ON THIS THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY ON ORDINARY TIME we might spend some time today in earnest thinking and praying about what God wants each of us to do with the gifts and talents that He has bestowed upon each of us. In this regard, referencing today’s Gospel parable, Jesus calls us to emulate the first two servants, who used their talents to make a profit. They invested them. With the same enthusiasm and savvy with which a person wisely invests to try and have their money work for them and, thus, make their investment grow, God wants us to invest the talents He has given us so that we might make a fitting return to Him whenever He comes to check our accounts. The first two servants, like most entrepreneurs, were risk-takers, capable of making calculated gamble, to achieve a high yield. They were not afraid, because they knew that the proprietor trusted them enough to give these responsibilities to them, and they desired to respond as good stewards would. They wanted to make the master proud. In increasing his fortune, they knew they would be increasing theirs. The third person in the parable, however, had none of these qualities. Rather than being industrious, the master calls him “lazy.” Rather than being “good and trustworthy,” he was deemed “worthless.” Rather than looking at the master as “generous,” he looked at him as “harsh.” Instead of taking a risk due to the Master’s trust, he says he was “afraid.” Rather than trying to imitate the Master, who “reaped where he did not sow” and “gathered where he did not scatter,” he simply “buried the talent” and presented it back to him when he came. And rather than “enter into the joy of his Master,” he was thrown out into the “outer darkness” where there was “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Folks, the crucial application that the Lord wants us to make today is to determine, from His perspective, whether we’re like the first two servants or like the third. The question is this: What have each of us done with the gifts, abilities and talents that God has given to us? If God were to come right now and call us to account, what would He say? Have each of us responded to the incredible trust the Lord has shown us in showering His blessings as a motivation to do good works to the glory of our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16), or whether we have feared His judgment and done nothing. There are many Christians who, out of fear or a false sense of humility, bury their gifts “under a bushel basket” (Matthew 5:15-16). They never take a risk. They strive not to “lose the state of grace,” not to commit any mortal sins, not to set bad example. They never grow, however, because the only way one grows in faith, hope and love is through acts of faith, hope and love (with the help of God’s grace). Rather than make the world a better place, their goal is simply not to harm it. They think there’s very little they can do to help build up God’s kingdom through the Church, so they deem themselves “worthless” and as a result do nothing. But God has given them a huge sum of gifts to use for His service and calls them to invest them. How? For starters, how about in our parishes of St. Joseph Cathedral and Holy Cross in supporting financially the mission and works of our parishes. When is the last time you increased your weekly Offertory to your parish Church? Do you contribute regularly to support your parish Church? Do you volunteer to help in various ministries, or let others do it because we think “I’m too busy.” What about helping those in need through our St. Vincent de Paul chapter, St. Lawrence Haven, the Bishop Griffin Center, or J.O.I.N., to name a few? What about helping others through the “Giving Tree” which begins next weekend? What about helping to feed 2,200 families at Thanksgiving through the special second collection at all of the Masses this Sunday to support the Byron Saunders Foundation? What about helping those who have had an abortion, and are trying to heal the wounds of their action through Bethesda Healing Ministry? What about helping pregnant mothers through Birthright? Do you support their work and ministry? There is a plethora of ways for each of us to help build up God’s Kingdom here on earth. Folks, we all have to pitch in; the Lord has given us individually so much, and we are called to share. The Lord has given us collectively as a community of faith so much more. He has done it because He has confidence in us, trusting us with the carrying out of this saving work in this part of His vineyard — and indeed, because of the community of this parish, even beyond it. With the parable today He is asking all of us, especially those of us who “are asleep” and have been allowing the gifts God has given them to go unutilized, to start to act like the good and trustworthy servants in today’s Gospel. This starts by being grateful for the gifts He has given us, the trust the Lord has given to us, and the desire to not to let these God-given gifts, abilities and talents to go to waste. Then it involves taking calculated risks, and making sacrifices, to help the talents he’s given to us grow. It means investing the Master’s talents so that the lifeblood of our parish and parishioners will reflect our love of God and our love of neighbor – illustrating that we are “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). If we do so, if we inspire each other in this way, then there’s no reason for us to fear death as a “thief in the night” or to fear judgment; for when the Lord returns he will be able to say to each and all of us in this parish the world He created our ears to hear: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Aim high, folks – the Lord is counting on us! So are our brothers and sisters in Christ!
-Fr. Mike Lumpe