15th November 2020

posted 16 Nov 2020, 00:56 by Parish Office   [ updated 16 Nov 2020, 01:01 ]
Homily for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – World Day of the Poor (15/11/20)

A few months ago we were looking at how there are different layers of meaning within the Scriptures. Besides the purely literal meaning, there is also the eschatological meaning – in plain English, what this text has to say about Christ’s return in glory. We also noted how Our Lord’s parables are designed to refer to Him, which is why occasionally some of the details don’t always reflect life as we would expect it. So today, we have the man who went off abroad, and didn’t return for a long time. When he did return, then it was the time of reckoning for his servants. Well, surprise, surprise, as we get closer to the start of Advent, the readings turn towards the theme of Christ’s return in glory, and in this parable, Jesus is the Man who “goes off abroad” – not just to a distant country, but to heaven, and is then to return “a long time after”.

There’s also another detail and key to this parable, and the other parables Our Lord gives us. The master is always the honest one, who doesn’t try to deceive, whilst some of the other characters do. So when we come to the man
with the one talent, who says, “Sir, ... I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered” there are at least two things going on here. Firstly, he is trying to make up
excuses, and the master, Christ, has no time for them. Secondly, though, the man with the one talent is giving a distorted image of God – the inflexible headmaster, where you’re always in trouble no matter what you do – so why bother trying? You’re going to get a beating anyway. That’s not what God is like. Sometimes we need to purge ourselves of our own misconceptions of God and be reliably informed by what Christ has revealed.

Moving to the more literal understanding of the text, good financial management is also a lesson here. Remember that it is the love of money which is the root of all evil, not money itself – money can be used as a tool to
further the kingdom of God. It’s when money becomes the master that it shows itself to be a cruel tyrant. In Luke 16:11-12, Our Lord says: “If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you your very own?” 

It’s quite a startling message, when you take it seriously! Firstly, more obviously, our being given riches by Christ is a test, to see if we can be trusted with the proper riches of heaven. Secondly, the riches are not our own – they have been given to us by God. We don’t have absolute ownership over them. We are to use our riches to help people in need. That’s not an optional extra – it’s a demand of our faith. Do we trade our talents by investing them in the poor and those in need? Now, of course, charity begins at home. If, say, a father wastes all his money on gambling, which means that there is nothing left to spend on his family, then there is a serious problem. If a mother were to spend all her money buying excessive amounts of clothes for herself, and neglecting her children, there would be a problem as well. So charity begins at home. We have to look after those closest to us. I think that point is fairly obvious. But we also, as Christians, have to think of the wider Church family and the wider family of the world. We can’t expect to single-handedly solve all the world’s problems, or all the problems in the Church. But we can do something, and sometimes it might be that we don’t have the money, but we do have a bit of time that we can spend in helping those in need. That can be a different sort of investment for the sake of the kingdom of God, changing the world around us for the better.

The first two servants in the parable invested their master’s money and doubled it. If we look at the Scripture reference for the first reading, you’ll spot that it has been shortened. If you look at the rest of the chapter, it gives the example of the industrious woman, who organises her servants, buys a field, plants a vineyard, joins in with the work and works long hours to provide for the family. She also gives good advice and assists those who are poor and needy. That’s another example of investing the master’s money and making a good return, and being a good example and being held in high esteem by the neighbourhood. 

As we head towards Advent, our readings turn towards the return of Christ in glory. Will we be ready? How are we investing the money, the time and the gifts that God has given us? How are we caring for our families, the Church, the wider world, the poor and those in need? Money is to be a servant, not our master: our true master is Christ. Our money has been given to us by God, to further His kingdom and as a test to see if we can be trusted with real riches. May we pass the test with flying colours, and be a shining example of what is possible, in the Lord.