Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 16, Mt. 25: 14-30
“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 – each according to his ability. Then he went away.”
I have always looked at this parable as pertaining to our own creation by God. When he created us, God gave us all of his gifts and talents. And miraculously, no two of us is alike. We are all different and unique. There will never be another me or you. None of us has the same gift or talent to the same degree in the same place. And again, these gifts and talents are God’s free gifts to us. We did not earn them, we do not deserve them, we are not entitled to them. Once again, as with grace (and these gifts are a form of grace), God is the Giver and we are the recipients. Our part, also with the gifts and talents, is to accept them, use them, and bear fruit for others.
The parable makes the point loud and clear that these talents and gifts are to be used. The one servant was punished for hiding them in the ground. We are not to dig a hole and bury them for safekeeping. We are, rather, to take them, develop them, practice them, become more proficient in using them for the good and service of others. If we do not use our gifts for others and they use theirs for me, there is going to be a hole in my life and theirs. I can’t do everything alone. We might also refer to this hole as the proverbial God-shaped hole that only God can fill with the gifts he has given to another.
Not to use our gifts is laziness. We are not willing to put in the time or effort to develop the gift or talent and seek out those who have need of what I can do. Once again, I must have the desire to take my gifts and bear fruit with them. I have to do, I have to act.
This is quite a parable that we read for this Thirty-Third Sunday. Let’s take a little time today to reflect on what our gifts and talents are. Make a list of them so we can see them. We are not bragging when we do this. Humility is true self-knowledge and to know my gifts and talents is to know myself. It is really being humble. And finally, let us ask ourselves if we are using these gifts of God to the best of our ability for others. Is there any selfishness involved?
Lord, be with us as we reflect on our gifts and talents, for they are truly your will for us.
Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
November 17, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She was born in 1207, the daughter of Alexander II, King of Hungary. At age four she was sent for schooling at the court of one Landgrave of Thuringia, to whose son she was already betrothed. As she grew up, her piety grew stronger and stronger. In 1221, she married Louis of Thuringia and despite her royal position lived a very simple, austere life. Her husband was also a very religious man and encouraged her way of life. They had three children. Louis went off to fight in the Crusades and was killed. After his death, in 1228, Elizabeth renounced the world, made arrangements for the care and upbringing of her children, and became a member of the Secular Franciscan Order, founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1221.
Elizabeth was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi. She was born in 1207 and died in 1231. Francis was born in 1182 and died in 1226. Around 1218, Francis was preaching in the small town of Cannara and when he finished speaking, lo and behold, all the men and women in that town wanted to join him. It was not unusual for some people to want to do this after they heard Francis, but not all of them! Francis was much taken by this response and said to them, “Don’t be in a hurry and don’t leave, for I will arrange what you should do for the salvation of your souls.” It was several years later, in the spring of 1221, when Francis finally fulfilled the promise he made to these people.
Arnaldo Fortini writes: “Thus was born the Secular Order, or, to use the name given it by St. Francis, the “fraternity of the Third Order of Penitence,” the name given to it in the rule that is generally thought to have been composed by the founder. Among other things, the rule prohibited members from bearing arms, from hatred and from taking any solemn oath except in those circumstances allowed by the church. These basic precepts can bring peace and justice. In the centuries since then, many great spirits have found peace in the Secular Order.”
This Third Order of Secular Franciscans founded by Francis for the laity is still very much available for people to join. Should you be interested in learning more about this, see if there is a Franciscan Parish in your area and inquire about it for further details.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us.
Tuesday in the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
November 18, Luke 19: 1-10
Today’s Gospel selection tells the story of the tax collector, Zacchaeus, who was a very wealthy man, and is only found in the Gospel of St. Luke. Zacchaeus provides a contrast to the rich official in chapter 18 of Luke’s Gospel who wanted to inherit eternal life and asked Jesus what he had to do to attain it. Jesus told him to follow the commandments and the young fellow replied that he was already doing this. Jesus then told him that one other thing was required; he had to take his possessions and sell them and give the money to the poor and then come and follow Jesus. But, as we know, the young man was very rich and unable to do what Jesus asked. He went away sad.
Zacchaeus had the proper attitude toward wealth: he promised Jesus that he would give half of his possessions to the poor and if he had extorted money from any people, he would repay them fourfold. And it was for this attitude that Zacchaeus received salvation.
Recently, while watching the news on TV, I saw the story of a woman sitting on the curb and weeping copiously in front of her home that she had lost through foreclosure. The story then went on to tell of another woman, obviously very wealthy, who purchased the home in question at an auction and then returned it to the weeping woman who had previously owned it and lived in it. WOW!! This benefactor surely had the right attitude with regard to her wealth.
Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
November 19, Luke 19: 11-28
Today’s Gospel selection from Luke is practically the same as Matthew’s Gospel (25: 14-30) that we read at last Sunday’s Liturgy. Quite obviously, the same homily thoughts apply here as they did on last Sunday. In that Sunday homily I urged all of us to use our God-given talents in service for others. We see this going on all around us.
The great Pavoratti, for example, thrilled millions of people all over the world with his beautiful voice and his rendition of the operatic arias. We all have voices. We can all sing. Yet, I often see people in church just standing there during the hymns and not singing a note. If you ask them why they are not singing they will respond that their voice is no good, that their voice is flat, or some other excuse. Having a gift that is not as good as someone else’s, that is flat or whatever, is no excuse for not using it. I once heard someone reply to the “lousy voice” excuse with: “God gave you the voice you have; give it back to him.” Good answer!
No matter how deficient the gift you have may seem to you, take it and use it to the best of you ability. That’s all God expects of us.
Thursday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
November 20, Luke 19: 41-44
The verses of the Gospel selected to be read at today’s Liturgy are entitled in my Bible: “The Lament for Jerusalem.” These few verses are found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. By not accepting Jesus (the one who mediates peace), Jerusalem will not find peace but will become the victim of devastation. St. Augustine tells us that our hearts will be restless until they rest in Jesus. I believe this is pretty much what the Gospel words are trying to tell us today. I know when I was in that part of my life where I was running away from God, there was no peace, only restlessness in my life. Only when I found him again, or rather when he found me again, was there peace and serenity in my life.
Recently a teen-age girl confided to me that she had just rediscovered the sacrament of reconciliation after a long absence and talked about how good it made her feel. How many of us have found the very same thing to be true in our own lives?
Let’s all reflect for a time today on how we regained peace and serenity in our lives.
Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
November 21, The Presentation of Mary
Just about all that we know about the Blessed Virgin Mary is taken from the Scriptures. And the Scriptures tell us very little about her so-called hidden life. The inspired Scriptures tell us nothing about today’s feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. We do find mention of it in an apocryphal work “The Gospel of James.” This tradition gives us a detailed account of her presentation. Nevertheless, this story remains a legend with no real foundation in history. The point of this feast, however, is to show us the complete dedication of Mary to the Lord. And this point we do know from the Scriptures.
In the Byzantine Church this feast is considered one of the twelve great feasts of the Liturgical Year. It is a major feast in the Eastern Church celebrating the same values that the Western Church celebrates on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In 1472, Pope Sixtus IV extended its celebration to the universal Church to be celebrated on November 21. Pope Paul VI wrote: “despite its apocryphal content, this feast presents lasting and exemplary values and carries on the venerable traditions having their origins in the Eastern Churches.”
It is good for all of us to remember today that we have all been consecrated, dedicated and received into the Temple of the Lord on the day of our Baptism. Let the remembrance of this fact urge all of us to be better Christians day by day. We have all been called to follow Jesus. Let’s try and see to it that we do just this.
Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
November 22, Luke 20: 27-40
How deep is my faith in a life after death? This is a question brought to the fore by our Gospel selection for today. I read a little story not too long ago about two soldiers huddling together in a trench during World War I. A shell whistled in and fell a short distance away from them. One of the soldiers was killed in the explosion. The other soldier sat there staring at the dead body of his friend. Later he wrote in a letter to his family that it was not really his friend there on the ground. That dead body was only the empty shell of a man. His brilliance, humor, spirit and great charm were gone. None of this was left in that body. And he ended his letter by saying: “It was then that I knew that what we call the soul does indeed survive after death.”
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in my will never die”. Do you believe this? How strong is my faith in life after death? What is it that has convinced me that these words of Jesus are true?