Martyrs and Hope

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Feb 17, 2019)

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Psalm 1:1-2,3,4,6

1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20

Luke 6:17,20-26

I often get asked the question, “What made you become Catholic?” You see, I was not raised Catholic. I came into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil of 1999 after going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program up in Ohio. It’s a question that I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on because there are many different things that lead me here. However, there is one that seems to stick out to me the most. It’s reading about the people that were killed for their faith in the early Church. I’m talking about the martyrs. Here are a few examples…

The first recorded martyr was St. Stephen. He was stoned to death in the year 36, which is recorded in the Book of Acts.

St. Sebastian was tied to a tree, shot with arrows and left for dead. However, he didn’t die and was eventually nursed back to health. He continued in his faith and was later clubbed to death by order of the emperor… this time, he didn’t make it.

St. Agnes made of vow of perpetual virginity to God and was eventually beheaded for it. 

These are just a few examples of people who were killed for their faith. But what about modern day examples? Do people still die for their belief in Jesus Christ?

St. Jose Sanchez del Rio was 15 years old when he was killed during the Cristero War in Mexico. Mexican soldiers “cut the bottom of his feet and obliged him to walk around the town toward the cemetery. They also at times cut him with a machete until he was bleeding from several wounds. He cried and moaned with pain, but he did not give in. At times they stopped him and said, ‘If you shout, “Death to Christ the King” we will spare your life’. José would only shout, ‘I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!'” He was eventually shot to death in front of his parents.

On the night of December 14, 1957, a Cistercian Hungarian priest named Fr. János Brenner, was falsely called to give last rites to a sick person in a neighboring town. This was during the height of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. He left his home, carrying his anointing oils and the Eucharist, but was ambushed in the woods outside and stabbed 32 times. He was found dead the next day, still clutching the Eucharist in his hands.

When I read about the church martyrs… it made me want to know more about their faith… because they seemed to get it. They understood that an earthly death, even if it was a painful death, could eventually lead them to eternal bliss in heaven. That is the faith I wanted to study and hopefully live out in my own life.

We live in a section of the world where, more than likely, none of us will have to die for our faith. But it is still happening all over the world. I’ve often thought what I would do if someone held a knife or gun to me and said, “Renounce your faith or die.” I’d probably have a few choice “4 letter words” to offer to the person but hopefully would be able to stay strong in my faith until the end.

The thing that attracts me the most about reading on the martyrs of the church also involves a “4 letter word.” And it is simply this… HOPE. The only reason people would die to this world, rather than deny their faith, is because they have a strong HOPE that what they believe in Jesus Christ and Heaven is real.

It is this same HOPE that Jesus is proclaiming in today’s Gospel from Luke. Jesus says blessed are you who are poor and hungry… who are weeping… who are hated, excluded and insulted. He doesn’t say complain, whine, hold grudges and return the insult. NO! Jesus instead says, “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!”

The hope that this passage from Luke gives us is this… no matter what we are going through, no matter the trials, no matter the struggles… as long as we hold onto our faith… all of the worldly struggles are just temporary. Our ultimate goal is to be in the presence of God in heaven. And that is more precious than any trial we have to go through here on earth. This is what should give us reason to rejoice and leap for joy. It is what gives us HOPE.

So no matter the struggles you are going through at this present moment, remember you are on a journey. A journey that is leading you back into the arms of our one true King, Jesus Christ. And even if you are not called to die for your faith, look to the martyrs of the Church as role models. Just like them, you are called to live out your faith with hope and love until your last breath. And if you are true to your faith and cling to that hope, you will truly “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day” when you finally meet God face to face.

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Clear Skies

The Epiphany of the Lord – January 6, 2019

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13

Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

Matthew 2:1-12

Since moving to Kentucky back in 2003, I’ve gotten into the sport of hunting. Before I go on, if you are an animal lover and not a fan of hunting, have no fear because rarely are any animals injured on my hunts. Usually it’s just me sitting in a tree stand enjoying nature. My absolute favorite time to go hunting is the early morning before the sun comes up. It’s extremely peaceful and quiet. And with clear skies, I’m amazed at how many stars I can see up above. I can see constellations clearly, planets occasionally and the Milky Way is on full display. The beauty of the sky is nice because it distracts me from how cold my body is feeling.

But as dawn approaches, the rays of the sun peak around the horizon, the stars begin to disappear, the birds awaken and the squirrels begin the jump around in the leaves. My mind turns away from the sky and my focus shifts to waiting for that big buck to come out from hiding. Interestingly, even though I can no longer see the stars, they are still there. But it is only in the still of the darkness when the true beauty of the sky is revealed.

I read somewhere that people during the time of Jesus Christ in the Middle East would often go up on their rooftops and gaze at the stars much like I do from my tree stand in the woods. They didn’t have Netflix, YouTube or Facebook so they had to find other things for entertainment. Gazing at the stars night after night allows one to become very familiar with the patterns that would be seen on any given night. So if something suddenly appeared out of the ordinary, anyone paying attention should have seen it.

We hear in Matthew’s Gospel today that, “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’” Even though it’s not specifically mentioned in this Gospel, tradition tells us there were three Magi. So of all the people that were gazing at the skies, only three saw something unique… something calling them to leave the comfort of their homes and go on a quest.

Why only three? Maybe everyone else was too distracted, too busy or simply just not willing to remain quiet long enough to notice. Maybe more people saw the star but were too scared to venture out of their comfort zone. God used the star as a sign to announce the birth of His Son. A sign that was available to anyone who had eyes to see it. Three people took up the call, left their comfort zone and eventually found Jesus Christ in the quiet of the night.

I often wonder how many times God is calling us but we are too busy to see or hear it. How many times do we choose the comfort of technology over the quiet of prayer? How many opportunities have we missed to grow our faith because we were too afraid to follow God’s gentle nudge?

What then can we learn from the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel?

We can hear God speak to us when we are less distracted. But unfortunately, our hectic 9-5 schedules often keep us too busy to hear Him. So always remember to take some time to step away from the business of the world, away from the distractions, and look to the light of Christ. Because if we allow the distractions of the world to fade, it is then that we can see God’s light shine the brightest and the clearest.

Let’s Go To The Movies

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 18, 2018)

Daniel 12:1-3

Psalm 16:5,8,9-10,11

Hebrews 10:11-14,18

Mark 13:24-32

One of my absolute favorite things to do is go to the movies. Not watching a movie at home, but seeing it on the big screen with a tub of popcorn in my lap. For me, watching a movie allows me to forget about all of my daily stresses and, for at least two hours, feel like I’m actually living in the story that I’m watching. I can get so caught up in a movie that I’m completely emotionally engaged in it, if you know what I mean.

After watching “Jaws”, I couldn’t swim in my parent’s pool in the evening for fear of a great white shark coming up out of the deep end and grabbing my foot. The “Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa taught me to never count out the underdog after he knocked out the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. Thanks to Stephen King, I can no longer walk near a storm drain by the side of the road because there just may be a clown waiting to pull me in. Mel Gibson painted a very realistic depiction of what a Roman scourging and crucifixion actually looks like in his movie, “The Passion.” Now, every Palm Sunday and Good Friday, when we read the passion narrative at church, I can’t help but play those scenes in my mind.

My absolute favorite movie genre has to be military and war movies that are based on real life events. Movies like, “Black Hawk Down,” “For Greater Glory,” and “We Were Soldiers.” I think the reason I like them so much is because it shows just how far some people are willing to go to help and defend others. Putting their lives on the line for someone they’ve probably never met. To be willing to die for a greater cause.

But the trouble with the movies are… they don’t last forever… usually 2-3 hours after leaving the theater… my emotional “high” from allowing my imagination to be engulfed by the big screen is gone… and it’s back to reality and my day to day stresses and worries.

So why in the world am I going on and on about my love of movies?? Do me a favor and close your eyes as I read something to you. I’m going to use my best “movie narrator” voice so allow your imagination to form a mental picture. Here goes:

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people… Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken… And then they will see the ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

Open your eyes. Did anyone else hear James Earl Jones’ voice reading that or is it just me? Don’t you think this could be the most awesome opening to a major motion picture about the apocalypse? I mean come on? These lines from the Book of Daniel and Mark’s Gospel are begging to be made into a movie about the end of the world! What do you think? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could play St. Michael!! I’m telling you it would be a multi-million dollar blockbuster.

All kidding aside, the second coming of Jesus Christ is something we need to consider. Our faith teaches us that one day, Jesus will return to Earth in all of His glory. He will come to conquer evil once and for all, to judge the world and to save the chosen. As we hear in the parable of the fig tree today, there will be signs suggesting Jesus’ return. But ultimately, it could happen any day at any hour.

Why is this so important? Because we must always be prepared. What happens after our death or after the return of Christ is forever. Our lives will be judged and we will spend eternity with Him in heaven or eternity in Hell without Him.

We need to actually live like we believe this and stop waiting for “tomorrow” to clean up our lives. Stop waiting for “someday” to fix that broken relationship or to mend a past hurt. Let’s stop pretending that the Apocalypse is just some movie that we can watch but then go back to our daily lives as if nothing has changed. Jesus Christ gave us the ultimate gift. He, like so many in those military movies I alluded to, laid down His life for you. To defend your soul from evil. To give you hope at eternity in heaven with His Father. He died for a greater cause.

The problem is, we often treat the parables and teachings of Jesus from Scripture as a movie. It sounds good and it’s fun to hear, but the “warm and fuzzies” wear off soon after… and we return to our daily grind.

But if you can fully embrace and live out the teachings of Jesus Christ, I guarantee you’ll live a life with purpose and meaning. It won’t necessarily take away all of your stresses and worries, but those will only be temporary compared to the joy that awaits us one day in heaven.

But until then… go to the movies… allow yourself to laugh, cry and let your senses be engulfed with the big screen. But after you leave the theater and return to reality, remember that you have a God in heaven waiting to fulfill your hopes and desires more so than any movie can ever do.

What Is Love?

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48

Psalm 98:1-4

1 John 4:7-10

John 15:9-17

When preparing to preach at Mass, in my experience, it is very easy to just skim over the 1st and 2nd readings and even the Responsorial Psalm in order to see what the Gospel message is for the week. Very often the Gospel passages proclaimed at Mass have the “meat” of Jesus’ teachings that can really change our lives when we apply them and live them out. Today’s Gospel from John is no different. It’s message is clear and to the point. Jesus tells us, “Love one another as I love you.”

But in order to better understand this “love” that Jesus is talking about, we really need to go back to the 2nd reading today from the first Letter of Saint John. It would be a shame if we just skimmed over it because I believe it is one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament. It reads almost like a love poem. It is only 4 lines long, but profoundly powerful. So allow me to read it to you again:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10).

 So next time you tell someone that you “love” him or her… I want you to think of this passage. Because all you ever wanted to or needed to know about love, is explained in these 4 verses. Therefore, you really have to understand this passage so that you are sure that you actually mean what you say when using the word “love.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Love comes from one source… God. It’s not a man made emotion. It originates from God who is love. Therefore if you truly have love inside of you, then you have God inside of you as well. Even an atheist, one who doesn’t believe in God, in some way, knows God simply by loving others.

“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Therefore if God is love, it would make sense that someone who has absolutely no love for anyone can NOT possibly know God. I would take this even farther and say that love and hate can’t reside in the same person at the same time because of how opposite they are. You can’t on one hand tell your child, a friend or your soul mate that you “love” them but on the other hand hold a grudge or hate against someone else. One expresses the presence of God. The other expresses the absence of God. The two don’t mesh.

“In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” Here, God reveals to us what is love. God didn’t reveal love through His speech, but through His actions. God decided to show us what love looked like by sending us His Son. To live for us. To die for us. To save us. I personally couldn’t imagine standing by watching one of my children suffer a horrendous death. Even if it was for the greater good, I don’t think I would have it in me to keep going. But that’s exactly what God did. He allowed His Son to suffer out of love for us.

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Love is not in the receiving, it is in the giving. Love wasn’t “created” by us out of thanksgiving towards God… Love was “born” from God when He extended it to us through His Son. This sacrifice is the height… the pinnacle of true Love.

So now you are all experts on “love,” right?? Understanding love is the easy part. But it takes a lifetime to properly put it into motion and probably won’t be perfected until you reach heaven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try while we’re down here living in the world.

So here’s my challenge to all of you…your homework for the week. Be more aware of the level of love you are expressing towards others in your daily lives.

Meaning… if you have high levels of negativity, anger, gossip, holding tighter to those grudges, eye rolls, having to argue everything, cursing or sin in general… your love is out of balance. It means you are distancing yourself from God instead of walking towards Him.

When these things creep up, because it will happen from time to time, you need techniques to counteract them. Simply recognizing this when it’s happening is a great first step. Then try some deep breathing, meditation, prayer, read some Scripture or take a walk. Just putting a smile on your face will do wonders. And here’s the big one…go to confession. This sacrament can give you more grace and love then you’ll probably ever truly realize. It’s that important… so no more excuses! Go!!

The only way to return to love is to return to God. So when your love is low, turn to God. For He is the source of all Love. The source of all Joy.

Lent and Donuts

1st Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018) Year B

Genesis 9:8-15

Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:12-15

Well ladies and gentlemen, how’s your Lent going so far? We are only a few days into our 40-day journey through the desert. Are you going through chocolate or coffee withdrawals yet? Is your swear jar full yet? I hope whatever you picked to give up for Lent this year is both challenging and rewarding. I also hope you don’t look at Lent as “just another thing I have to do as a Catholic.” I pray that you actually get the full experience and all of the graces possible from this journey. In order to help you, I thought it might be good for a little pep talk today since we’re just beginning our desert journey. That way you can evaluate if you’re on the right path or if you may need to fine-tune something. In order to do this, I came up with two questions we need to make sure we understand.

The first question is simply, “Why do Catholics give something up for Lent?” It actually can be taken from today’s Gospel passage from Mark. It says, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days.” And what happens after Jesus’ time in the desert is up? He begins His public ministry. So he needed time away with fewer distractions to prepare for something bigger yet to come. What can we extrapolate from this? We humans, all too often, clutter up our lives with stuff that we don’t need or with stuff we use too often. And unfortunately, these things can divert us from the bigger picture… God. Food, money, technology, stuff. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but often we put too much emphasis on them, which leads us to lose focus on what’s really important.

So we all need to evaluate our lives and ask ourselves, “What do I unnecessarily do or use that could be taking me away from God?” Do I spend too much time on my phone when I could be reading a spiritual book? Do I eat too much of a certain unhealthy food that is leading me to have no energy for works of charity? Do I spend too much time using my speech for negativity rather than prayer? Whatever it is you choose to give up for Lent, it should be challenging. Remember, this is our desert journey. Although I’ve never hiked through a desert, I imagine it is not a pleasant activity.

The second question that needs to be asked and understood is, “Why don’t Catholics eat meat on Friday’s of Lent?” First, understand that when we say “meat” we are referring to non-fish meat like steak, pork and chicken. Back in Jesus’ day, the “common people” lived by the water and ate a lot of fish. It was the food of the poor, it was abundant and it was cheap. The other meat like beef, pork and chicken was for the upper class since it was more expensive. Occasionally, the less wealthy would eat these meats during a special feast like at a wedding.

So not eating meat on Friday’s of Lent, with the exception of fish, reminds us that we are the common people and we’re not celebrating a banquet just yet. We should be using this time to focus on what’s to come…. Good Friday. This act of abstaining from meat on Fridays is something that Catholics around the world do universally and in solidarity with one another. We offer this sacrifice up as a universal Church. The individual things we each give up on our own are a personal sacrifice. These two sacrifices, the universal and the personal, reminds us that we are united as God’s people and that we are not attached to the material things of this world.

Sounds easy right? Nope… not really! Anyone that is willing to change and become closer to God, needs to do it with open eyes. To put it another way, living in sin is easy. Our world allows us the freedom to mess up our lives daily through sin. And once you start going down the path of the “bigger sins,” the “little sins” just keep piling up without a second thought. However, it takes effort to turn away from sin and evil. It takes effort to live with faith, ethics and morals. Why? This also goes back to today’s Gospel from Mark. Remember, we read that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. Then there are 3 little words in the next sentence that we often skim right over… He was “tempted by Satan.” Yup, just like us, Jesus was tempted by Satan on His desert journey. When you are trying to do better and walk closer with God, it really makes Satan mad. I’m not saying you’ll by physically assaulted by evil or tempted daily, but isn’t it funny how when you decide to give up sweets for Lent, the very next day someone brings donuts to work… hot… fresh…heavenly… donuts.

So use this Lent as a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Detach yourself from the unnecessary material things that you really don’t need. Instead, focus on God. Focus on the Great Banquet that is waiting for each of us after our desert journey is over… Easter. The resurrection of Jesus Christ after Good Friday opened the gates of Heaven for all of us. It gave all of us an invitation to the Great Banquet in Heaven. Use this desert journey to clean up whatever it is that keeps staining your banquet garment. Now is the time to, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” of Jesus Christ!

Three Gifts For God

The Epiphany of the Lord (Jan 7, 2018)

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13(11)

Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6

Matthew 2:1-12

Merry Christmas everyone! Yes, according to the world, Christmas ended on December 26. But Catholics actually celebrate Christmas until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (which is Monday, Jan 8). And this weekend, we celebrate the Magi visiting the Christ child. Imagine, they had enough faith… that they followed a star to a far off land in search of someone extraordinary. And we all know the story, right? The Magi found the new born King under a star and brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold to represent Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense as a symbol of His priestly role. And Myrrh to point towards the suffering Christ will face later in life since this was an aromatic substance used in embalming.

As many of you know, my wife and I have 5 children at home. A number of years ago, back when we only had 3 children, Angie and I discussed how to try and keep the balance between Santa Claus and Jesus Christ during the Christmas season. In our modern world, that is a very tough thing to accomplish for parents. Santa is fun and magical, right? He eats the milk and cookies and, most importantly, brings the gifts! Somehow, during one of our discussions on this topic, one of us brought up this same verse that we hear today in Matthew’s Gospel.

We are told that Jesus received three gifts from the Magi. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We give each other gifts on Christmas (aka Jesus’ birthday). Do you see where I’m going with this? So it was decided, if three gifts were good enough for Jesus to celebrate His birthday, then three gifts from Santa were good enough for our kids as well! So we sat the boys down and explained our decision. After their eyes got really wide and the shock wore off, we reminded them that they still have grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles that also give them gifts (so don’t feel sorry for them!). We then wrote a letter to good ole St. Nick to explain our request: From now on, just bring three gifts per child on Christmas, just like the Magi did 2,000 years ago.

Now I’m not saying that this is for every parent out there. It was just one way for us as a family to keep Christ in Christmas. But then that got me thinking. Does anyone here remember he telling you in my last homily that every weekend, you have homework to do after attending Mass? Remember? You listen to the readings and the homily and then allow them to challenge you the rest of the week to become more Christ-like. Well, I’ve got another homework assignment for you today. And this assignment will take you just under one year to complete. Sorry….

We just began a new year. 2018. This is traditionally a time when people try to begin new habits. Hopefully good habits since we always want to try and improve our lives from last year, right? But rather than making a “New Year Resolution,” I want you to think of offering three gifts. But these won’t be material gifts. Let me explain. To decide on the three gifts, I challenge you to go to prayer. Find some quiet time, close your eyes, and picture Jesus Christ sitting next to you. For a time, just be present to one another. And after a few minutes, ask Jesus, “What can I do to be more like you?” And then be quiet. Allow your brain to wonder with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I guarantee you that, at some point, you’ll be able to think of at least three areas of your life that can be improved. And whatever those three things happen to be in your case… those are the three gifts you will work on all year.

It could be your health. Maybe you need to take better care of yourself so you can help others. It could be your finances. Wouldn’t it be nice to free up some money so you can donate to those in need? It could be to heal a broken relationship or possibly even to end a harmful relationship. Chances are it’s going to be challenging. Change usually doesn’t come easily. But changing for the better is always worth it in the end. And who doesn’t want to change and become more Christ-like?

Christmas is officially over after this Monday. That means we’ll be right back here celebrating Christmas in 11 ½ months. You and I both realize that it’ll be here in a blink of an eye. It always does. So why not start preparing yourself now to celebrate next Christmas in a richer, fuller way. Decide now on what three gifts you want to offer to Christ NEXT Christmas. You’ll have 11 ½ months to work on them. And how amazing will it be to be able to take all of that hard work and sacrifice, all of that positive change, all of that Christian transformation… and then lay those three gifts down at the manger next Christmas…

I realize it’s a long way away. A lot can happen over the next year. There will be a lot of ups and downs. But be like the Magi… let the star of Christ guide you. And once you reach the Star on December 25, 2018, you will approach the manger as a changed person. And with your head held high… with a rekindled faith… you will kneel down and lay your gifts at the feet of our New Born King!

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.