Today is Commitment Sunday for our parish Stewardship Drive. I want to say from the start that I did not arrange today’s Gospel – but you could hardly have a better Scripture for Stewardship: Jesus’ parable of the Talents. Basically I am asking that you invest your Talents in our parish mission.
The parable of the Talents helps us break through the final obstacle to Stewardship. Many people say, “I want to be a good steward, but the problem is I don't have much to give. I don’t have special abilities, I have no extra time, I am down on energy and, believe me, I do not have any spare cash.” If that is what you say, I hear you - and in many ways I know how you feel.
Still, I must point out that, in today's parable, it was the man who received the single talent, who took a defeatist attitude. He felt beaten before he even started. In the end the master calls him to account. Jesus is challenging us to overcome our timidity. When you really think about it, it is a little bit crazy to say we don’t have time, energy or economic possibilities. If we want something bad enough, we always somehow find the motivation and the money.
There was an interesting study which showed that when our nation went through an economic downturn a few years ago, that people still found money for certain luxuries. I am not talking just about the super-rich, but ordinary folk like you and me. Even though the overall economy went down, some areas still did pretty well. For example: people found funds to take cruises, they spent more than ever in casinos, and an even greater number dug up money for cosmetic surgeries.
Now, there is nothing intrinsically immoral about cruises, casinos and cosmetic surgery, but still most people would not look at them as life and death necessities.* Take cosmetic surgery. Last year almost twelve million Americans (about one in every twenty-five) found money for those procedures. Seeking the fountain of youth, they pay a team of doctors to take a little fat out here, smooth out a wrinkle there, inflate certain strategic areas - and deflate others. If that is what someone wants, OK, but, when all is said and done, isn’t it a bit like rearranging your pillow at night? It might remove a crease or a bump, but it won’t last very long.
Moreover, the amount of time, skill, pain and money expended on cosmetic surgery is enormous. Last year, we Americans spent around thirteen billion dollars on those procedures. That is about twice the amount spent for all the Catholic parochial schools in the United States. There is something wrong with this picture.
Our Old Testament reading says that external beauty is fleeting and deceptive. The same reading tells us what constitutes true beauty. It mentions three things: a gentle word, diligent effort and, above all, care for those in distress. The person who has those things will always be deeply attractive. Wouldn't it be great if we could build a society where wrinkles are seen as marks of service? To me there is something terribly sad about a fifty-year-old desperately clinging to youth.
I make no judgment on people who go in for cosmetic surgery.** I am more using it as an example. If you and I examined our lives we could find many areas where we are not using our resources in the best possible way. The thing we need to ask is: what are the gifts God has given me at this moment in my life - and how does he want me to use them?
Jesus puts Talents into our hands and asks us to invest them courageously. If we hold back, if we try to keep them for our own use, things will go badly for us – and for those who need us. On the other hand, Jesus tells us that if we are faithful in small matters we will receive even greater responsibilities. If we invest our Talents, we will discover that our time, our energy – even our financial resources – will increase. I am not talking about becoming a workaholic or a neurotic. Jesus wants you to have joy. Good stewardship includes time for relaxation, exercise, study, an enjoyable meal and so on.
Some of you have not yet made the first step of Stewardship. I am asking you to do it this morning. It would be great if you could begin tithing today – give the first 10% of your time, skills and treasure to the Lord. But if you cannot start with 10%, could you begin with one percent? Could you make a commitment of two dollars a Sunday to support Holy Family Parish?
Others have begun the journey of Stewardship. You know that it opens up exciting possibilities for you – and for others. Be bold. Jesus isn’t offering you a face or a body which appears forever young (at least in this life). But he is offering you a young heart. Your investment of Time, Talent and Treasure will help children and families in ways you cannot imagine. And you will hear those beautiful words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
*I only used the letter “C” but you could pick other letters of alphabet, for example: racetracks, recreational vehicles and restaurants. I won’t mention what the letter “W” would bring up.
**There is nothing morally wrong with trying to improve one’s appearance. The Catholic Church, in contrast certain "Puritan" groups, does not condemn the use of make-up and jewelry – in moderation. A woman, especially a young woman, should find joy in her beauty. Cosmetic surgery, unfortunately, has a way of exploiting and distorting that desire so that we have lost track of more important values. Thus, it adds to the misery our culture has created for women - and to the lengthening adolescence of our men.
From Archives (for Thirty-Third Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Two Reasons for Stewardship, Tithing Testimony - concluded)
Is a thaw coming to the Democratic party? Jimmy Carter condemns abortion culture
Two Chinese Priests Arrested After Interview
From Amy: What's missing from Dowd's analysis is simple, and takes one word to say: family.
100 Questions about The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Vatican official foresees "pruning" at Catholic colleges
Juli Loesch Wiley: The Meaning of Sex: Fertility and the Recovery of Human Sexuality
Fr. Jim's World
ABORTION 101: Bishop Thomas Tobin (Providence) tackles the abortion issue in 63% 'pro-abortion' RI.
Mark Shea: And so, as Muslims toast (pardon the pun) the destruction of France, EU ministers rail against the Catholic Church for being so cruel as to love babies and encourage having more of them.
And from Jimmy Akin: Why Does Bill Gates Lie To Me?