Bottom line: Even those who have less still have a partnership with God. It's a matter of recognizing who God and who we are, then start each day with gratitude.
Today's parable of the talents follows the one we heard last weekend: the ten virgins in the wedding party. The two parables have a similar point: our partnership with God and how he surprises us by arriving at an unexpected moment.
For me these parables bring back memories of my first year as a priest. Archbishop Connolly had assigned me as parochial vicar to Fr. Joseph Petosa. When Father Petosa took his vacation he didn't give me an exact date for his return. I had a general time frame but not the specific day. I have to admit that for the first two weeks I sloughed off. The rectory got messier and messier. The refrigerator accumulated food that started looking like a general science experiment in mold. Then it struck me. Fr. Petosa may be back today! I started cleaning up and putting things in order.
In our parable today we see that God is like Fr. Petosa. He arrives at an unexpected moment. As St. Paul says, Jesus will come "like a thief in the night."
This Sunday I want to emphasize not so much the suddenness of God's arrival, but our partnership with him. I was concerned about Fr. Petosa's return because we had a partnership - to take care of the same parish. Granted he was the senior partner and I the junior. Still, while he was away I had a big responsibility - not only for the rectory but much more important the spiritual care of parishioners.
The parable of the talents dramatizes the partnership with God by the fact that the master entrusts talents to his servants. A talent was actually a cast of precious medal about the size of garbage can lid - about 75 pounds of gold. Not exactly pocket change! By entrusting so much to us God makes us partners in a major enterprise. Pope Francis observes: "The book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work." So God gives the earth to us all. We become partners with him in caring for our common home.
God not only entrusts us with a common home; he gives individual gifts. We each have a life span and a certain measure of health. And even though we are hardly the richest people in this Valley - or in a region that includes Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos - God has entrusted us resources that people in other parts of the world would envy. We want us to use those gifts as partners with God.
To return to my experience with Fr. Petosa. I wanted to be ready for his return not because I feared him. Although he sometimes got upset, he was a gentle man. Rather than fearing him I wanted to render a good account because I loved him and because his approval meant a lot me. I wanted to repay his confidence. After all, we had a partnership in something vital - the care of souls.
That Fr. Petosa didn't share an exact return date with me may have simply been an oversight or maybe I wasn't great at listening. Still it had a good effect. It motivated me to attend to details, to not slack off. Jesus does something similar for us and we can count on him keeping his promises.
When I was young priest and I looked at the mess in the rectory, it seemed like the new normal. But thinking about Fr. Petosa I set to work. It wasn't as insurmountable as I imagined. Even though the fridge and rectory weren't up to Fr. Petosa's standards, he gave me credit for the effort. Jesus will do the same.
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. We each have reasons for gratitude. The fact someone else has five doesn't mean my one talent is nugatory. On the contrary the master gets upset when the servant buries his talent. Even those who have less still have a partnership with God. It's a matter of recognizing who God is and who I am, then start each day with gratitude. How beautiful to hear those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Amen.
From Archives (Thirty-Third Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
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
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru