Who wants to be rich?
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, November 15, 2020:
Let me ask by a show of hands, how many of us would like to be rich? Especially heading into the holiday season, or during these challenging times of pandemic, we often think we could use just a little more help, and the lure of things like $100 million Powerball lotteries can set our imagination aflame. Being rich is something that our culture glorifies in song, TV, and movies, and something that most of us have probably thought of more than once. So much of the so-called American Dream is a dream of rising from nothing to have it all.
In our Gospel today, we hear about a few people who, it seems, got rich. The parable of the talents is about three men who had the opportunity to gain tremendous wealth. The master gave our one talent to one person, two to another, and five to a third. Now, this was a lot of money even to begin with. A talent was a monetary figure equal to 6,000 days’ wages. To put it in contemporary standards, given the current average annual salary in America, one talent today would be about $130,000 – a significant amount by any stretch of the imagination. So, they were given the equivalent of $130,000, $260,000, and $650,000 – all off to a great start.
But, of course, this parable is not meant to be a version of the Prosperity Gospel. Jesus isn’t given us investment strategies for our 401K. Jesus is instead asking us to think about the gifts and talents that we have received from God and where are we investing those? As we hear earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” Jesus isn’t concerned with our investments on Wall Street; but He is deeply concerned about our investments in ‘the Kingdom of God.’ In other words, our talents and the way we use them are meant to help us become the holy people God has created us to be. This is the greatest measure of our success.
So, to the question we began with, Who wants to be rich? Jesus responds, “You already are.” The reality is that in this life, we all start off rich – no matter what our bank accounts say about it. For example, Psalm 103 reminds us that God is slow to anger, rich in compassion; and in his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul speaks about God being rich in mercy. And, just like the master giving talents to his servants, God has invested these gifts in us from the moment of our baptism. We’ve all received such profound gifts from God – the gift of His merciful love, the gift of His Son Jesus, the very gift of life itself. And we receive these gifts over and over again in all the sacraments – so profoundly in the Eucharist and Reconciliation. We are rich indeed.
But, just like the servants in today’s parable, God expects us to do something with these gifts. He wants us to invest them and multiply them and get a great return on our investment. God is asking us today to consider how we have invested His love in the world. Have we multiplied God’s forgiveness to the people around us? Have we gotten a good return on His compassion? How have we multiplied His joy in our hearts, in our homes, in our community? Have we invested in those who are hungry, or homeless, or refugees, or in need?
In today’s Gospel, the man who received the one talent was paralyzed with fear – a fear that kept him from appreciating what he had received, so much so that he didn’t share it, he didn’t multiply it, instead he dug a big hole and hid it away. And sometimes, we can act in the same way. Especially in our world today where it seems every conversation is fraught with confrontation and anger, we can be afraid to speak a word of love, a word of care, a word of healing. In our relationships, our pride can keep us from being the first one to break the ice and offer forgiveness. St. Theresa of Avila said that we’re often tempted to live in the past or in the future; but, in the end, the only place we can actually love God and others is in the present. It is here in the present moment that God invites us to invest.
In the end, all God is asking of us is that we try. Notice the one who made five talents and the one who made two both received the same reward. The reward was not based on the return; it was based on the attempt. The one given the single talent didn’t even try. So, let us try to invest in the kingdom of God all around us. How much love, joy, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness can we share and multiply in our world? This is what God calls us to invest; and as long as we try, He will reward us for our efforts.
Jesus invites us to recognize that we are all rich in the gifts and talents that we’ve received from God – gifts of love, mercy, joy and compassion – and we are called to invest those gifts and talents in the world around us. And, when we have lived a life of helping God to multiply that love and mercy in our world, we too will hear Him say to us, “Come, share your master’s joy!”
May the Lord give you peace.
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