Father THOMAS IDERGARD SJ
Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year A: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Ps 128; 1 Thess 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30
St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm (English Mass)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
There is a saying that goes: “love is the only thing that grows when shared”. The parable of the servants and talents in today’s gospel says exactly this about faith, i.e. truth, showing in good works, i.e. love. Our spiritual life, our search for communion with God that ought to imprint our whole existence, actually is about investment, risk and return.
The investment consists by the abilities and faculties God has granted each one of us in our life, for which he is the final cause; in the parable symbolised by the talents. Only one talent meant a large sum of money in the time of Jesus, which indicates that each one of us has received a lot – as much as we need in order to learn to know, to love and to serve God, which is the aim for which we all exist.
God’s distribution of gifts does not match any worldly principle of equality. Each one of us is given sufficient enough according to our preconditions to develop the gift. Preconditions only known by God. The equality lies rather in the fact that all different abilities and faculties are equally needed, albeit in different areas, for the service to the Church, i.e. in building the kingdom of God in the world. So far about God’s investment in our basic assets.
The risk is about using them for the good of the kingdom of God. We can do like the third servant and hide our talent in the holes in the ground named laziness, desire for pleasure, greed and aim at popularity. Holes all dug because of fear of death and the need this fear creates for putting the ego first and constantly feeding it; to “experience” as much as possible before it all ends. A trust in the “I”, “thrown into existence”, rather than a trust in God. But we can, like the two faithful servants, also risk our assets in order to multiply them. The life in communion with God follows the same logic as business life. Profit requires risk. What then is the spiritual risk about, today? Above all, I think of two things:
Firstly, to stand up for the faith in Christ and the teaching of his Church and risk to expose oneself to others’ disregard for the sake of truth. Do I, e.g., carry a cross or rather a crucifix, showing the self-giving love of God, visibly for others to see? Do I tell others about my hope in Christ that death does not have the last word? Do I dare to step out, in words and deeds, of our contemporary culture’s fixation at consumerism regarding gadgets and it’s fixation at sex, i.e. consumerism regarding other people; and from the vicious circles of aggression and hate today characterising most of the discussions in our so-called social media?
Secondly, the spiritual risk in a culture of calculation of self-interest in everything is to do things that don’t give any benefit-scores at all. Do I visit the troublesome neighbour I know is alone and ill? Do I pay my parents any attention, just for their sake, even if I, also fairly, would find them awkward and nagging? Am I prepared to forgive, i.e. go for that relations will be right instead of myself having right? Do I give to those in need, although it decreases my own space for consumption? Do I defend those who others always complain about by seeing and emphasising what’s good with them? And so on.
The return on our risking God’s gifts in us, is the eternal life with God that starts already here and now. We just heard Jesus saying that “to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away”. He means that our giving of faith and love finally will return to us, making us grow in both. This is something that the Apostle Paul also refers to by his appeal to us in our second reading today from the First letter to the Thessalonians, to “stay wide awake and sober”, i.e. not to go through life passively but to put all we have received at the service of God’s kingdom. St. Paul’s own life in tireless mission illustrates his words. This fundamental Christian spirit has made the cultural sphere dominated by Christianity the, in many ways, most dynamic, creative and humane – in spite of all the problems we see caused by all the stronger deviations from the Christian roots. Problems that only can be fixed if we Christians revive the Christian spirit in words and deeds in our lives.
Through his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus Christ has conquered death. So we don’t need to fear death and hence neither clinging to the ego – it will not cease to be but become its true self through growing in a relation to God that will not end by death. The fear of the third servant does not need to be ours!
Through the self-giving of his incarnation, God reveals to us who he really is. So we can understand that we increasingly will have God by increasingly passing him on, giving him, to others. The Biblical concept of “fearing the Lord”, present in both our first reading from Proverbs and in our responsorial psalm, refers exactly to the attitude of the good wife in the first reading: faithfulness and perseverance and generosity in the service for others. Such an attitude mirrors God himself; the faith living through good works, which the great reform council of Trent labelled as the righteousness that saves.
We shall not seek different “images of God”. We shall seek God. As he revealed himself in Jesus Christ and as he is proclaimed by the teaching of the Church, built on the unbroken tradition of faith from the apostles and the Bible, which was given to us by the Church; and as he gives himself in the Holy Eucharist, which we are about to receive. Let us now promise him to do more in the coming week to dare to risk God’s investments in each one of us. Risks that will give returns in the form of an increasingly presence of Christ in all our relations; thereby in the world; and in turn, in the form of an increasingly presence of Christ in all of us.