Homily notes for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
What I want to say today may be a little scary, but it's something we all need to hear. I'm saying it to myself just as much as to you.
God expects something from you.
That's the what we hear about in today's Gospel.
This parable comes in the context of Jesus speaking to his disciples about the Second Coming - when Jesus returns at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. In the story, Jesus tells us about a man who, before going on a journey, entrusts his servants his servants with his treasure. Now, when we hear the word "talent", we think of the ability to sing or paint or throw a football, but the talents in this story are coins that represent a large amount of money. Even having one talent means having a significant amount.
Jesus is that man going on a journey. After his death and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving the Church with the promise that He would come back again. Before he left, though, Jesus gave the Church a mission. As the Gospel of Matthew puts it: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
The man in the story gives different amount to each servant, as the gospel says, "according to his ability." He entrusts his possessions to his servants with the expectation that they will do something with them; and he knows these servants so well, that he gives them exactly the amount that they can handle.
Jesus entrusted the Church with great treasures. He gave us the sacraments, he gave us his teaching, and he gave the Church the authority to use those treasures - to forgive sins, to make Him present in the Eucharist, and to apply His teachings to every age in which the Church exists.
But He also entrusted treasures to us individually. While Jesus maybe using the word "talents" to mean money in the gospel story, this is where we get our use of the word. For us, "talents" have come to mean abilities and skills given to us by God - gifts that we must cultivate if we want them to bear fruit.
If you want to be a musician, you have to practice. If you want to be a great actor, you must rehearse. To be a writer - go write; to run the fastest - you have to be running all the time. Even people who seem to be born with some gift must take that talent and make it grow. If we don't put our talents to use, they fade away.
This takes us back to what I said in the beginning: God expects something from you.
He expects you to make use of the gifts that he has given you - for His glory, for your own good, and the good of others. He has given us our own individual talents, skills, abilities - whatever you want to call them - for a reason. We have them, so that we can use them. To hide them away, or to ignore them out of fear of failure is to reject God's gift for you.
The servant who simply buried the talent given to him could have had many motivations: was he afraid of failing? Was he envious of the other servants and the talents they were given, so he buried his out of spite? Did he assume that his master gave him that treasure just to hide it?
Whatever reason that servant had, we know what the result is: he loses what he had.
How do we want to be greeted when we meet Jesus face to face: "well done, my good and faithful servant" or "you wicked, lazy servant"? There's a pretty clear answer.
Now, if all of this makes you nervous - if it makes you think "what could I possibly do? what could I offer to God?" then I want you to think about my favorite saint, St. Therese of Lisieux. When she looked at the great saints who were missionaries and martyrs - things she desired but could never achieved - she realized that God would not inspire her to desire holiness if it was not possible for her to achieve. She said, "in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint."
God has given each one of us exactly what we need to fulfill our purpose in this life. Let us take the gifts that God has given us - big ones and small ones, obvious ones and hidden ones - and use them with great love.
Jesus expects His disciples to bear fruit in their lives. Let us be the servants who take the treasures He has given us and let them grow.