Homily for 32 Sunday of Ordinary Time--November 19, 2017

Nov 20, 2017


As tempting as it might be to interpret this parable in economic terms
Jesus’ words here are simply not about the stock market,
or investment strategy or clever entrepreneurship –
even if the imagery he uses is that of return on funds loaned.

And if you think otherwise, just look at what happens
to the foolish one of the three servants:
he’s thrown outside into the darkness,
where there’s wailing - and the grinding of teeth:
no bailout for this guy!

Well, you don’t have to be a scripture scholar
to figure out the message here:
use your gifts, whatever they are,
no matter how large or small they might be
use your gifts wisely - and in the service of others.

In choosing today’s scriptures, the church pairs the woman in Proverbs
with the three servants in the gospel.
We heard that she’s a faithful wife, that she weaves her own cloth
and is generous to the poor.
But that’s only a snippet from the 31st chapter of Proverbs
where we also learn that this same woman:
- secures provisions for her family
- sets a good table and is a good cook
- works late into the night and gets up early every day
- finds fertile land to purchase and plants a vineyard
- is strong and has sturdy arms
- is successful in business
- reaches out to the needy
- weaves her own blankets
- makes warm clothes for her children in the winter
- dresses herself in fine linen and beautiful colors
- makes clothes and belts and sells them to local merchants
- is known for her strength and dignity
- speaks with wisdom and offers kindly counsel
- keeps her house in order
- is careful about what she eats
- is never idle - and laughs at tomorrow’s problems

You go, girl!

But what we need to see in this woman is not her success
or how many talents she has – that’s not the point.
The point is simply that she used what she had 
and she used what she had well -and she used it for others.

So, I need to ask myself, you need to ask yourselves,
 “What do I have to work with?”  
Am I working with everything I have?  
And, for whom am I offering my gifts?”

These scriptures are about so much more 
than fiscal or personal success.
They’re about the fruitful harvest of the gifts I have to offer -
not for financial gain or personal acclaim -
but for the glory of God and the needs and service of others.

Sometimes we’re less like the woman in Proverbs
and more like that third servant in Jesus’ parable.

• We might not dig an actual hole in the ground to bury our gifts, 
but we might pack up our gifts in a box that we mark
“My Puny Gifts,”
they won’t make a difference, they’re not worth anyone’s notice;

• or we might stuff them in a package labeled, 
“Return to Sender,”                          
telling God, in effect:
“I don’t like the gifts you gave me; they’re not the ones I wanted;
I wanted her gifts; I like his gifts better!”

• Or maybe my gifts are buried in a busy schedule with the notation:
“Sorry – no time to offer my gifts 
– I’m much too busy about other things!”

• Or my gifts might be hidden, in fear that others find that I have them -
because if they knew – they might expect me to share them;

• Perhaps I blindfold myself, refusing to acknowledge any gifts,
convinced that I just didn’t get any!

• And sometimes others teach us to deny or bury our gifts;
sadly, sometimes the Church fails to recognize 
the gifts of all its members.

Gifts?  What gifts am I talking about?

My gift might be time, treasure or talent;
my gift might be warmth, compassion, or humor;
my gift might be a smile, a word or a gesture;
my gift might be my art, my strong arm or my particular skill;
my gift might be a friendly gesture or a lifetime of love;
my gift might be a token of appreciation or an act of sacrifice;
my gift might be support, encouragement or consolation;
my gift might be my silent presence;
my gift might be sharing my faith with another person;
my gift might be spare minute, a day's help or a lifetime commitment;
my gift might be a phone call, a letter, an email, a text or a visit;
my gift might be a dollar or a hundred thousand dollars or a prayer;
my gift might be a forgiving heart, an understanding ear,
my gift might be truth on my lips or a helping hand;
my gift might be volunteering, joining – or just showing up…

The woman in Proverbs saw what she had to offer - and offered it
- and in doing so, everyone around her found their lives enriched.

This parable of the talents,
about how our lives will be measured at the end
might prompt some questions for us.
What are my gifts and talents?
Am I using them - or hiding and burying them?
Am I using them for others? 
at home, in my neighborhood, in my parish, in my community, 
and where I work or go to school?

Wherever my answers to those questions - it’s not too late!
Even if my gifts were long ago stashed away,
it’s never too late to unpack them and find ways to offer them now.

The Cross hovering over our prayer
shows us how willing Jesus was to offer everything he had
in service of the needs of others 
– in service of your needs and mine.

And at this altar, across this table,
he continues to offer himself for us -and to us- in the Eucharist.

May the bread and cup of this sacrament
nourish us to offer all that we’ve been given
in service of others.