Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 16, 2014

•Proverbs 31: 10-13; 19-20; 30-31 * I Thessalonians 5: 1-6 * Matthew 25: 14-30•

Weekly Scripture Readings: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

When and wherever I travel, I try to carry as little as possible with me.  My goal always is to put everything in one small backpack that I can easily carry.  Thus I avoid checking luggage, loosing it, waiting for it after arriving, and hauling it up / down stairs and in / out of buildings.

I can understand why “a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property them.”   He was simplifying his life and preparing himself to be unencumbered on his journey.  The parable is an open-ended story.  Like most parables, we can read this one in different ways.  There were three employees. The third employee does a strange thing.  “I went and hid your talent in the ground.”  “I was afraid” I might disappoint you.  “The master was furious.  He said to this employee, “that is a terrible way to live!  It is criminal to live cautiously like that!”

I think we may hear this parable speak to us if we identify self and the church with that employee. Keep in mind it is “fear” that motivates this employee to do what seems to be the safe thing.  He is apparently a good man and an honest employee.  The master trusted him. However he does not understand his responsibility and does not feel engaged in his master’s business.  He does not trust his master and therefore takes no risks because he is afraid.

I, and probably most of you, do whatever we can to avoid problems and disturbances and to avoid anything that might complicate our life.  I know some sort of “fear” lurks behind that.

For centuries traditional ways, unchanging institutions, hierarchical rule, and authority figures have identified the Catholic Church.  The hierarchy still understands itself as the protector of a fixed order that is objective, unchanging, universal and abstract.

Various revolutions have shattered that image. Copernicus and Galileo initiated the first revolution.  Then the Papal States were absorbed into the new State of Italy. Modern science — contemporary cosmology, quantum physics, evolution, psychology and modern biblical research enables us to explore and discover the physical, psychological and spiritual as never before.  It provides for a different appreciation for the scope of time and a different understanding of space. Still today the hierarchy finds itself conflicted with the findings of major scientists.

It is possible to synthesize all of our new knowledge with the essentials of our faith but doing so requires us to adjust our image of God and doctrines like Original Sin, redemption and the very meaning or mission of the Church.  Those in the hierarchy see themselves the protectors of a fixed order that is objective, unchanging, universal and abstract and when faced with the required adjustments are paralyzed by “fear.”

Jesus of Nazareth knew the Gracious Mystery we name God as a Father who entrusts the great gift of life to each of us.  He calls us to be bold, creative and free to take risks in order to create a life of dignity and happiness for everyone.

The message in this parable is clear.  “When we only care about protecting and defending our life or our faith, we lose it.  If we are afraid and do not follow the noble aspirations of our heart, we have failed.  If we don’t take the initiative because we might be wrong, we are already wrong.  If we are only concerned with conserving our virtue and our faith, we run the risk of burying our life.”

The Risen Christ does not call us to bury our lives.  He invites us to live with intensity.  The only thing we have to “fear” is the “fear” of taking risks, the “fear” of living without the audacity to change, or without the courage to make the gospel real.” (Pagola)

This parable invites us to imitate the Risen One by loving without condition and becoming more fully human. Among those who have gone before us there are so many whose life and spirit ought to inspire us.  Remember them with gratitude during this month of the Communion of Saints.

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