Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – NOVEMBER 18, 2017. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm. Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media; and for you feedback and comments. I am always grateful to see how many people check this blog out every week and how the Holy Spirit could use me to hopefully speak to you. My best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families – God Bless, Fr Jim
If you’ve ever been around or worked with little kids, it’s a bit stunning when you’ll hear them utter those two little words when they’re invited to do something:
Jump in the water, it’s okay, you’re going to be fine!
Try riding this bicycle, you’ll be okay – it’s got training wheels
Tomorrow you’re going to school for the first time
Hearing “I can’t” from a kid to those things is jarring. Not just because we know that they can do it… but there’s a sadness in hearing this young person has imposed limits on themselves. Maybe it’s from fear or self-doubt. Maybe they have trust issues. Whatever the reason, they’ve somehow limited their potential, limited what is possible, and are not able to see what is right there within their reach as they make their short declaration – I CAN’T. That’s where others – parents, coaches, teachers, other relatives and friends are so important, so essential. Hoping to remove that fear, helping them to see past their self-imposed limits and encourage them to move beyond those two defeatist words with two little words of encouragement – just try.
Jump in the water, it’s okay – you’re going to be fine! I Can’t…Just try, your coach is right there, see all the other kids, they used to not be able to swim either, and he was right there able to help them… Just try
Try riding this bicycle, you’ll be okay – it’s even got training wheels on it I CAN’T Just try – Mommy and Daddy are right here, we promise if you even start to fall, we’ll catch you…
Tomorrow you’re going to school for the first time I CAN”T- I don’t know anyone, Just try! you’ll do great – when I started school, I was scared too, but once you get in there, you’ll see, it’s not bad, it’s okay – Just try….
When we think about it, those types of experiences don’t end in grammar school or on the playground. Throughout life, fears and doubts re-emerge and seem more justifiable as our mind conjures up seemingly more logical reasons that make them seem true. The lack of trust we have in others, the lack of confidence we have in ourselves can hinder us. We might not vocalize the words but say them in our mind – I can’t.
If I told my family, my friends that I was thinking about doing this with my life – I can’t
I want to help him out, but there’s so much going on in my life, I can’t
I should reach out to her – this fight has gone on long enough and it’s stupid, but I can’t…
With added responsibilities and commitments we make through life, with the desire to always be succeeding and not wanting to look like I failed; with the fear of being vulnerable, it’s not as easy to hear the words”just try” as encouragement as we get older. Perhaps that’s why it bothers us so much when we hear little kids being so defeatist. We don’t want them to believe those lies they’re telling themselves that diminish themselves. We know that those demons can crush a person’s spirit… and that people can become too comfortable with saying “I can’t” as they close their hearts and ears from considering a person’s hopeful invitation to “just try”.
At the heart of this Gospel, Jesus’ parable is making a similar point. The Master in the parable isn’t just some CEO or disconnected administrator demanding a profit from nameless employees. He knows his “servants” intimately, closely. He knows their strengths and weaknesses. He knows what they’re capable of and what they’re not. That’s why one guy gets more “talents” than the others. (An interesting vocabulary quirk – in the original language refers to a large sum of money – for us we use the word “talent” to mean skills, abilities…) The Master knows what each of his servants is capable of. What’s so frustrating to the Master in the parable – is that the one servant doesn’t even try…
Here he has given these talents not to maximize his own personal fortune (if he had, he would’ve given them all to the first guy). He’s interested in seeing the servants taking what is so precious to him and doing something with it. Making something greater. And this one guy opts out of it completely.
It’s not hard for us to recognize the deeper meaning in the parable. God has entrusted us with Jesus Christ. He gives us His Word; His Body and Blood… It’s great that we are here – that we recognize our need to receive these gracious gifts. But that’s not enough… It’s not enough for us to simply receive them. We’re expected in this time we have on this earth to somehow invest them, to make them increase the already vast expanse of the Kingdom of God right here in our little patch of it.
Pope Francis said something very early after being elected Pope that makes me think he’s a big fan of this Gospel passage. Particularly since he said it in a few different homilies, interviews and in writings: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security… If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. (Evangelii Gaudium 49)
What the Pope, and Jesus is trying to say is that too often, we get stuck saying “I can’t” – even as a collective body as “the Church” – but that happens when individuals, you and I, give into that pessimism:
I can’t even tell my family or friends that I go to Mass let alone pray with them or invite them to come with me…
I can’t go on a mission trip, or work at a soup kitchen – it costs too much, I have too much to do…
I can’t go to confession, it’s been too long, I’m afraid the priest is going to yell at me.
I can’t visit that person in the hospital, in that nursing home, I’m too scared
I can’t help that homeless person, what can I do, I’m just one person
I can’t take chastity seriously, my boyfriend won’t want to stay with me/my girlfriend will think I’m not interested in her…
I can’t be bothered with pro-life, pro-family issues – that might lead to a fight or a disagreement and I can’t deal with it…
As brother’s and sisters, we’re meant to support one another in these challenging things. To point out examples of people who said “I can”;
To be living examples of people striving to say “I can” –
I can live selflessly.
I can live lovingly.
I can center my life on Christ.
I can reject the glamourous, the false lies and empty promises of this world.
I can live chastely.
I can do all of these things – and countless others – if I can truly believe that God has created us, saved us and sanctified us for Him. That He has given us the capacity, the ability the “talents” to be saints. Not plastic statues on the wall – but real, holy people reflecting his presence in our day and age here and now.
That seems out of reach to us. Our humanity kicks in and all those old bad habits re-emerge making us pause and utter I can’t. Jesus Christ pleads with us though – just try…