Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Thirty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Nov 19, 2017 Views 89 Listen 22 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Proverbs (31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31)

When one finds worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands.

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (128:1-2, 3, 4-5)


(R) Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored. (R)

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table. (R)

Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (5:1-6)

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you, for you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, "Peace and security," then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (25:14-30)

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one - to each according to his ability. Then he went away."

"Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money."

"After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, "Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more." His master said to him, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small maters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.""

"Then the one who received two talents also came forward and said, "Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more." His master said to him, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come and share your master's joy.""

"Then the one who received one talent came forward and said, "Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.""

"His master said to him in reply, "You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.""

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is used interchangeably in the gospels: it was the central theme of Jesus' preaching and, through parables, He explained its nature and value. From the Bible, we learn that the kingdom of God or the kingdom heaven is not just about heaven; nor just about a place; nor just about the future but also about the present, here and now - on earth, where we live. It is the realm where the gospel message of Jesus Christ, faith, love, justice, charity, hope and peace prevail. It is, and can be, found here and everywhere. That is, as Jesus said, the kingdom of God or heaven is at hand, near us, within us, in our homes, our communities, our nations and the world at large, Matthew (3:2; 4:17); Mark (1:15); Luke (10:9; 17:20-21).

It was not enough for Jesus to just proclaim about God's kingdom. He also demonstrated the kingdom in his works. He blessed the poor, reconciled the enemies, fed the hungry, healed the sick, forgave the sinners, cast out the demons and brought the kingdom to the Jewish people. And, He invited all people to be converted and believe in the good news of the kingdom, and become part of it. Each of the parables Jesus used shows a contrast of those who belong to this kingdom and those who do not. Obviously, not every person living within the kingdom accepts Jesus Christ as King. When reading the parables, we can easily understand this.

Although the basic teaching in each of these parables is essentially the same, there is a difference between the parables recounted in Matthew chapter 13 and chapter 25. The former parables, such as the parable of the sower, the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast, the parable of the treasure, the pearl and the net, altogether contain a warning for people to accept Jesus as King. However, the latter parables - namely, the parable of the ten virgins, the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats - describe the kingdom of God or heaven at the end of times which include the Second Coming or the Return of Christ, final judgement, eternal reward and punishment.

Each of these three parables has a different context. Last week, we read the parable of the ten virgins, with five of them being found to be preparing and waiting for the bridegroom but the other five were not allowed to enter and join in the wedding celebration because they didn't have any "oil" for their lamps. The second parable, which we read today - the parable of the talents - describes how three servants managed the earthly affairs of their master. And the last parable, which we will read next week, illustrates how the judge will separate everyone into one of two very distinct groups just as a shepherd separates His flock of sheep from the flock of goats.

Let us look at the parable of the talents now. In the parable, three servants were given talents by their master who was going away on urgent business, and when he returned they were expected to show what they had done with his talents. What is a "talent"? One meaning refers to a natural skill or ability a person has. Another meaning is a unit of weight, namely, silver weighing about 30 kilograms, used especially by the ancient Romans and Greeks. The talent was first mentioned in the book of Exodus within the inventory of materials used for the construction of the tabernacle, Exodus (38:24). In the New Testament, a talent was a value of currency. During the time of Jesus, a talent was equivalent to about 6,000 denari. Since one denarius was the common labourer's daily wage, a talent was roughly equivalent to 20 years of wages for an average worker. Five talents, the largest amount entrusted to one of the servants, therefore, is comparable to one hundred years of worth of labour, a large amount of money.

The three servants received talents according to their abilities, Matthew (25:15). One servant received five talents, the second servant received two talents, and the other received one talent. Although the first received five times as much as the last, each received a very substantial amount of money. Like the parable of the ten virgins, the return of the master was certain, but the timing was unknown, Matthew (25:1-13).

After a long absence and upon his return, the master asked what the servants did with his talents. The first two servants had invested the talents and doubled their money. They had performed according to their potential. When their master returned they were obviously delighted to see him and hand over all of their earnings to him. Greatly pleased with their faithfulness, the master praised them and entrusted them with more property and invited them to share in his joy. Even though the first servant had a total of ten talents, while the second had only four, both received the same reward from their master - "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things I will put in charge of many things. Come and share your master's joy", Matthew (25:21).

Finally, the third servant who had been given the one talent approached his master and pleaded his case. He did not produce any additional talent. He had done nothing to increase what was given to him. In fact, he knew all too well who his master was. He knew his master as a man who harvests where he did not sow, and gathers where he did not scatter, Matthew (25:24). And yet, he told his master that he was scared of what might happen if he lost the money so he hid it in the ground. He ascribed his inactivity to fear, presumably fear of his master, fear of failure, fear of action and risk. On hearing this, the master became angry and condemned his inactivity.

The master had carefully assessed the third servant's natural ability and entrusted him with a portion of his property in order that the servant would use his ability to turn in a profit. The servant, however, was too afraid to take a risk - even though risky behaviour was part of his master's business. Instead, he attempted to secure his own well-being. In the end, his failure to carry out the master's work cost him a greater loss. The master ordered that the servant be thrown out into the streets, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, Matthew (25:30). Apparently, the master had expected the servants to continue his business, to take risks to make a profit, and to emulate his behaviour. Two servants were found faithful and trustworthy, and they were rewarded. Their faithfulness had increased the master's wealth and expanded his estate. But since the third servant was found unfaithful and unworthy of trust, even what had been given him was taken away as punishment.

In its literary setting, Jesus had told this story to His disciples to prepare them for the days ahead, when their faith would be tested. Just as the master in this parable expected his servants to do more than passively preserve what had been entrusted to them, Jesus wanted His followers to know that God expects them to generate a return by using their talents toward productive ends until He would return.

What is the message for us?

  • If God's kingdom was central to Jesus' life and ministry, then it remains crucial to our Christian life today as well. It is our duty as Christians and disciples of Jesus to help expand God's kingdom by doing the same good works He did, John (14:2). According to the Bible, "good" means that which is by its nature pleasing (that is, pleasing to God), and that which is upright and honourable in His sight.
  • God works in different ways through each of us. He has given us unique talents, abilities, material goods, physical health, mental strength and spiritual gifts, such as prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, Romans (12:6-8) and the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, 1 Corinthians (12:4-11). Hence, it is required of us to be thankful for these gifts. We should not, even in worse circumstances, say that we have nothing to be thankful for.
  • Saint Paul writes, "It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful", 1 Corinthians (4:2). In other words, we should be faithful stewards or managers when it comes to the gifts God has given to us. They may be great or small in our eyes, but they matter to God. Each gift is precious, useful and free. It is not how many gifts or how much that we have been given, it is what we do with them. Let us not, therefore, neglect any of our gifts but work for their improvement. Putting these two ideas together - faithfulness and responsibility - Saint Timothy writes, "Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers", 1 Timothy (4:14-16).
  • Like the first two servants, we must be willing to take risks for the kingdom of God because very few things are ever accomplished unless we step out in faith and take certain risks. Taking risk means confronting our fears - fear of disappointment, fear of failure, fear of looking a like fool, fear of seeming ignorant etc. For instance, forgiving someone is a great spiritual gift. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to obey God and forgive. In fact, Jesus says that we need to forgive, over and over again, Matthew (18:21-35). Forgiveness involves a leap of faith, a willingness to risk being hurt again or being taken advantage of or being duped. But unless we take that risk, we can never truly experience the full blessedness of the Kingdom life, the Kingdom of heaven being in our midst.
  • Since we all have different gifts, as Saint Peter says, "each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms", 1 Peter (4:10). God has given us talents to benefit others, not just ourselves, and He has given other people talents that benefit us. Let us, therefore, make the best use of all the gifts and resources given by God to use in serving one another and to continue to build up God's kingdom, and someday, finally hear those beautiful words from our Master, Lord Jesus Christ - "Well done, you good and faithful servant."
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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