Monday, November 20, 2017

Thirty Third Sunday in Ord Time Cycle A November 19, 2017

We just heard this long Gospel.   Do you like it?   What do you think? 
          I don’t much care for it.  It kind of frightens me.  The reason is more that I have to preach on this Gospel, and I think it can be very easily mistaken to sound like you need to earn your salvation;  you need to show a profit and that salvation is a reward for works righteousness. 
          You worked hard, invested yourself wisely, made a profit, SO….. welcome to the Kingdom of God.  OR You didn’t work hard and showed no profit, like the third servant, and so then you are thrown into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
          One could, rather easily I think, mistake this Gospel for an endorsement of salvation by works.  And that is a heresy called “Pelagianism”.    And especially  here in Texas, where we have a respect for people who earn their own way and pull themselves us by their bootstraps, that sense of self-sufficiency can subtly carry over into wanting to earn our own salvation. 
          But being a Paulist, I have a concern for St Paul’s insistence that salvation is a free gift, that ALL is grace, that we are saved not by our goodness but by God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, which makes us good.   And I fear I could end up preaching a homily exhorting you to strive to do good and invest your talents well, which I think is NOT the real point of this Gospel.
          I think the key to understanding the Gospel is FEAR.
The third servant fails to act out of fear.  Over and over again in the Scriptures, fear is the enemy.   The most repeated injunction in the New Testament is “Do not be afraid.”  Fear is the enemy.
          The first two servants act with confidence, boldness, daring, risk-taking, and they make a profit.  They do not act out of fear.
          I really would like to re-write this Gospel and introduce a fourth servant.  And let’s say he gets three-and-a-half talents, so we can distinguish him from the others.  And this three-and-a-half talent servant went off and invested his talents just like the first two.  And he acted with the same boldness and the same intelligence as the first two, BUT his investments did not turn out.  Through no fault of his own, but due rather to something way beyond his control - a natural disaster, a foreign war, a blight on the crops - something he had nothing to do with and could not foresee, he lost the entire three-and-a-half talents.  He is broke.
          How would the master judge him?  Because as everyone who owns stocks knows, not every investment succeeds.  And sometimes it is due to circumstances beyond our control.  However, this three-and-a-half talent servant showed all the same gumption and ability to take a risk that the five and the two talent guys showed.  So how would the master judge him?
          I would argue that the Master, gruff and tough demanding curmudgeon that he is, would still praise this three-and-a-half talent servant for his industry and engagement.  He was involved in life.
          You see the real enemy is not loss, but fear.  Fear paralyzes us just as it paralyzed that one talent fellow. 

          Stinginess is a type of fear, that immobilizes and freezes us up.   Greed does the same thing.  Racial prejudice, homophobia and dislike of immigrants and refugees is a type of fear.  Self-centeredness is fear.  And all that stops us from investing the gifts, the talents, the compassion, the concern, the love we have is FEAR.  
          The one talent servant is not condemned because he failed to make a profit, but because he acted out of FEAR. 
          Over and over again the Scriptures tell us, DO NOT BE AFRAID.
          Today we have a very special second collection:  for the Campaign for Human Development.  There are those in the church and in society who are afraid of this collection, afraid of the effort to lift up dis-advantaged people and help them become self-sufficient, self-determining, and contributing members of society.  It is a shame.  I ask you to overcome fear and respond generously to our second collection today.
          We cannot be afraid.  We have been given great gifts in faith, in the promise of salvation in Jesus, and in the knowledge of God’s love for us.  {{At this Mass we welcomed Majida into the Catechumenate, and Zachary, Clayton, Payton, Michael and Ryan we welcomed into the process of becoming Roman Catholic.}} 
We need not to tell them, but rather to show them, how not to live in fear.

          We show our faith by acts of hope and charity.  Use the gifts you have been given.  Do not be afraid.   

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