HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A (NOVEMBER 15, 2020)

HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A (NOVEMBER 15, 2020)

Prov. 31:10-13.19-20. 30-31; Ps.128; 1Thess.5:1-6; Matt.25:14-30

There are three homily notes here; scroll down the page and be blessed.

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Fr. Paul Oredipe: Have no fear in using God’s gift 

Fr. Evaristus Okeke: A business oriented Christianity!

Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:  Our Talents and our salvation.

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Fr. Paul Oredipe

Have no fear in using God’s gift 

Each year, when the liturgical cycle approaches its end, the Church proposes to us texts from the Scriptures which touch rather directly on the return of Christ to earth at the end of time.  The epistle of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians clearly alludes to it.  Today’s gospel also speaks of it:  the master of the house who goes on a journey is the symbol of Jesus who went away and who will soon return. 

In today’s gospel parable, Jesus shares a story about trust.  The Master who was going on the journey handed everything he had over to his three servants.  He did not give his servants just a little cash to tide them over until he returned.  He gave everything he had over to them.  When he returned, he expected that his servants would respond by giving their best back to him.  The first two did.  The third gave nothing of himself back to the Master. 

The story is really about a trust that is never accepted.  The master gives the servant the talent because he trusts in the ability and the intelligence of the servant.  The real problem is that the servant never accepts and lives out that trust.  Instead, he lives in fear; he does nothing; he takes no risks or chances.  That sense of fear; that stance of simply waiting is not rewarded – it is punished. 

You can imagine what he called him – FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real), as someone defines it, had paralyzed the useless servant. 

Obviously, the Master is God who is extravagant with His people.  He gives His life to us, all His love, all whom He is.  He does this freely, generously, and without reserve.  The third servant missed this.  He took the money as a risk rather than as a gift.  When the Master returned he said, “Here’s everything back, safe and sound.”  That is not what the Master wanted.  The Master wanted the servant to be generous with himself just as he had been generous to the servant. 

God gave Himself as a gift to us.  We are to give ourselves as a gift to others.  Jesus put this another way, “The one who saves his life will lose it.  The one who loses his life will save it.”  Everything we have is a gift.  Our lives, in turn, must be a gift to others. 

The problem with this third slave is that he refused to take risks; he would not step out into the unknown.  Filled with anxiety and fear, he projected his guilt upon his own master.  In the end, he loses everything he owned.  Had he acted with some degree of innocence, he may have received a much more understanding treatment from his master. 

Jesus used the parable to teach his disciples and us how much the Father trusts us.  You do not give a treasure to someone you do not trust.  And that trust is meant to bring confidence to the person who receives it. 

This Gospel story can be easily misunderstood as an endorsement of our modern-day achieving society or of high interest rates.  Actually, the lesson has nothing at all to do with investing money or accumulating wealth.  Jesus merely uses the analogy of money to make an important point about our lives as Christians.  Jesus is telling us that each of us is expected to perform our Christian duty according to our individual abilities.  Each disciple of Christ is graced with his or her own unique power and capability to perform God’s will.  Each is expected to live up to that power and that capability.  Moreover, the lesson is clear that the power conferred on us grows with use and withers with disuse. 

The Lord expects us to make the best of what He has given us.  The parable is nothing to do with money.  It is to do with grace.  He expects us to use the gifts of sanctifying grace which He gave us at our Baptism, and which He renews throughout our lives.  His gifts must not lie dormant.  They must increase and multiply.  Otherwise, He will judge us to have wasted what He himself invested. 

The man who did not invest the money had some wrong ideas about his master.  He was afraid that if the investment went sour he would be punished for his mistake, even though the risk-taking was the master’s idea.  Because he feared his master as a fierce and exacting man, he decided to do nothing – and he produced nothing. 

Jesus gives us this last example in order that we might know what to expect if we do not trust Him.  It is the example of a person who is afraid of God.  “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.”  We should not be afraid of God.  Let us be afraid of offending Him, let us be afraid of hell, let us be afraid of what Jesus might say to us: “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”  But let us not be afraid of God. 

Paul had to remind the early community of this message.  They were waiting for Jesus’ return.  They wanted to be prepared and ready.  And so, they decided to stop everything; they decided to have tremendous faith in Jesus and just wait for Him to return. 

But Paul says, “NO” – that is not faith – faith does not mean simply sitting back and putting everything in God’s hands.  Faith means recognizing God’s trust in you – it means living in light and getting on with life.  It does not mean living in fear and complacency.  It means recognizing God’s trust in your ability to carry out His plan and His work. 

 What about us?  The message is the same.  God trusts us.  God has faith and confidence in us.  God knows we can and will make mistakes, but surely that is better than never acting out the trust God places in us.  Who has the greater faith – the one who simply puts everything quickly back in God’s hands or the one who takes some risks and chances in doing something about the problem? 

Sometimes we pray that things will work out with the other person, but we do not do anything, we do not risk saying or doing anything.  Sometimes we hope and pray that our situation will improve, that things will work out – but we do not reach out and talk to someone about it.  We hope that someone will return to the practice of his or her faith, but we do not want to take the risk of talking about our faith. 

Real faith is not putting everything in God’s hands right away.  Real faith is recognizing God’s trust and confidence in us and trying to do the best we can, or at least trying to do something.  That third servant never really accepted the trust the master had in him.  Hopefully, as we hear God’s word and share at the Lord’s table, we will know the love and trust of God for us. 

The talent that the master had given to the wicked servant had not become the property of the unfaithful servant.  This is why the master took it away from him, as if he in fact possessed nothing: “From him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  Indeed, when God gives His grace to us mere mortal human beings, we need to respond to it with faith; we must correspond to it, striving with our entire being to do so. 

The grace of God calls for the free consent of the human person, and it is only with this consent that the grace of God becomes God’s gift to the whole of the person who receives it in faith.  Without this correspondence on the part of the human person, the grace of God remains a good that belongs to God, and he who believes he possesses it is, in reality, the poorest of men. 

God has entrusted us to invest this treasure of His in His Kingdom of Love.  Ours now is to carry out that trust, whatever the risk.  Jesus risked His life.  Jesus gave His life in order to reveal to us the depth of the Father’s love and concern for us.  He gave His life as the ultimate investment in the Father’s promise that the power of His love would win the victory over death itself. 

Talents are not made to remain buried and hidden in a person’s anonymity.  On the contrary, as Jesus said:  “You are the light of the world.” (Mt. 5:14) 

The talents received, whether they be natural or supernatural, must be developed and used for the good of all.  It cannot remain dormant (quiescent) and inactive.  It must either express itself, in good works, or it will dry up and wither, and our last state will be worse than the first.  “For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” 

Invest your life — all of it, even your money — in the Kingdom of Love.  It is worth the risk.  Invest your life in the Kingdom of Love so that, in the words of today’s Gospel parable, the Father of us all may say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt. 25:21). 

 God our Father is a gracious, compassionate, merciful, forgiving and caring God. 

May your love be upon us O Lord, as we place all our hope, trust and love in You.  Amen.  

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  

Fr. Evaristus Okeke

A business oriented Christianity!

 Bible Guide: “ He who abides in me bears much fruit” (John.15:5a). 

Just like last Sunday, the liturgy of today continues to talk to us about the end of time – the time of reckoning when we shall all give account of our stewardship. Last Sunday, we were admonished to be vigilant and always be ready. Today, we are made to understand that when it comes to saving souls, God is business oriented and only those with a “business mindset”, will find the Master’s coming favourable. To have a business mindset means to be ready to bear more fruit with what we have been given.

The first reading uses the symbol of a virtuous wife to drive home this message. She is precious not on account of money or beauty/charm but on account of her efficiency. She is able to earn her husband’s trust, able to work with her hands and able to reach out to the poor. She uses her position as a wife to do more good. So, being a wife becomes a capital with which she made so much profits. Notice that this virtuous woman has the fear of God. One who fears God does not simply seek not to offend him, but even more seek how to please him.

In the gospel, the theme of fruitfulness is buttressed more clearly. The identity of the man who gave talents to his servants is not disclosed. But the fact that he gave his servants talents (money), not with the expectation of safe-keeping but that they should make more money with it, shows that he is business oriented.

Again, being a cautions business man, he does not invest into what he has not carefully studied. He knows the ability of each of his servants as regards doing business. He knows those who are more business oriented than the others. For this reason, he gives them talents to trade on, not base on sentiments, but on their individual abilities. He is sure that each of them is able to make do with what he has given them. Furthermore, as a business man, he understands that investments take time to mature, so he went away after giving talents to his servants and did not return until after a long time.

Every investment in a risk because your money could be carted away with. In this case, however, the servants had fear of their master. They will not seek to defraud him but to please him. In the Christian parlance, we would say they had the fear of the Lord. But when we study the three servants very well, we will discover that they feared the Master differently. This will help us to understand the proper way to fear the Lord.

To be careful not to offend someone is fear/respect for the person. But a higher level of fear/respect will be to seek to please the person while not offending him or her. The servant who was given one talent feared the master but only in the first sense. He was aware that the master was a hard man, one who is too business oriented to entertain loses. And so, he was concerned with not losing the money which will offend the master; he had no plan to impress him.

On the other hand, the two other servants knew what their master wanted. A business man is impressed by profit-making. Meeting this demand, they were individually commended: “well done good and faithful servant”. Dismayed at the unproductivity of the third servant, the master said: “you ought to have (at least) invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest”. Indeed, there can be no excuse for unproductivity.

How do we apply this parable to ourselves? In Matt.28:19, Jesus said to his disciples “Go, therefore and make disciples from all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. God is that business man; we are the servants. He has deposited so much in each and every one of us. From what he has given us, he expects us to bring others to him; to create and expand his kingdom in the hearts of men.

This is a risk God has taken. There are many who have carted away with the talents God gave them. They live as though they are accountable to themselves. Well, they are not so much the focus today. There are some others who claim to love God but the best they do is just to avoid sinning. All that they consider is whether their actions are sinful in God’s sight or not. With such mentality, we will not be bearing fruit. Such Christianity is simply one of self-maintenance culture.

God has not called us to simply maintain the faith but to cultivate it: he who abides in me bears much fruit. It is not enough to avoid sin. We need to be active doing good like the virtuous woman in the first reading. So, don’t just be early to work, be productive with your time; don’t just be present in Church, be active and attentive; don’t just be honest, be charitable too; don’t just be calm, be a peace-maker.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that the coming of the Lord will be shocking to those who say to themselves “There is peace and security”. That is an attitude of self-maintenance. Beloved, the kind of fear the Lord will appreciate from us is one that motivates us to evangelize. God Bless You!

Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai  

Our Talents and our salvation.

The readings today present us with the theme of talents. Generally, we take talent to mean God’s gift to people. The first reading  from the book of Proverbs described a personality, serving her loved ones and uniting all the members of her family in a community of love. This woman is not sitting idle, doing nothing, but is up and doing for the good of her family and her neighbour. The Gospel continues in this light telling us about the result of hard work. Everybody is talented but without hard work your handwork is useless. The parable speaks of a man who entrusted his property to his servants and went away. When he came back some of his servants had improved on what he had given them, while another just hid it away and gave back exactly what he had been entrusted with. Beloved, what do we do with our talents. Today’s parable leaves us with the following lessons:

This parable teaches us that success is a product of hard work. Those who grew the talents they were given by their Master were rewarded accordingly. Beloved, hard work is rewarded. Many people today admire success but they are not quick to remember that whatever they admire is a product of hard work. We were made to work, in the beginning God planted man in the garden to till and care for it. These two men traded with what they have before the master’s coming.  The Parable of the Talents teaches us what we are supposed to do while we await the return of our King. We ought to be productive – bearing fruits while we awaits the Master’s coming.

The Parable of the Talents teaches that we are not gifted equally. Just as they were not given equal amount.  All fingers are not equal they say. Our inherent human inequality should not lead us to despair. On the contrary, inequalities are diversity, and diversity is the spice of life. Each has been gifted according to his ability and we shall be judged accordingly.

The parable also teaches that we must use our talents; dont go and bury your talents; there are better preacher today who have refused to read the bible, better singers and writters who have buried their talents.

This parable also shows that at the end of our life we shall give account to God. We are accountable to God for all the gifts he has given to us. Shall we be like the servants who made more talents or like the wicked and lazy servant who buried his master’s talent? Just as the Owner said to the dishonest steward in Luke 16:2 “Give an accounting of your management” This parable shows that at the end of our life God will ask us to give account of our life, the talents we have received, the opportunities we had, and the time He has given us. Like the man that acted shrewdly, Jesus invites us to act wisely in anticipation for the day of reckoning. In the second reading from the first letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul reminds the faithful of Thessalonica to be always ready for the Lord’s coming because they do not know when it will happen. Are we ready?

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.