

     The second is that notice that the master is not fair.  He gives a different amount to each servant.  There is always the danger of comparisons, focusing on what others have.  The only comparison that matters is not what others have, but what are we doing with what has been given to us.  And we have to use those gifts for them to increase and multiply.

     The third point is the reason that the third servant buried his talent.  It was "out of fear."  This is great insight, that one of the main ways the devil defeats us is to make us fearful.  Fears lurk in the back of our minds but dictate much of our daily decisions.  Fear is the reason we bury our talents.  Fear is the reason we do not develop what God has given us.  Fear is the reason we do not keep growing.

     Fears that control us may be fears of failure, or of taking risks, or intimacy.  Fear keeps us from trying something new, so we end up sticking with the comfortable, the safe, the easy . . . and the mediocre.  The first two servants had to take risks to grow their talents, be open to the new, and go beyond the comfortable, the safe and the easy path.

     This parable suggests that the greatest regrets we have in life are not what we have done, but what we never did.  The greatest sins for most of us are not sins of commission, but sins of omission.  We are surrounded by opportunities to grow each day.  But too often, out of fear, we cling to the comfortable and end up burying the talent, the treasure that has been given us.

     May our Eucharist today give us freedom from fear that control so much of our lives, that keep us from risking and changing and growing.  Because the greatest regrets we have in life are usually not what we have done, but what we never had the courage to do.

     Fr. Powell is right:  "The greatest gift, I would think, is the gift of life.  The greatest sin of humans, it would seem, is to return that gift ungratefully and unopened."