Investing the Abundant Talents God Has Given, 21st Saturday (I), September 2, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the 21st Saturday of Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of Mary, Handmaid of the Lord
September 2, 2017
1 Thes 4:9-11, Ps 98, Mt 25:14-30

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we ponder the complement to the Parable of the Servants and the Parable of the Ten Virgins, which shows us not only how to prepare for judgment but to live each day. In the Parable of the Talents, we see first the incredible trust and generosity of God who gives his treasures for us to invest. The word “talent” refers to a weight of silver or gold and was tantamount to 6,000 days wages, 16+ years of work. For someone who in today’s money makes $100/day ($12.50/hour), it’s the equivalent of $600,000. So even the one who had received one talent had received much. How pleased God was at the response of the first two servants, who used what God gave and gave it back to him in full. It wasn’t so much what they had received, but how they used it, and both received in essence the same reward: entrance into the joy of their Lord. The third servant, on the other hand, out of fear, buried his gifts, squandered the trust, and sought to blame the Master rather than take responsibility, even if he lost it. He said that the Master reaps where he hasn’t sown, but he sowed the talent in this servant but the servant met it with unreceptive soil. He was sentenced to the darkness, like the hole in which he had buried his gift.
  • When we hear about “talents,” we often ordinarily think about what distinguishes us from others — our ability to play musical instruments or sports, our academic aptitude or practical know-how, etc. — but the greatest talents we’ve received are those we have received with others. We might have received more or less than others, but we’ve all received in abundance the gifts of faith, hope and love, the gift of life, family, friendship, the Sacraments, Sacred Scripture, the commandments, the example of the saints and so much more. I’d like to ponder two in particular today.
  • The first is the gift of the opportunity for charity. These three parables we’ve had since Thursday are related to a fourth, the Parable of the Judgment, in which Jesus says he will reward us for every time we have cared for someone who was naked, a stranger, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned or ill. What a gift we have in serving others in love. In today’s first reading, St. Paul praises the Thessalonians for their “fraternal charity,” that they “have been taught by God to love one another.” But he nevertheless urged them “to progress even more.” We’re constantly called to invest the opportunities we have for charity. It’s essential to our growth in faith. This morning in the Office of Readings, we had one of the most powerful readings of the year, from St. John Chrysostom, which is all about investing the talent we have of what God has given us — both opportunities and material goods — to care for others. “Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. … Give him the honor prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts. Now, in saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms. He accepts the former, but he is much more pleased with the latter. In the former, only the giver profits; in the latter, the recipient does too. A gift to the Church may be taken as a form of ostentation, but an alms is pure kindness Of what use is it to weigh down Christ’s table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs? What profit is there in that? Tell me: If you were to see him lacking the necessary food but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold, would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry? What if you were to see him clad in worn-out rags and stiff from the cold, and were to forget about clothing him and instead were to set up golden columns for him, saying that you were doing it in his honor? Would he not think he was being mocked and greatly insulted? Apply this also to Christ when he comes along the roads as a pilgrim, looking for shelter. You do not take him in as your guest, but you decorate floor and walls and the capitals of the pillars. You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison. Once again, I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; I am urging you to provide these other things as well, and indeed to provide them first. No one has ever been accused for not providing ornaments, but for those who neglect their neighbor a hell awaits with an inextinguishable fire and torment in the company of the demons. Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.” Today the Lord will give us plenty of opportunities to invest this talent.
  • The second great gift is that of the Cross, which sets us up for tomorrow’s Gospel, when Jesus says that if we’re going to be his disciple, we need to deny ourselves, pick up our Cross daily and follow him. Often we run from the Cross. We’d bury it if we could. But insofar as the Cross is necessary for us to become truly Jesus’ disciple, to die to ourselves so that he can live, we need to run to the Cross. St. Josemaria used to say, nulla dies sine cruce in laetitia, “no day without the Cross in joy.” Do we invest the opportunities we have to suffer with him out of love? We have plenty of Crosses every day, but do we maximize their value?
  • The greatest talent of all is the gift of the Mass, in which we receive God inside and are made capable of becoming God’s good and faithful servant, strengthened by him to invest the rest of the gifts he gives us each day. It’s the means by which we enter into the joy of our Lord as he rejoices to give himself to us. And if we live this well, he will give us greater responsibilities, literally the great responsibility of heaven, where like St. Therese, like Our Lady, we will be able to intercede for others, that they, too, may become faithful and prudent stewards, wise bridesmaids and good and faithful servants. Let us receive the gift of Christ today and return it to the Father with, as we’ll ponder tomorrow at Mass, our bodies, given as a holy and acceptable sacrifice, our spiritual worship (Rom 12:1).

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 THES 4:9-11

Brothers and sisters:
On the subject of fraternal charity
you have no need for anyone to write you,
for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.
Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia.
Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more,
and to aspire to live a tranquil life,
to mind your own affairs,
and to work with your own hands,
as we instructed you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 7-8, 9

R. (9) The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to rule the earth;
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.

Alleluia JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
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.'”