Investing the Gifts!, Encountering Jesus Retreat, Sunday Homily, November 15-17, 2002

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Retreat given at Sacred Heart Retreat House
Alhambra, California
“Encountering Christ”
Sunday Homily
November 15-17, 2002
Mt 25:14-30

1) The Lord knew from all eternity that you would be here, making this retreat this weekend, and hence he speaks very clearly to you at the end of this retreat about his expectations of its fruits and the fruits of your life of love with him. Oftentimes we can look at this parable of the talents, and we can think that Jesus is just talking about a few of our personal qualities. I’m a good singer. I paint well. I’m a good cook. And we make a resolution to put these talents to good and generous use. But that’s not even scratching the surface of what the gifts or talents we’ve received are or the application the Lord wants to make of them.

2) The greatest talent that we’ve received is the Lord himself. God the Father has created us and holds us in existence right now. He’s given us the gift of life. He sent his Son Jesus to die so that we might live forever. He adopted us as his very old children in the sacrament of baptism. He created a sacrament by which he welcomes us back like the Father of the Prodigal Son, whenever we go far from him and squander our spiritual inheritance. He feeds us with His Son’s own body and blood. He’s infused within our hearts the gift of faith. And, as we’ve been talking about during this retreat, he awaits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in prayer. These are our greatest talents. These are the gifts he calls us, more than any other, to invest, so that we might make them grow.

3) “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Jesus has given us these tremendous spiritual gifts and calls us to live a life that will enable them to grow. Part of the mystery of God is that he doesn’t create us all the same. Even in the areas of supernatural gifts, he does give more to some than others. Some people are naturally more comfortable prayer, like fish in water; others are, at first, like fish out of water. Parents recognize it in their children, that some are just naturally more religious. Catechists and teachers see these disparities all the time. No matter how much we have, we’re all called to maximize it. The Lord gives to us according to our abilities. In our culture, perhaps this disparity can make people upset, as if God is anti-egalitarian. But the true Christian response to this we find in the writings of a great Carmelite, St. Thérèse. She said that God made some people roses and she wasn’t one of them. God made her a little flower. But she knew that in God’s garden, she was called to give him as much pleasure as a great rose. She was called, as a little flower, to turn toward the Sun, in a sort of spiritual phototropaism, just like the other flowers. She was called to reach the fullness of her spiritual potential as a little flower, as any of the great roses did to theirs. She might only have been given 2 instead of 5 of these spiritual talents, but God was thrilled when she returned two and more. God doesn’t require everyone return a dividend of five talents, but that everyone try, that everyone make the effort to respond to the graces he’s given each one of us.

4) In order for our gifts to grow, we have to use them. This is obvious from every aspect of life. Athletes have to work out, or their muscles atrophy. Pianists must practice or their skills wane. Students and teachers must review their material, or it’s lost. This is especially true with our spiritual gifts. Either we use them or we lose them. And if we lose them, we keep going further and further down hill. Jesus says, “From those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Bishop Sheen used to say often that there are no plateaus in the spiritual life. We’re either going up hill, or we’re sliding down hill. The Pope says in his pastoral plan for the third millennium, about which we’ll be talking this afternoon, that “it would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life. Especially in the face of the many trials to which today’s world subjects faith, they would be not only mediocre Christians but “Christians at risk”. They would run the insidious risk of seeing their faith progressively undermined.” St. Josemaria Escriva said more or less the same thing, “If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves, and after that, by cheating.” Cardinal Van Thuan bats third: “Are you surprised that there are many people who have lost the grace of God, lost their faith, or have turned against the Church? There are many reasons for this, but there will always be one main reason: lack of prayer.” Without praying, if we bury this tremendous gift and privilege, we risk losing everything…

5) So as we turn the corner to come down the home-stretch of this retreat, we need first to thank God for all the tremendous gifts he’s given us. We’re among the only 20% of people on the planet who have even heard the saving name of Jesus and have come to believe in him. Of that number, we were born into a Church with the fullness of the means to eternal life, in the sacraments. We truly receive Jesus Christ in Mass, the food of eternal life. Even of faithful Catholics, we’ve received another gift — that we know we can’t just coast in our spiritual life, but need to come away with the Lord on retreats like this, to be refreshed by him. But as the Lord says elsewhere, “To whom more is given, more is to be expected.”

6) Now comes the time for resolution, now comes the plan to invest these gifts. We cannot just bury them in the ground, like the last person in the parable. Notice, this last person didn’t squander what was given to him. He didn’t lose the talentio. He just didn’t do anything with it. He didn’t do anything to help it grow. It’s time for us to choose what to do with the spiritual talents he’s given us. In our lives, there will be plenty of areas, dark holes dug in various corners of our lives, where we can put the just discovered or rediscovered treasures of faith, talents in our lives. We need to cover up those holes, if they’ll lead to our failing to correspond to these gifts. If we’re going to pay dividends, we’ve got to have a plan. Just like a stock-broker has an investment strategy to pay big returns, we’re called to do the same.

7) How do we invest these gifts? To whom can we turn? I’ve already proposed a very concrete resolution to each of you in last night’s Eucharistic conference. I’d like to reiterate it to you now. If you really want to pay maximal returns on the gift of life and particularly on the gift of grace you’ve received, make a commitment to make a holy hour in which you come and dialogue with Jesus every day in prayer. Look at it this way: he’s the greatest spiritual stock-broker of all-time. If you want to invest your gift of life, gift of faith, gift of grace, he’s the one to turn to. He’s the only one who can help you develop a retirement account that will last forever. And best of all, he’s free! We’ll I take that back. Although he doesn’t charge for his services, going to him each day will require effort and perseverance, as we talked about this morning. It will require concrete choices. It will require following his advice. He wants to sign you up right now. What do you say?