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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Thirty Third Sunday of Year (A)

 (Proverbs 31:10-13, 19s, 30s; 1st. Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matt.25:14-30)

Today’s parable was relatively long and quite detailed, with special emphasis being given to the lot of the servant who received one talent and did nothing with it.  Some people might think that what he did with the one talent is irrelevant because he was unfairly, if not unjustly, treated from the beginning by being given only one talent while others had much more given them; and so, feeling somewhat sorry for this servant who “only received one talent”, they harbour a kind of grudge against the master of those servants and don’t really want to learn anything from the parable. 
However, we should take care not to project our own selves into the picture and rather try to objectively appreciate the value of a talent in those times long-ago.  One talent was equivalent to 6000 denarii, and a man and his family could live adequately for one day at the cost of 2 denarii.  So you see that he who received “only one talent” had actually been given sufficient to provide a man and his family with a living for over 8 years!  He had, in fact, been entrusted with a not-insignificant amount of money!!
People of God, have nothing to do with the prevalent greed and self-love which lead certain vociferous protagonists to cry foul wherever some seem to have more than others; avoid those who bristle with pseudo-sympathy for what they like to call ‘under dogs’ who have not -- in their estimation -- been personally endowed with all the talents, or given all the opportunities and advantages, that others seem to enjoy.  Have nothing to do with such ‘defenders of the downtrodden and the poor’, I say, for -- without doubt -- all of us have, indeed, been most generously endowed by God for the task of bringing forth fruit for eternal life.
We need, therefore, first of all, to ask our heavenly Father for wisdom – personified as ‘the perfect wife’ in our first reading – and then calmly turn our attention to the two faithful servants of the Gospel so as to learn from their experiences.
Their master said to each of them on bringing their profit to him:
Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.
Such words make us all feel glad, happy for and happy with those servants.  And if we attend more directly to the nature of that happiness, we can recognize three  aspects mentioned or implied in those words:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
“You were faithful” implies the joy, the peace, the happiness of a good conscience.  “I will give you great responsibilities” implies being able to use one’s talents and abilities to a still greater extent, which is what we call the fulfilment of our being.  However, even so great a natural happiness is not able to fully captivate our attention in this parable because of those last words:
Come, share your master’s joy!
Ultimately the joy of a good conscience will lead not only to our natural fulfilment but even -- thanks to Jesus -- to joys that are beyond our natural capacity, to the eternal joys of our divine Lord and Master in heaven:
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’
Let us now, for just a few moments, compare those three aspects of happiness and you will realise how wonderful is that invitation to enter into the master’s joy.
We all know something of the innocent joys and deep happiness we, as human beings, can experience at times, many and various as they can be: sometimes we have the joys of success and achievement; most of us treasure the happiness of love and family; we can appreciate too the peace and contentment of truth known, and of beauty recognized and appreciated.   Many such earthly types of joy and happiness truly delight us and can give us a sense of deep fulfilment; and yet, they are also so easily linked with sorrow and sadness.  There is a famous song, “Plaisirs d’Amour” which tells of the joys of love which swiftly pass away, and of its pains and sorrows which endure.  That might be a jaundiced, poetic, view, but, nevertheless, we all know that, in this world, true love is inevitably accompanied by its own particular sorrows.  That is why so many modern people opt only for pleasure, and avoid love: they want loose relationships, for pleasure without any binding commitment, so that if and when too much sorrow looms ahead, they can escape from the relationship and take up another source of comfort and pleasure that promises further security -- for a time, at least.  Yes, earthly love and family, though they are such deep and essential joys for us, nevertheless, they also bring with them their own particular and inescapable sorrows.  Moreover, our work, at best, offers us successes that are quite limited; and, of course, our moments of fulfilment are always liable to be obscured by the threat of competition and accompanied by the ever-present danger of failures such as redundancy.
The joy of a good conscience, however, is not in any way connected with sorrow and is therefore, joy of a superior kind; moreover, it leads to another unsuspected joy which can also be ours: that is, a share in God’s eternal happiness which totally transcends all earth’s joys.  But how can it come about that we, who know ourselves to be so weak and fragile, are yet capable of receiving and appreciating something of infinite and eternal happiness?   Despite all the outstanding advances of modern scientific thinking and industrial techniques, we still can hardly begin to conceive the immensity of the universe God has created and sustains: how then can our poor hearts expand to be able to accept the corresponding fullness of His infinite happiness which can be ours to share?  The Psalmist gives us the answer:
I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide; (Ps 81:10)
How shall we open wide our mouth?  Listen again to the Psalmist:
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart. (Ps 119:32)
So that is, indeed, the way we can prepare ourselves to receive the divine happiness that can be ours: we open wide our mouth by walking, indeed by  running, in the way of God’s commandments; and He then  enlarges our hearts so that He might subsequently fill them with the riches of His blessings:
I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Ps 81:10)
It has often been derisively objected against the teaching of eternal happiness, that it must be very boring.  ‘Not that happiness itself is boring’, such people would add, ‘but surely eternal, everlasting, happiness must become, eventually, boring’.  Let me counter such a remark with a question: could eternal, everlasting, pain be found boring?  Of course not! … real pain does not allow anyone sufficient respite ever to think they might be bored!  The cry ‘I am bored’ is a luxurious expression -- neither logical nor purposeful -- of a spoiled child, or of an idle adult indulging his or her self-love.  And yet, its derivative ‘eternal life must be boring’ does induce many to put aside the thought of heaven, and it does help to explain why the Church’s teaching on, and Jesus’ promise of, heaven means so little to unthinking souls.
Therefore I would like to help you do a little thinking about heaven now: not intellectual work, so much as considering, going over, experiences that probably most of you have known several times in your life.
I want you to simply try to call to mind one of the happiest experiences of your life.  Do you remember how quickly the time passed by? … you were so happy it seemed to last but a moment, even though hours, days, or even perhaps years could be a truer measure.  Now that gives us the key to heavenly happiness!   For even though time is earthly, part and parcel of creation where things are always changing, nevertheless, there are occasions -- yes, even here on earth -- when time seems to disappear, melt, in the presence of happiness.   How much more then is the question of time utterly irrelevant to eternity where there can be no time!  Eternity is not endless time, eternity is timeless; time has no meaning for, no reality in, heaven, before God’s Presence.  St. Peter tells us this in a pictorial way in his second letter:
Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)
Therefore for those who are called and being led by the Holy Spirit to share, with Jesus, in the blessedness of God’s heavenly and eternal Kingdom, time can, occasionally, be temporarily set aside before being, ultimately, totally obliterated by the influx of divine joy.  Think People of God!  You have had plenty of experience here on earth -- which is, so to speak, a time-zone -- telling you that when you are bored (!), weary, anxious, or worried, time can drag ever so slowly, while, on the other hand, when you are happy it seems to fly!  Therefore, even here on earth, time is relative.  Now, heaven is a time-free zone, that is, in heaven time is totally irrelevant: not only because we won’t notice it, but because it has no being, no reality in itself; and, most certainly, it has no place whatsoever in the bliss of God to which we are invited in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.
People of God: each one of you has been richly endowed by God and each one of you is unreservedly called, and seriously offered the chance, to share in God’s eternal blessedness.  Don’t think little of the gifts with which you have been endowed, don’t be fool enough now – or finally, wicked enough -- to ignore a happiness which can transfigure your whole being, making you eternally fulfilled and happy beyond all imagining! It can, most assuredly, be yours in Jesus. Therefore, let Him lead you now -- in the Church and by His Holy Spirit -- so as to be able, ultimately, to enter with Him into the presence of the Father Who, Jesus assures you, will greet you with those sublimely fulfilling words:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord!