13 November 2011

More Precious than Money

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
            I could see the gears moving in your heads, gentlemen, as the first reading was read.  I could see the checklist being created for your wife or your girlfriend, as the case may be: “value beyond pearls; unfailing prize; brings good, not evil; works with loving hands; reaches out her hands to the poor; fears the Lord.”  And then we heard in the Psalm, “your wife shall be like a fruitful vine.” 
            If we were listening closely to the other readings, we heard that they are more about the end of the world.  St. Paul warning the Thessalonians not to grow complacent but to remain as “children of the light” the midst of a “corrupt and depraved generation.”  We heard Jesus talking about His return and judging people based upon their talents and how they have used them.  We may be wondering what the first reading has to do with the second and third, if it does at all!
            When we hear the parable of the talents, we probably think about those gifts that God has given us and how we can use them well.  A talent was worth about $1,000, no small sum!  We might thing about our intellectual abilities, our athletic abilities, our friendliness, our cheerful disposition, our ability to work well with others, etc., etc. and how valuable they are and how we should use them for God’s greater glory and for the benefit of our brothers and sisters.  But people, too, are great gifts that God gives to us to help us be holy and to give glory to God.  People, too, are worth so much, much more than even $1,000.  Now, we shouldn’t trade people like the man did in the parable.  But we should recognize how much God, the Master of our lives, has given us in the people He has placed in our lives.  Whether it’s a wife, or a husband, a family member, a neighbor or a friend, a coach, a teacher, or anyone else, those people have helped us to become who we are.
            How many times have we relied upon someone for their generosity, a shoulder to cry on, a hug to comfort, wise words to instruct us?  How many times have we thought to ourselves, “thank God so-and-so was here, or else I don’t think I could have made it through this trial!”?  God entrusts to us people, as he entrusted talents to his servants, some of whom depend on us, others are the ones upon whom we depend.  But they are precious, and when Jesus returns to judge us, He will certainly judge based upon who we have utilized the great gift of caring, wise, and loving people.  As part of our examination of conscience, we can ask ourselves: Do I appreciate my children?  Do I show it?  Do I appreciate my parents, if they are still living?  Do I care for them?  Do I take advice from trusted friends, even when it means a painful change in my life?  Do I learn from those who try to teach me?  Do I thank the people I find invaluable in my life?
            Because so many of the things that we receive are disposable, it can be hard to not let a disposable culture seep into the way we treat people.  There’s always a new technological advance, so we just move on to the newest phone, tablet, computer, TV, appliance, or other material thing.  When it fails to serve us well, we get rid of it.  Sadly, our country tends to treat people the same way.  If a child will be too much of a burden to carry in the womb for 9 months, or if it doesn’t serve the lifestyle that we want, we throw it away.  If seniors are constantly sick and are seemingly contributing nothing to society, we throw them away.
            Rather than looking upon them as burdens, we need to recognize that these are talents that God entrusts to us.  These are the precious items that God wants us to develop and with which we are to grow in relationship.  St. John of the Cross says that at the end of our lives we will be judged on our loves.  Real love is always directed towards a person, and so our judgment will be based upon our treatment of others. 
A week from Thursday we as a nation celebrate Thanksgiving.  And while the word “thanks” is in the name of the day itself, it can be very easy to get caught up with cooking, eating, watching the Lions, eating, doing dishes and cleaning up, eating.  We should remember to give thanks, at our Thanksgiving Day Mass at 9 at St. Thomas, and/or at home with family and friends.  Otherwise we are like the useless servant who didn’t utilize the great wealth the Master had bestowed upon him in giving him that talent, but buried in the field. 
God has blessed our parish and city with so much!  We have a great community of faith; an amazing parish school; wonderful parishioners from infants in the womb to our oldest members; a great university with great men’s and women’s athletics; and so many other ways that are known to you and God alone.  What will be our response to the talents, especially the people, that God has placed in our lives.  Will we bury our talents?  If we do, then at the judgment we will hear, “‘You wicked, lazy servant!  Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”  But, if we are grateful for the people in our lives, and capitalize on the blessings that they are to us in so many ways, then, as children of the light, we will hear, “‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Come, share your Master’s joy.’”