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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Risk-Takers versus Care-Takers: The Parable of the Talents

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov. 19, 2017
St. Francis Hospital, Long Island, New York, U.S.A.

A man got mad with God. “God,” he said, "I have been praying daily for three years that I should win the state lottery.
You told us to ask and we shall receive. How come I never received all these three years I have been asking?” Then he heard the voice of God, loud and clear. “My dear son,” says God. “Please do me a favour and buy a lottery ticket.”

This is not supposed to be a promotional for state lotteries. Rather it illustrates the saying: “If you wanna win, you got to play.” There are two kinds of people in our churches today: risk-takers and care-takers. The problem with care-takers is that they might show up at the undertaker’s with little to show for their lives. Jesus warns us against this in today’s gospel on the Parable of the Talents. (Matthew 18:21-35)

In the parable we hear about “a man going on a journey who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (Matt 25:15). From the beginning of the story we are told that the servant who received just one talent is a man of little ability. He is not a genius. Yet it is interesting to note that the master has a talent even for his relatively disabled servant. All God’s children have got their talents, even those who appear to have very minimal abilities in comparison with the more gifted ones.

The master departs and the first two servants “went off at once and traded” with their talents. The third servant, on the other hand, digs a hole in the ground and buries his one talent. Why does he do that? Because he is afraid
he is going to lose it if he trades with it. He must have reasoned like this: “Well, those with more talents can afford to take a risk. If they lost a talent, they could make it up later. But me, I have only one talent. If I lose it, end of story! So I better play it safe and just take care of it.” 

Many of us in the church are like this third servant. Because we do not see ourselves as possessing outstanding gifts and talents, we conclude that there is nothing that we can do. Do you know a woman who loves to sing but who would not join the choir because she is afraid she is not gifted with a golden voice?
Do you know a young man who would like to spread the gospel but is afraid he does not know enough Bible and theology? When people like this end up doing nothing, they are following in the footsteps of the third servant who buried his one talent in the ground.

The surprise in the story comes when the master returns and demands an account from the servants. First, we discover that even though the first servant with five talents had made five more talents and the second servant with two talents had made two more talents, both of them receive exactly the same compliments: “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” They are rewarded not in proportion to how many talents each has made but in proportion to how many talents each of them started off with. Booker T. Washington was right on target when he said, 
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles that one has overcome while trying to succeed.”

There are more reasons than one why the third servant decided to hide his talent. Maybe he compared himself to the other servants with more talents, saw himself at the bottom rung of the ladder, and became discouraged. He did not realise that with his one talent, if he made just one more talent,
he would be rewarded equally as the servant with five talents who made five more. We are not all measured by the same rule. To whom much is given, much is required.

All of us in the church today have received at least one talent. We have received the gift of faith. Our responsibility as men and women of faith is not just to preserve and “keep” the faith. We need to trade with it. We need to sell it to the men and women of our times. We need to promote and add value to faith. This is a venture that brings with it much risk and inconvenience. But, unless we do this, we stand in danger of losing the faith just as the third servant lost his talent.
Fr. Joe Mungai in the U.S.A.
The way to preserve the faith, or any other talent that God has given us, is to put it to work and make it bear fruit.

*Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH, is a Franciscan Missionary of Hope, a relatively new congregation started in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993. He was ordained June 7, 2014. He is moving from his parish in St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya to hospital ministry in New York. Keep him in your prayers. 

Come Share Your Master's Joy!

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov. 19, 2017
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

“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.” (Matt 25:29)

In today’s Gospel passage this Sunday we reflect on our responsibility as Catholics. Our Lord speaks a parable about a man who goes on a journey and entrusts everything he has to his servants. 

The key message of this story is not the different amounts that each of the three servants received, but the message is what they did with the amount they did receive.
When the master returns, he praises two of the servants because they used his money wisely. To both of these servants he says, “Come share your master’s joy.” 

Yet, the third servant did not make any interest on what he had been given. He simply dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money. When his master returns the servant even admits that he did not act responsibly. The servant knew that his master was a demanding person and expected some return, but he failed to follow his master’s orders.
Therefore he would not share in his master’s joy. Our Lord says of this servant who did not follow his master’s orders that “this useless servant [is to be thrown] into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

My brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel message calls us to acknowledge whether or not we are practicing our faith as God is asking of us. Each one of us is given the gift of grace in our baptism. God is love, and the outpouring of His love-gift of grace seeks a return of love from us. We can bury this grace or we can allow this grace to bear perfect fruit, love that will last. We can allow God’s grace to grow within us by loving God and living pure and righteous lives or we can reject His gift of grace within us by living in sin without seeking repentance and conversion of heart.

As Catholics we have a great responsibility because we have been given the teachings of our Church. These teachings are given to us to grow in God’s grace. Do we live the teachings of our faith in love and sincerity? Are we good and faithful servants by living our marriage vows?

Do we follow our Church teachings on areas that our society denies such as our Church’s teachings on contraception? Are we reading the Bible and the Catechism? Do we come to Mass regularly? Do we come to confession? Are we taking advantage of the opportunities God gives us to do good? The truth is how can we expect Our Lord to give us great responsibilities in heaven if we do not strive to live in God’s grace today?

In fact, let us think about that third servant in today’s Gospel. (Matt. 25:14-30) What did he do after he buried the talent? He probably went off his merry way without any thought of his master or his master’s return! Aren't there people nowadays who live their life like that, as if there is no end time?

Yet, in today’s second reading (1Thes 5:1-6), Saint Paul warns us strictly about living as if there is no end time. Saint Paul reminds us that we must not live as children of the night. No. We are children of the day. Therefore, Saint Paul says, “Let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” because the “the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.”

My brothers and sisters, let us take to heart today’s Gospel message.
Fr John Paul Shea
This current world is ending soon and God will take an accounting of each one of us as to how we have used the life He has given to us. 

If we live in God’s grace by offering our heart to God each day for His glory then we will bear eternal fruit. Let us therefore live in the grace we have received by following Our Lord’s commandments in love and truth so that when we meet Jesus face to face at the end of our lives He will say to each one of us “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.” Amen.