Every so often, you will see online, or in a newspaper or in a magazine article a list of what American people consider the most prestigious, most respected of jobs. What occupations people consider the most honorable. While the positions of the top ten can alter from survey to survey, usually the jobs and occupations remain the same. Almost every list includes firefighters, police officers, teachers, doctors and nurses. There’s a good reason people seem to have an exalted appreciation of these jobs. It’s because they are more than just jobs. We realize that these are normal men and women, just like you and I. But that we trust them with even greater responsibility. We trust that they will have a primary focus on the good of all the people they are called to serve.
Hi everyone here’s my homily for the 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, November 15, 2020. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
Think about it – we trust that firefighters will run into burning buildings as people are literally stampeding their way out the door so that they can try to save as many people as possible. We trust that police officers will confront evil in ways we can never imagine (the drug pusher, the abusive spouse, the sexual predator) all to keep the rest of society safe. We trust teachers with an almost intimate responsibility – helping to shape the minds of young people. And anyone who’s ever been sick and realized how incredibly vulnerable that feeling can be, knows the level of trust that is given to doctors and nurses. They tell you to take this pill twice a day for a week, you do it almost without question.
That’s why when we hear a scandalous story about people from these professions who’ve abused their authority there’s a deeper level of sadness and anger towards the act. Sure, there are people every day who do sick and evil things. That’s sadly a given. But there’s a level of justifiable outrage when we hear that a firefighter has been charged with arson; when a cop is being investigated for harming someone they arrested; when a teacher has physically or mentally abused a student; when a doctor or nurse has intentionally killed a patient. The crimes are horrendous themselves, but in those situations, we are even more disgusted, even more outraged. Because in those instances, people not only did these evil actions, they violated that trust that is given to them simply because they are in those professions. We can’t and don’t want to accept that someone has violated the public’s trust in such dramatic ways.
Today’s gospel story is all about trust. This parable has this master giving what is called “talents” to his servants, which is another word for money. One talent, would be considered a pretty large sum of money. The Master has trusted these three with what was of great value to Him… the first two guys double their talents by investing them while the one who was given just one, was afraid. His fears what if I loose this… What if it’s stolen… what if I make a mistake or I fail…They all paralyze him into doing nothing. He buries what he’s been given.
But this isn’t about “talents” or money. And it shouldn’t be confused with our God-given talents, like being a good singer, or being a good athlete. The “talent” – the thing of great value that Jesus is talking about in the parable – is Himself. He is explaining to his listeners that God the Father is entrusting His own Son to all of us.
All of a sudden, when we think about that parable again it takes on a much deeper meaning. We can begin to understand why the Master is so enraged by the one servant who does nothing with this gift. Because He has violated the Master’s trust. He has not acted or responded in a way that one who calls themselves a Christian should. What good is it for you and I to say we are a Christian, to say we follow Jesus Christ, that we believe he is truly the way, the truth, the life if no one would ever be able to know that by looking at us or listening to us. Imagine someone coming up to you or I and saying “really, you’re a Catholic, you’re a Christian? I never knew that” as if they were just discovering you were born in New Jersey or that your ancestors were Italian. (As a priest, I’d really, REALLY be in trouble if someone said that to me!) Our identity as Christians is more than our receiving the Sacraments. It’s more than fulfilling the obligation to come together as a family every Sunday at Mass. Being Baptized, being faithful to that obligation are incredibly important. But that’s step one. It is here that God gives us that “talent” that treasure that is priceless. It is here we are given His Son every time we gather together for Mass. We receive Jesus in his word and his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
So God has entrusted this priceless talent to you and I. What are we doing with it? That’s why the parable is so real… Because it calls each and everyone of us out to ask what sacrifices, what changes, what risks have we taken as a result of being given Jesus. A couple months ago, there was an aricle that talked about how a Hollywood actress’ faith caused her to have a life-altering change. The actress, by the name of Dolores Hart, at her peak of popularity was being compared to Grace Kelly. She had starring roles with some A-list actors, including Elvis Presley, being forever linked with him for giving him his first on-screen kiss back in 1957 in the film Loving You. About 7 years later, she would break off her engagement to get married, quit her acting career as she announced that she was going to become a nun. In the 2013 Oscar-nominated documentary on her story, entitled God is bigger than Elvis – she shared some of the reactions from her friends and family including a priest, named Father Doody, who said to her, ‘You’re crazy. This is absolutely insane to do this,’” and that her aunt, who was already a nun was livid because she loved having a niece who was famous. (Great support, huh?) Yet despite the struggle, the difficulty for her family, her fiancé, her friends, her fans to understand what she was doing, why she was doing what she was doing – Dolores or rather, Mother Dolores Hart found a peace in the convent she didn’t find in Hollywood, she found a purpose and meaning in this vocation that dwarfed any leading role; she found a love in Jesus greater than she had experienced in the people and things of this world. Or as she put it more beautifully, If you heard what I hear, you would come to…
What is it that Jesus is asking you to do with the love He has given you? We are each blessed that God desires a personal, life giving, life changing love with us individually, personally. To the point that if you were the only person to have ever existed, Jesus would have suffered and died on the Cross for you – so that sin would not be able to separate you from Him and His Father’s love for you for all eternity – that is how much Jesus loves you.
In response, what is He calling you to do? What do you think He wants you to do with that love? Maybe it’s going to involve some major change in your life, your career – maybe it’s just a reordering of priorities – maybe it’s a seriousness in confronting some sin that has become “accepted” which never should’ve been. For every person, the invitation to follow Him, listen to Him, love Him is going to be different and unique and personal as it was for Mother Dolores.
But the point that this Gospel reminds us is that we have to respond. Jesus is telling us that the reason this guy with the one talent is condemned so harshly is that he let fear stop him from doing anything. When someone doesn’t respond to the gift of faith, the calls that the Lord puts on their hearts, not only do they miss experiencing fullness of life, but that has ripple effects for the world around are lost as well. It reminds me of something that Pope Benedict XVI once said. “Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched…” That can be scary… it involves risk. We often want to remain what is comfortable and known. It comes back to that question of trust… To become a firefighter, a police officer, doctor, nurse or teacher – one of the fundamental questions that is asked is can this person be trusted? God, has already proven Himself worthy of our trust just in the fact that we are sitting here alive and breathing – He has given us the gift of life …. He has given us everything and in calling us to be a follower of Jesus Christ, He has already answered the question that He does trust us. In the end though, will we be proven worthy of that trust?