Imitating Blessed Solanus Casey’s Loving Service of the Poor, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), November 19, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Shrine of the Little Flower, Royal Oak, MI
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
November 19, 2017
Prov 31:10-13.19-20.30-31, Ps 128, 1 Thess 5:1-6, Mt 25:14-30


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following text guided today’s homily: 

Thanking God in Advance

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It’s a great joy for me to worship God with you today at this beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. We are four days from the celebration of Thanksgiving and in addition to all the blessings in our lives and those of our families for which we will rightly turn to God to give thanks this week, today we all have a special source of gratitude, last night’s extraordinary beatification of Father Solanus Casey.

Thanksgiving was a special characteristic of the life of Blessed Solanus. He regularly and contagiously repeated, “Deo Gratias!,” Latin for “Thanks be to God.” When he helped others to pray, he would tell them, “Thank God ahead of time” for hearing the petition.

And so it’s especially fitting for all of us today to thank the Lord in advance for hearing the invocation made yesterday at the Beatification, in the presence of 65,000 in Ford Field and tens of millions on television and live stream. Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and representative of Pope Francis, asked God to give all of us a special grace. This will be the grace priests throughout the world will solicit every July 30 when we celebrate Blessed Solanus’ feast day. It’s a grace that is particularly relevant to today’s readings and to the special feast Pope Francis has begun today for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time each year, the World Day of the Poor.

What’s that gift? The Church prayed yesterday with Cardinal Amato, “O God, who in your providence has patterned Blessed Solanus after the image of your only begotten Son, making him tireless in listening and in service to the poor, by his intercession and example, grant also to us the same generosity and joy in giving of ourselves in service to our neighbor.” God wants to give us the grace of emulating Blessed Solanus and Jesus Christ in cheerfully, generously and tirelessly giving ourselves — and not just our things — in service to the poor.

Imitating Fr. Solanus’ Charity to the Poor

We all know about Father Solanus’ charity. It began at home, with the way the Casey family in Wisconsin regularly used to welcome into their home families and individuals who were going through difficult times and were in need of dinner or a place to sleep. We saw it throughout his priesthood and religious life and nowhere more powerfully than here in Detroit, where, during the Great Depression, he created a soup kitchen to feed to feed those who were starving, seeing it grow from lines of hundreds to thousand each day. As Cardinal Amato said yesterday about him, he took seriously and responded wholeheartedly to Jesus’ words in the Gospel, “Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

Fr. Solanus’ was a response of love. In exhorting us to respond as he did to the Lord’s summons, he gave us a commentary on his own motivations: “God loves us,” he stressed. “Let us also seek to love God.” And God told us very clearly how to love him. During the Last Supper, Jesus told us, not, “Love me as I love have you,” but “Love one another as I have loved you.” After the Resurrection, when Jesus was helping to rehabilitate Simon Peter after the shame of his three-fold denial, he gave the rock on whom he would build his Church three chances to affirm his love, asking, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?.” After St. Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” Jesus told him to show it in his care for those he would entrust to him: “Feed my sheep. …Feed my lambs. … Tend my sheep.” Our love for God is meant to be shown in our love for our neighbor. We can’t really love God without loving those whom God loves.

Making the Most out of God’s Gifts

In today’s Gospel, Jesus preaches to us the Parable of the Talents. We normally think of a talent as a “skill” or “ability,” like having a great mind, or singing voice, or athletic ability. But a talent was a measurement of weight, the equivalent of about 71 pounds. When the Master gave one talent to the third servant, he was given 71 pounds of silver, the equivalent of 6,000 days wages. If someone were making the minimum wage here in Michigan of $8.90 an hour, one talent would be worth $427,000. Five talents at minimum wage would be worth $2.14 million. Even the one who received only one talent still received a fortune, and the Master, who trusted each of the three servants, was counting on him not to bury it, not to waste it, but to invest it.

In worldly eyes, Blessed Solanus was not someone who would have gotten into a gifted and talented program here in Royal Oak. Because of hardships in his big family that forced him as one of oldest sons in a family of 16 kids to go to work at a young age, he was very delayed in finishing elementary schooling. He entered high school seminary at the age of 21. He eventually was asked to leave the Seminary because the young Irish-American couldn’t master the German language in which the classes were taught and exams given. When he entered the Capuchin Franciscans, still struggling with German and academics taught auf Deutsch, his superiors eventually decided to ordain him a priest but did not consider his intelligence, education and wisdom sufficient to give him the faculty to hear confessions or preach doctrinal sermons like I’m preaching today. But Blessed Solanus never complained. He never resented that he was given less than his classmates. He wasn’t envious that others had more talents, or were thought to have more talents. Rather he thanked God for what he had rather than moaned about what he didn’t have. And he knew he had so much. His greatest talents were God and his faith, hope and charity in him, his ability to bring God from heaven to the altar each day, and the opportunity God gave him to love so many people each day who would come to him. He invested the talent he was given, and returned not just one back, not just five back, but so many that all the accountants in the world would together not be able to document the rate of return.

What about us? How do we look at the gifts we have? What do we do with them? How do we use our time, our skills and capacities, and our money? How we invest the awesome treasure of our faith, the extraordinary gift of God in the sacraments, the mind-blowing reality that we can speak to God in prayer, the wisdom and power we receive from God’s holy Word?

Imitating Christ and his Saints in Loving the Poor and Needy

Today Pope Francis is asking the Church throughout the world to live with him the first World Day of the Poor. He announced it just about a year ago, last November 20, in which he declared from this point forward, for the rest of our Catholic lives, on the Sunday before the Solemnity of Christ the King, he wanted us to prepare for next Sunday’s solemnity by focusing on the fact that when Christ the King of the Universe took on our nature and entered into the world, he showed us that to reign is to serve, to rule is to love, and that if we wish to follow him faithfully, we must like him identify with the little ones and the poor and carry out the works of mercy. Pope Francis wanted us to remember that there are so many poor men and women, boys and girl, like Lazarus in Jesus’ parable lying at the doors of our homes, of our cities, and Jesus is summoning us to be Good Samaritans and care for them in their need.

The Holy Father wrote in his powerful message for today’s World Day of the Poor, “Love has no alibi.” There are no good excuses for not spending our lives loving. “We have to,” he continued, “take the Lord as our example, especially when it comes to loving the poor.” He spoke of those like Blessed Solanus whom God has raised up in every age who have “devoted their lives to the service of the poor” and shown us how to keep our “gaze fixed on what is essential.” God calls us, he said, like he called Blessed Solanus, and Saint Mother Teresa, and St. Vincent de Paul, “to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude.” He wants us to care for him in “all those who stretch out their hands and plead for our help and solidarity.” He wants us to do so with our prayers and with our practical assistance. This morning, after Mass and his Angelus greeting, Pope Francis invited 1500 of Rome’s homeless to have a meal with him in the Vatican, and he asked for Catholics around the world, in the homes, parishes and Dioceses, to carry out similar actions, as we give thanks to our Father who gives us today our daily bread by sharing that bread with the hungry. After Mass today at the Shrine, there will be a chance for you to support some very good causes for people who otherwise might be cold this winter, for young pregnant moms, for those seeking to help save those whose lives are most threatened.

If Blessed Solanus were able to come here today to this place he used to visit to pray, and if his beatification would be sufficient qualification for him to have faculties finally to preach the doctrine he so beautifully practiced, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would be ecstatic that his beatification would have taken place took place on the vigil of the World Day of the Poor, because if he were able to speak to us, he would be leading the charge for us to make this day as the Holy Father is asking. There’s still such enormous need for God’s concrete love, for corporal and spiritual deeds of mercy. I work for Pope Francis and the Holy See at the United Nations and one of the problems there that the world is confronting, and on which the Church always plays a leading role, is global poverty and hunger. There are 700 million people in the world — 9.6 percent of the global population — living under $1.90 a day. 815 million people do not have the minimal food to live a healthy life. 155 million children are stunted, meaning their development has been severely affected by chronic malnourishment. Here in the United States, there are many who fall through the cracks of our social welfare system. 1.49 million people used a homeless shelter at least once two years ago and 565,000 are chronically homeless. There is so much to be done.

As we know, Blessed Solanus in his lifetime didn’t solve the problem of poverty, or homelessness, or hunger. Jesus didn’t even do 2000 years ago. But Blessed Solanus cared for the poor, homeless, hungry, sick and in need who gave to him, doing what and all he could. That’s what God is asking of us as well. On this World Day of the Poor, we turn to God and ask him anew that just as he patterned Blessed Solanus in the image of Jesus in his service to the poor, so through Blessed Solanus’ prayers he may make us just as generous and joyful in giving of ourselves to our neighbors in need.

Investing the Greatest Talent of All

And to strengthen us for this task, God the Father will give us the greatest “talent” of all, his greatest treasure, the source that filled Blessed Solanus each every morning and helped him to carry out his beautiful lifetime of charitable love: Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. As we prepare to enter into Holy Communion with Jesus today, we unite ourselves with him who came to proclaim the Gospel to the poor, with him who was so poor that he was born in a stranger’s cave and buried in borrowed grave, with Him who said he didn’t have a place to lay his head, with whom whose disciples only had a few small fish and five buns to feed all 13 of them, with Him who reminded us that whatever we do to the least of his brothers and sisters he takes personally. Let us adore him here, and filled with God within, let us go out and like Blessed Solanus and invest this awesome gift of charity, ignite our world with the fire of God’s holy love, and prepare ourselves for our divine accounting, when we pray, God will be able to say to each of us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You were faithful in receiving my love and loving me back through loving others generously and joyfully. Come, share your Master’s eternal joy!”

May God bless you all!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 PRV 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

Responsorial Psalm PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (cf. 1a) Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Reading 2 1 THES 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters,
you have no need for anything to be written to you.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief at night.
When people are saying, “Peace and security, ”
then sudden disaster comes upon them,
like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness,
for that day to overtake you like a thief.
For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.

Alleluia JN 15:4A, 5B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord.
Whoever remains in me bears much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”