HOMILY: 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A.
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
PROV. 31:10-13. 19-20. 30-31
We are all familiar with the gospel reading of this Sunday to an extent that any of us here could perhaps give a good reflection on it. We tend to think it’s all about ability, or talent — what special gifts God has given us. Certainly, that’s a big part of it. But I think there is more to the parable of the talents than just a lesson in using our ability to sing or dance, etc.
First, it’s important to remember that in Jesus’s days a talent was something concrete: it was a unit of weight, about eighty pounds, and when used for money, it was the value of that weight in silver. A talent was a way of measuring something of great value. So Christ is speaking of something concrete, specific and very familiar to his audience.
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But there is a second element in the parable: it is what we do with that most precious commodity that counts at the end. We can of course begin by asking “what is that most precious commodity that God has given us?” for the purpose of this homily today, I will say it is the talent of Christian faith. If there is any talent that has been given at least to us all as Christians, it is the talent of Christian faith. Our responsibilities as men and women of faith therefore is not just to preserve and keep the faith, we need to work with it, so that it may yield more fruits.
In this parable, each servant does something with the talent he is given. But the ones who prosper, who are rewarded are the ones who didn’t keep it to themselves. They share it. They work with it. They invest it. They reap more with it.
We are all familiar with the saying; Do your best and leave the rest. But at the same time our best may not just be good enough… we ought to give more. How much more than our best can we give?
The parable of the “Talents” can be an illustration of how thinking we are doing our best is not always the best option! The man who dug a hole in the ground and gave the money back as he found it, thought he was doing the best he could do, but he could have done more.
We can find ourselves saying that coming to church each week, is doing our best, but is it? Coming along but not taking part, coming along, leaving early, coming along but having no contact with the parish for the remaining days of the week, until the next weekend is that giving our best? Before we came to Mass did we prepare by praying for the grace to respond to our Lord’s calling to engage our faith in each and every day, not just for one day of the week? Have we shown a good example and encouraged others to come to faith in Jesus?
If we have done our best then there is nothing more to be said. Yet when it comes to faith we can always do a little bit more.
We are called to proclaim Christ to the world, to bring light where there is darkness. It is a hard task, one that leads to being hated at times, misunderstood at other times, and rejected too. It is not easy to do. The parable warns about how hard it is. Yet burying our faith in the ground and not using it to the full is not an option for us, that is not what Jesus wants of us. He asks more.
The first reading speaks of the wisdom required to be doing our best, wisdom reaches out to the poor, a helping hand for the needy. Hence, we are called to be as diligent and industrious as a loyal and faithful wife in the use of God’s gifts.
Again and again, we hear in the gospels these simple words: “Do not be afraid.” In this parable, we see the consequences of being afraid. The servant who was afraid did not get any praise, but condemnation. But the call to live the gospel is a call to be fearless. We are challenged not to be afraid to take the risk for Christ. God too risked everything- in his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, for the sake of our salvation. So he expects us too to do more than just cling to safety like the servant who quickly buried the talent he received from his master.
Christ’s message—the Good News of compassion, of mercy, of justice, of hope— is meant to be lived. It is meant to be shared. It is meant to be spread to others. Not to be buried, kept to ourselves alone.
Jesus gave his life for our salvation. We can’t possibly give as much back in return. But we can make what we do matter. We can carry Christ into the world. We can love others as Christ loved us. We can be merciful. We can hunger and thirst for justice. We can be peacemakers.
We can make of our lives—with whatever God has given us—gifts. The fact is that each of us is called to create something beautiful and new with what we have been given.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta was summoned to the court on the charges of converting children to the Catholic faith. When she stood in the dock, the judge asked her if the charges were true. She asked for a baby to be given to her. She held the baby in her arms and said, “This child I picked up from the dust bin; I don’t know to what religion this child belongs or what language it speaks… I give this child my love, my time, my care, my food… but the best thing that I have in my life is the faith in Jesus Christ. Can’t I give this child the best I have in my life?” The case was dismissed in favour of Mother Theresa.
It’s important to note where this passage appears in St. Matthew’s gospel. It’s the final parable before The Passion, the last lesson. As the master gave talents to his servants, Christ gives this one last parable to his followers. Jesus is pointing toward the last chapter of his earthly life—and, really, the last chapter of ours. His final advice: use what you have and make more.
Beloved in Christ, this important message from our Lord Jesus couldn’t have come at a better time than this, as we come to the end of the church’s liturgical year A and gradually approach the end of the civil calendar. These are reminders of the gradual approach of the end of our own earthly existence too. Since we do not know how soon or how late it will come, St. Paul encourages us today as he did the Thessalonians to be vigilant. To be vigilant doing what? To be vigilant, ensuring we are diligent in going about the task of working with the precious gift of faith we have received from God.
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