Don’t Bury Your Talents

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 19, 2017) Year A

Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31

Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5(1a)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

Matthew 25:14-30

I don’t know about you, but does it seem like our community has felt the sting of death a lot over the past month or two? My mom, (parishioner) Daniel Gagnon’s brother and his father, (our church secretary) Melanie White’s father, (from our community) Jerry Broderick and just last week we received the shocking news of Leon Mayo’s sudden death. To be blunt, I’m almost afraid to answer my phone anymore for fear of hearing who died next.

Our recent encounters with death really puts into perspective just how precious and short life is on earth. That is why it is so incredibly important to listen, and I mean REALLY listen to what today’s readings are trying to motivate us to do with our lives.

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians urges them to get ready for the coming of the Lord. Now, I’m sure St. Paul here is speaking of the 2nd coming of Christ, when He will come down from Heaven… but it can also very well refer to when we will see Christ face to face immediately after our own death.

And when will that be? Well that’s a very good question. The answer is simple. We have no idea!

I love the analogy St. Paul uses about labor pains in his letter to drive home this point. Ask a pregnant woman when she’s going to start having contractions. You’ll probably get a funny look from her because she really doesn’t know exactly when it will happen. But it will happen… that’s unavoidable. And praise God that I’m a man, because when that first real contraction hit my wife with our first born, and she felt that pain… things got serious, real quick… there was no turning back… there was no escape… that baby was coming out.

So to with death. 99% of us won’t know when we are going to die. This is why St. Paul tells us to stay alert and sober. We need to be ready for when Christ returns or when we die and will stand before God on our judgment day. But when you pair St. Paul’s letter we just heard with today’s Gospel from Matthew, merely standing around alert and sober is just the bare minimum. We need to do more, which is where the parable we hear from Jesus today is so vitally important.

To put it simply, the parable tells us a man is going away on a trip. He calls his three servants and entrusts them with all of his money. Since they are his servants, the man knows what each of them is capable of doing with that money. He probably even has more confidence in them then they do of themselves. The man goes away but eventually comes back. Two of the servants used their abilities to increase the man’s money. The third man, out of fear, didn’t do a darn thing with the money entrusted to him. He instead buried the money, which infuriated the man… so much so that he had the third servant thrown outside into the darkness.

Now, interestingly enough, the money in this parable is referred to as “talents.” A “talent” in Jesus’ day, was a monetary unit of high value. When I read this parable, I couldn’t help but exchange the monetary definition of talent with a different definition of the word talent, which is: a natural aptitude or skill.

Now… using this definition for the word “talent,” a natural aptitude or skill, let’s look once again at this parable.

God created you. He entrusted each and every one of you with a special talent to use for His glory. He already knows what you are capable of and has more confidence in you than you do. He is your biggest fan. He is your biggest ally. But, out of love, He’s not going to force you to do a single thing that you don’t want to do. That’s called free will. However, even though He can’t control you, He is watching over all of you. He’s gazing on you through the eyes of a loving parent. He wants you to discover the talents he entrusted to you when He created you. He wants to watch your life unfold before His eyes as you discover and reveal your love for Him through your actions. He knows that some of you can handle more, so He’s given you more talents. He knows that some of you can only handle a little, so He’s given you fewer talents. But know this… He loves each of you and wants you to use those talents so that you will be able to live life to the fullest.

But, unfortunately, some of you are too scared. For whatever reason, you’ve buried your talents. You, brothers and sisters, are not living to your full potential. You are missing out on the grace and love of God that he freely offers you each and every day. And if you continue to bury the talents entrusted to you by God, you and those around you will NOT experience the true love that God so desperately wants you to feel.

Don’t be imprisoned by doubt, lack of self-confidence or fear. As St. John Paul II famously said the day he was elected Pope, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.”

The recent deaths felt by our local community remind us that life is short and unpredictable. Today’s readings remind us to prepare ourselves and to use our God-given talents for the glory of God daily so that we will be ready when our judgment day comes… whenever that may be.

So don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.

Live in fear no more!

Go out, TODAY, and spread the love of God by using your talents to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth until the day God calls you home.

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Getting Out Of My Spiritual Funk

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 18, 2016)

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 24:1-6

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

Time seems to be flying by like a speeding train and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. What do I mean? Just like that… the 4th candle is lit on the Advent wreath representing the last week of Advent and Christmas in only one week away.

I have a confession though. Can you keep a secret? I’m not feeling it this year. I just can’t seem to get in the “holiday spirit” for the life of me. It’s been an exceptionally trying year and I’m just worn down a bit. Plus I think the commercial side of Christmas, for me, it also getting a bit old. I mean… it’s the same thing every year. We celebrate Halloween and then all of a sudden, when we should be getting ready for Thanksgiving, that man in a red suit with his reindeer shows up! As we sit down to over indulge in a Thanksgiving feast with family, we turn on the radio for some pleasant background music, and lo and behold “Jingle Bells” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is playing on just about every bloody station! Then it’s a 30 day mad dash starting with Black Friday shopping, putting up the Christmas decorations, making sure everyone on our list has a present, planning meals and family gatherings, finding time to wrap the presents and still have enough money left over to pay our monthly bills. It can be stressful and exhausting.

I’ve been actively trying to get out of my funk but nothing has helped until I read Matthew’s Gospel passage for this weekend. It brought to mind a conversation I had with a Baptist friend of mine a few years ago. We were talking about who knows what when, out of the blue, he looked at me and said, “You Catholics really like Mary don’t you?” A little shocked, I merely replied, “Yup, we think she’s pretty cool.” He then said, “Well I’m Baptist, so the only time we ever talk about her is at Christmas because she gave birth to Jesus. So what’s the deal with Mary and Catholics?” Trying to keep this as simple as possible and without wanting to get into a heated debate, I said something like, “Mary was the first person to say yes to Christ. God told her she was to conceive His Son who would save us. She didn’t fully understand this, but she trusted God and said yes. So I guess you could say that Mary was the first Christian. We honor her yes and try to follow her example by saying yes to God.” Silence filled the room. After a few moments he started nodding his head in agreement and said, “You know…. you’re right. I’ve never thought of Mary in that way.”

With that conversation in mind, let’s look at today’s Gospel from Matthew. Today we hear the annunciation story from the perspective of Joseph instead of Mary. Fun fact…. did you know that Joseph doesn’t speak a single word in the New Testament? He does, however, fall asleep twice. Both times, an angel appeared to him in a dream to give him an urgent message from God.

Today’s Gospel recounts the first of these two dreams. Joseph just found out that his bride-to-be was pregnant… with someone else’s baby. I would imagine this would be problematic to most men in his situation. Yes? It pretty much means that your future bride is already unfaithful and untrustworthy before you have even exchanged the marriage vows. But rather then dragging Mary’s name through the mud, he decided to break off the engagement quietly. And remember, in those days women caught in adultery were stoned. So Joseph, being an upstanding guy, actually saved Mary’s life by keeping everything quiet. He didn’t want revenge or to get back at Mary, he just wanted to let her live her life in peace without him.

Thinking that was the end of the story, Joseph went to bed… probably trying to forget the horrible, stressful day that he just had. It was then that an angel of God appeared and told him, “Joseph, you’re going to have to trust God on this one. Your human brain can’t fully understand it, but Mary didn’t cheat on you. She’s actually more faithful then you can possibly imagine. Mary is pregnant through the Holy Spirit and the child she is carrying is going to save people from their sins. This is God’s plan, not yours. But God still needs you to take care of Mary and His son. Trust Him and do not be afraid.”

Now I’ve had some pretty vivid dreams in my day. I’ve even had dreams that seemed so real, that when I woke up, I had to lie there for a while trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. But what does Joseph do when he awoke? He doesn’t hesitate at all. According to Matthew, “He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” Bottom line is that God asked Joseph to come out of his comfort zone and trust Him… and Joseph did just that.

So what am I now doing to get into the “Christmas spirit?” Instead of focusing on the worldly, modern view of Christmas, I’ve been focusing on trusting in God through the examples of Mary and Joseph. Neither of them understood fully what in the world God was doing with the birth of Jesus. All they understood was that God’s Son was coming to earth to save us from our sins. They were faithful enough to trust in God and allow Him to use their lives in that plan.

You and I are also part of God’s plan. I highly doubt though, that any of us can fully say with confidence that we know exactly what God has in store for us. That’s where faith comes in. No matter how messy your life may seem, no matter how much you don’t understand what is going on or why, no matter how much you may seem to be in spiritual “funk,” you still have to trust that God’s plan for you is better then anything you can do on your own.

That is what I challenge you to focus on this last week of advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Focus on saying, “yes” to God’s plan for your life.

Focus on trusting Him more and you less.

Look to Joseph and Mary as examples of what trusting in God is all about.

If you can do that, then you’ll realize that the best Christmas present is not bought in a store, but rather is found in a manger.