The Great Escape

(Homily for Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A)

“I wish I could just fly away, escape from all my troubles.” We priests hear people express those sentiments – and sometimes feel the same. In case you entertain similar fantasies, let me tell you about a man who actually did make the Great Escape.

Living in Vancouver, Canada, he became disgusted with the rat race. The idea of moving to some sparsely populated area suddenly struck him. He could have gone to the Yukon, but it seemed too close. Studying a map of the British Commonwealth, he saw two small islands in the South Atlantic.

He began telling his relatives he was heading for a place where no one would bother him. They asked him where this paradise was. He responded, “right off the coast of Argentina. You have probably never heard of them – the Falkland Islands.”

Needless to say, the Argentine generals and then Margaret Thatcher impinged on that man’s paradise.

Today’s parable tells about a person who also tried to avoid hassles. In Jesus’ day, if someone were entrusted with another’s possessions, he could absolve himself of legal responsibility by burying the treasure deep enough so that it could not be overturned by a plow. The man given the single talent wanted to minimize risk. But like the unfortunate Canadian, he made a poor choice. The master not only calls him “lazy,” but “wicked.”

It seems harsh to call him “evil” when his only apparent fault is timidity. He might protest, “I didn't harm anyone!” But is that honestly the case?

To shirk one’s responsibility is a great temptation – especially for us adult men. It has become so widespread that only the immediate victims seem to notice it. As a priest I have listened to the sorrow of many abandoned moms and children. I am convinced male irresponsibility causes more pain than anything else in our society.* How hollow it will sound on Judgment Day to say, “Well, I had a right to enjoy my own life. I just didn’t need all those hassles.” Or worse, “I was afraid. They didn’t seem to want me.”

C.S. Lewis, who has a way of cutting through double-talk and obfuscation, identified the basic issue. It comes down to love:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one – not even to an animal (pet). Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket or the coffin of your selfishness. But, in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, unredeemable. The only place outside heaven where you can be safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.”

The parable of the talents summons us to love - not abstractly or with mere emotions, but by putting an end to vacillation. At first glance the parable seems unfair because the least gifted – the man who received only one talent – winds up getting chastised. But this isn't an "underdog story" like Joseph in Egypt or David vs. Goliath. Rather, it illustrates Mother Theresa's saying that God has not called us to success, but to fidelity. The point is, no matter how little we have, we must invest it.

This, by the way, is why euthanasia is so heinous. It involves the judgment that my own life – or someone else’s – is just not worth living any more. Better if I were dead. But that suffering – or that terrible loneliness – may be precisely what God wants you to invest. It may be the greatest thing you will have to offer him. And your best gift of love.

My tendency – and perhaps yours – is to compare myself to the guy who has more, even to feel stymied because I lack something another has. Jesus has a message for me and for you: Get over it. You don’t have to be someone you are not, but you must use the talent you possess. Invest it. Take the risk of love – of embracing the responsibility God has set before you.

************

*I am not trying to absolve women of their responsibility. Almost daily I find myself amazed at how they will act against their own best interests by cohabiting or by clinging to a dead-end relationship. A wide scale burying of talents is taking place in our society.

Spanish Version

From Archives (Thirty-Third Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2017: Partnership with God
2014: Solidarity Week 3
2011: Small Things with Great Love
2008: Take a Step
2005: Time, Energy and Money
2002: The Great Escape
1999: An Attitude of Gratitude

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources)

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

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Major Robert D. Lindenau

Cardinal George (on behalf of the U.S. Bishops) message to Obama administration:

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any "interference" in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country...

On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby...

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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

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