November 15, 2020 – Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Proverbs 31:10-31, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, and Matthew 25:14-30
This homily (on the same readings we have offered to us today) was originally delivered at St. Pius X in 2017:
Carol wanted me to preach on today’s first reading from the Book of Proverbs. I’m not sure why, but I did notice a few lines of the reading that might have caught her eye, “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.”
While I agree Carol has value far beyond pearls and is an unfailing prize, I will be focusing on the other two readings today.
Have you ever done this?: An announcement is being made – at work, at school, at the mall – and after just a few words, you tune it out. You heard something in those first few words that led you to believe the message did not pertain to you.
For instance, the principal at school was on the PA making his morning announcements. He began, “Attention members of the girls swim team…” I never heard the rest of that announcement. I am not a girl, nor do I swim. So my brain automatically tuned out the message.
Certainly there are messages for which we are not the intended audience. They don’t pertain to us, so tuning them out is of little consequence.
Other times the message is intended for us, but we don’t feel worthy of receiving it. We convince ourselves that the message is for other people, better people – more talented, more successful, more valued.
We may have been conditioned to believe we are not worthy.
As an athlete, you made a mistake and the coach ignored it. A more skilled or more talented player made the same mistake and you heard the coach say, “You have incredible talent! I expect more from you!”
Your perception: You do not have incredible talent and the coach does not expect more from you.
Maybe as a student, you received a grade of 80% on a test. The smarter student to your left received an 80% on the test also, and next to the grade was the note – “I am disappointed – you are better than this!”
Your perception: The teacher was not disappointed in you because you are not better than an 80%.”
If you are of this mindset, the mindset that says you have little to offer and are mediocre at best, it is possible you tuned out today’s gospel. The gospel is clearly intended for the elite – after all, Matthew tells us that the talents were distributed to the servants, each according to his ability. The servant with five talents will get five more – the rich get richer.
You do not envision yourself as worthy of five talents; that would be above your pay grade. At best you see yourself as the servant given one talent, no one expects much from you.
So while others of more value listen to the gospel, you tune it out.
Before we get too caught up in the “I’m not good enough” pity party, I will also ask this challenging question: Are we saying “this message is not for me” or “God is not talking to me” in order to avoid the work He is calling us to? The parable Jesus shared in the gospel clearly says, “I will give you great responsibilities.”
To whom much is given, much is expected. God is not talking to me.
Great responsibilities? God is not talking to me.
Do we really believe God is running a gifted and talented program and handpicking those who are stronger, smarter, and more wealthy to be His workers?
Paul must have encountered this “God is not talking to me” mentality in his travels to Thessalonia. Using beautiful language, he clarifies for the Thessalonians, and for us, that God loves all of us, calls all of us, needs all of us.
He wrote: For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do.
We are not “the rest.” We are children of God. We are children of the light.
What a beautiful image in what has become such a dark world. God nudges us, nudges you. He asks you, “In this world of darkness, who is going to be the light? Will you do this for me?”
We are children of light. It is who we are. It is what we are capable of. It is our identity.
No, not me, we might argue. Jesus said to whom much has been given, much is expected. I’m average, I’m just me, no special gifts or talents. What have I been given?
How about life? How about love – unconditional love from an adoring Father who calls us His children?
No more excuses. You can’t get around this call to action. God expects more from ALL of us. He calls us to return to Him what has been given, and then some.
We must set aside our feelings of inadequacy. We must stop asking, “What can one average person like me possibly accomplish in a world of darkness?” We must stop saying, “God is not talking to me.”
We must use the life we have been given and the unconditional love of God to radiate light and become the children of light we were created to be.
When we accept that challenge, we will hear God’s voice echoed in the parable of Jesus: Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share your master’s joy.”