Pastoral Sharings: "33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for November 16, 2014

We are coming to the end of the Liturgical Year. Next 
Sunday is the last Sunday of the year and is the Feast of 
Christ the King. We then begin a new year with the First 
Sunday of Advent.

This time we have been accompanied by St Matthew through the various events in the life of Christ. We have reflected on his birth, his public ministry and the parables and miracles. In particular we have seen the events of his last days and of his resurrection mostly through the eyes of Matthew.

Each of the Evangelists has his own particular perspective or view point. Matthew was an Apostle, one of those chosen by Christ to be among his closest followers. We know that he was a Jew and that his occupation was that of a tax collector. We remember that Jesus saw him in the counting house and said “Follow me” and Matthew simply got up and literally followed him.

In his Gospel Matthew does not make a fuss about his call; for him it is a simple matter of fact. Jesus called and he followed; according to him there is nothing more to be said. This alone is something that has the ring of truth about it.

Matthew was a Jew and he is concerned to present his Gospel to the Jews. He pays a lot of attention to Jewish tradition and paints a picture of Jesus as being in complete continuity with them and shows that his life was a fulfilment rather than an abolition of the Law.

Obviously the Jewish members of Matthew’s community came into conflict with the Jews as a whole and so this is one of Matthew’s concerns. In his writing we can see how he sharply criticises the Scribes and Pharisees. Also it is interesting to note that there is no reference to the People of Israel being called Jews until after the Crucifixion as if the use of this name stresses their rejection of Jesus.

Taking a look at the Parable of the Talents we are given as our Gospel for today. We observe first that a talent was not a coin, it was a weight in silver of about 36 Kilos; so it was a very considerable treasure that this man was trusting to his servants. One talent was probably equivalent to a whole lifetime’s wages for such a servant. He had entrusted them with something precious beyond their wildest dreams.

The second point is that the Master took a very long time to come back. This is a tiny but important detail in today’s Gospel. It shows the Master’s love for his servants that he gave them more than ample time for the treasure of the talents to yield bounteous fruit.

What is the precious thing that God has entrusted to us? It is, of course, the Good News of Salvation.

The great treasure that we have been given is the gift of the Gospel; the realisation that Jesus is our Saviour and that through our faith in him we will find salvation. It is what we do with this gift that makes all the difference.

We are surely all at quite different stages in relation to this gift of faith.

Some of us may not even be sure whether we have it or not. This might be a particular problem for some of our young people, but not only them. There are many long-standing members of the congregation who suffer doubts and experience long periods of darkness and disbelief.

Others of us might find it a bit of a burden, knowing and believing in Jesus and his message but feeling quite inadequate to the task of transmitting the Gospel to others.

Then some parishioners might feel full of faith and have put a lot of effort into carrying out the precepts of the Gospel over many years and who yet feel that for one reason or another God has let them down badly. They certainly haven’t lost their faith but feel a bit depressed about it and don’t know where Christ is leading them.

Still others might be experiencing a new joy as they experience some wonderful grace or blessing from God. At various times in our life we might go through one or more of these reactions.

The parable tells us that faith is a real and wonderful gift from God. It is something that comes entirely unbidden; as in the parable the servants are given no clue in advance what the master is about to do.

Faith is also given to us according to our ability to deal with it; each in proportion to his ability, as it says in the parable.

But the most important aspect of the Parable is that the Master will eventually return. The parable is about Christ’s Second Coming and the judgement we will all face at the end of time. We know that we will be called to account for how we have handled this gift of faith that we have been so generously given.

This first thing to realise is that it is not a burden; it is a gift. The second thing to realise is that the man who is punished is condemned because he has buried his talent. He has refused to deal with it. He has simply ignored the gift and literally buried it.

So the message of hope is that whatever stage of life you are at, whether you are doubting, whether you are struggling to make sense of the Gospel message, whether you are teaching the love of Christ to your children, whether you are rejoicing in some new grace or blessing, whether you are going through the dark night of the soul, whether you are groping in darkness and searching for some chink of light; whatever it is that might be happening with your faith at least something is happening!

You are immersed in it, you struggle with it, you rejoice in it, you share it, you search for it, you deepen it, you love it and you even at times might hate it. But you are engaged with it!

Yes we will face judgement and we will have to give an account of ourselves. And it will surely be a long and convoluted story; however we will have a wonderfully sympathetic listener (one who knows the story all along because he was an essential part of it) and one whose judgement will be merciful and who wants above all other things our happiness.

Christ’s whole aim is to give us joy; not a superficial joy, but a deep and lasting and fulfilling joy based on a life of engagement with him.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 16, 2014

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—November 16, 2014
Jesus tells a parable about what His followers should be doing while they await His return. Can we find ourselves in it?

Gospel (Read Mt 25:14-30)

From its context in St. Matthew’s Gospel, we know that today’s parable touches again on being prepared for the arrival of someone who has been gone a long time. In the verses prior to our reading (Mt. 25:1-13) is a parable about the wise and foolish virgins who had to endure a “long delay” before the arrival of the bridegroom at a wedding. In today’s reading, we learn of a master who went on a journey and entrusted his possessions to three servants. The “talents” represent sums of money, and he distributed them unevenly to the servants, “each according to his ability.”

33rd Sunday: Developing His Talents
Every few years someone makes a dire prediction the world is coming to an end on a specific date.  Each prediction is vehement, expressed with certainty,  and wrong. 

Last January a teen confronted me with, “Christ is supposed to come again this year.  What do you think about that?” I responded, “I think I’d better look busy.”  Seriously, I have never been concerned with any end of the year predictions.  Well, that is not completely true.  I did think that the world might come to an end when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  won the Superbowl in 2003. But that was a matter of confusing sports ecstasy with divine rapture.  Jesus makes it quite clear in Matthew 24:36: “No one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father.” The Father, the Creator, is the only one who knows when his creation will come to a conclusion.

The Heavenly Elements of the Liturgy
In November, Catholics are encouraged to meditate on the “Last Things.” As you know, I write quite often on Hell. But I have written on Heaven, too. In this post I propose simply to set forth how much of our liturgy is a kind of dress rehearsal for Heaven.

Catholics and the Bible
I was watching the American Bible Challenge on TV one evening, starring Jeff Foxworthy. I didn’t do too well on the questions that they were asking the contestants. The show is very entertaining, but also very protestant. The questions tend to be surface-level at best, which are not very challenging or insightful. Christians need to dig deeper under the surface of Scripture in order to benefit.

The Four Senses
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are four “senses” of Scripture. These can be located in paragraphs 115-118 of the Catechism:

Everything Can Turn Into Prayer
To remain in a state of prayer, it is not necessary to be always actively praying.

Every action done for God rises to His throne as an act of homage. It constitutes a lifting up of our whole being to His supreme majesty, a recognition — which, although not always explicit, is nonetheless real — of His sovereign due, and is the filial act of the creature offering everything to his Creator and his Father.

In practice, what is required of one who wishes to pray always?

The Grace of Final Perseverance
In this month of November, when our thoughts naturally turn towards the souls in Purgatory and the fragility of life, it is fitting that we should take some time here to consider a great source of consolation when our own time here draws to a close: the grace of final perseverance.

Front Row With Francis: On the Role of the Bishop
Pope Francis continued his teaching on the nature of Church with this week’s General Audience. There were a few quotes and themes at the heart of this week’s message.

Pope Francis stated early in the audience, “Now, in the power and grace of His Spirit, Christ does not fail to give rise to ministries, in order to build Christian communities as His Body.Distinguished among these ministries is the episcopal. In the Bishop, helped by the Presbyters and Deacons, is Christ Himself who renders Himself present and who continues to take care of His Church, ensuring her protection and guidance.”

Death Perception
Depth perception can be defined as the ability to perceive things and their spatial relationship in three dimensions. Death perception, on the other hand, can be defined as the ability to perceive things and their spiritual relationship in three dimensions. What are those three dimensions? Heaven, hell, and purgatory. Someone who has death perception sees all the events of this life in terms of the next.

Realizing Our True Identity
COMMENTARY: The hardest thing for us to believe may be this: that God is good, even when things are not as they should be.

Coming to his senses … he got up and went back to his father (Luke 15:17, 20).

The Prodigal Son is the most beloved of all Jesus’ parables, perhaps because it is the story, or at least the hoped-for story, of many human hearts. There is great drama in this story: a father’s generosity, a son’s willfulness, division within the family, a waste of gifts, self-inflicted suffering, humility, a moment of grace and truth, a change of heart, contrition, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Are Catholics Cannibals?
Miriam-Webster defines cannibalism as:

1. The usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being.
2. The eating of the flesh of an animal by another animal of the same kind.

Cannibalism implies here the actual chewing, swallowing, and metabolizing of flesh and blood either after or during the killing of a human being; at least, if we stick to definition #1.

Catholics do not do any of this in the Eucharist. Though Christ is substantially present—body, blood, soul and divinity—in the Eucharist, the accidents of bread and wine remain. Here it is important to define terms.

Know, Trust and Don’t be Afraid
From what I gather, I’m doing this retreat so wrong that it hardly qualifies as a retreat. I think I’m supposed to go sit in a room and keep silence, waiting for God to speak to me. But, to be honest, if I went off in a room and kept silence for days at a time, I would probably sleep for a couple of days and then start trying to dig a tunnel through the floor.

It’s just not me.

Is Your Heart Troubled?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:1-3).

On the occasion of the Last Supper, Jesus spoke these words to His Apostles—and to each of us. Jesus tells us that we should trust Him, have faith in Him, to place all our cares and anxieties on Him… “Do not let your hearts be troubled”—everything is going to be okay. He offers us a sanctuary in a world filled with danger.

A Manifesto for Saints-To-Be
If everybody was satisfied with himself
there would be no heroes.
~ Mark Twain

For a time, my kids went to a Montessori school, and the curriculum included weekly trips to a working farm. They’d leave after lunch with their classmates, go help out with chores, and bring home vivid stories involving horses and chickens and mud – all joy and invaluable experience for my otherwise urban-bound children.

Making a Saint: The Canonization Process
Saint, Blessed, Venerable, Servant of God. It can all get a little confusing if one doesn’t know what these titles mean or how they are applied. Hopefully, by looking at the typical process a person goes through in order to be named a Saint, some of this confusion can be taken away.

Before jumping in, however, it is important to note two things:

Faith Brings Comfort, But Not at First – A Reflection on a Teaching by Peter Kreeft
For ongoing education and spiritual growth, I am always reading. One of the books I am currently reading is Peter Kreeft’s Angels and Demons. As most of you know, I have often expressed concern that angels have been sentimentalized and even trivialized. Most people’s conception of angels is far from what the Bible describes! If you have read Peter Kreeft, you know that very few people can express things as well as he does. Thus I would like to give you a quote from his book wherein he masterfully and succinctly describes the tendency to eviscerate Holy Fear from “modern religion.” I will comment a little bit at the end.

Catholic Manly Reads – He Leadeth Me
When we think of the great Jesuit missionaries, we think of men such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Isaac Jogues and St. Paul Miki, who gave their lives toiling in foreign lands to preach the Gospel. Yet their stories seem to be from the distant past; where are the great missionaries today? He Leadeth Me, is the story of Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, an American priest who served as a missionary in Communist Russia. He wrote the book because he felt that he “had learned much during those years of hardship and suffering that could be of help to others in their lives.”

What are the Obstacles Between Catholic Men and Christ?
As long as we live in the world our life is a constant struggle between love for Christ or giving into lukewarmness, to our passions, or to comfort-seeking, which destroys love. Faithfulness to Christ is forged each day by struggling against what separates us from him, and by an effort to make progress in virtue. Then they will be faithful both when times are good and when they are difficult, when it seems few remain by Our Lord’s side.—Francis Fernandez

I recall a conversation with a Catholic friend over lunch some time ago about the obstacles between men and Christ. After the usual story swapping and a discussion about bad cultural influences, my friend left the table saying, “I need to get back to the office. Next time we get together we should brainstorm a handy checklist for Catholic men so we won’t forget what we are supposed to be doing!” The conversation stuck with me and the checklist idea eventually became this post.

Does “Gospel” Simply Mean “Good News”? Or Have We Unintentionally Defined Ourselves into a Corner?
There are times in the Church when we want to define something rather easily and simply so as to make it memorable and easy to grasp. But in so doing, we run the risk of doing harm to its deeper, richer, and more accurate meaning.

I wonder if we have not done this with the word “gospel.”

Even in Darkness, Life Has Purpose
“Every night when I go to bed I ask God to not wake me up anymore,” she confided.

I studied her tired face for a moment and then asked, “What makes you feel that way?”

Are These the “Outer Bands” of a Coming Judgment?
Are we in the “Last Days”? Generally it would seem not, though there are sobering indicators that the outer bands of a coming storm are overhead.

The sum total teaching of eschatology would seem to indicate that a number of things must first happen before the end: a comprehensive completion of the going out of the Gospel to all the nations, widespread acceptance by Israel that Christ is in fact the Messiah, the emergence of an antichrist figure who will deceive the nations, a final, intensive and unprecedented unleashing of evil, etc.

Faith, Reason and the Sciences
While many people think of Galileo being unfairly persecuted by the Church, they tend to forget the peculiar circumstances of these events and the fact that he remained Catholic and that his daughter became a nun.

Pop-culture atheists such as Richard Dawkins revel in pointing out the Church’s supposed hatred of science, scientists and free thought, but they come up short when asked for more examples.

Nuncio to U.S. Bishops: American Youth Are ‘Crying Out’
BALTIMORE — Young people are “crying out” for a challenge, and the Church must answer through saintly witness, the apostolic nuncio to the United States insisted to the nation’s bishops on Monday.

“We should ask ourselves,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said, “why young people, submerged into the culture of these times, so often called the ‘culture of death,’ are setting among the most excessive and challenging experiences which some of them imagine themselves to find, even as far as the aberrations of ISIS.”

The Mangling of Marriage in America
Consider for a moment how the popular understanding of marriage has been revolutionized since the 1960s. The best way to do this is to imagine the choices a young Catholic man had when pondering his future fifty years ago.

Let’s say Jimmy was brought up in an Italian American community in Philadelphia in the early sixties, and let’s imagine that he is thinking about becoming a priest. One of the things he has to weigh up is celibacy, so he looks around at the men he knows: husbands and priests.

How Welcoming Is the Church?
For years “welcoming” has been a buzz word among Church critics who seem to use it as a measure of how well the Church is reaching out to those reluctant to darken her doors. Most recently, the media enthusiastically lauded what it perceived as a new welcome toward certain preferred groups in October’s Extraordinary Synod on the family.

What does “welcoming” mean? And how welcoming is the Catholic Church? According to a recent study by Benedictine University, a large percentage of Catholics deem a welcoming community an essential criterion of a good church experience. Some, if they do not find the welcome they desire, go elsewhere.

Andy Warhol – a Celibate Catholic?
American pop artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is perhaps best known for his flamboyant silkscreens of Marilyn Monroe and his depiction of American commercialism, as reflected in his iconic Campbell’s Soup can. He began his career as a commercial illustrator of women’s footwear; but his talent could not be contained: he achieved success in a wide range of artistic media including sketching, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, and film. He managed and produced the rock band the Velvet Underground, which helped to establish punk rock as an art form. He founded Interview Magazine, wrote numerous books, and is credited with coining the often-used phrase “15 minutes of fame.”

Council of Jerusalem
A question arose yesterday in a thread, posed by Michael:

I have a real question. Homosexuality, as a sin an abomination, is
mentioned in Leviticus. That book, however, also says:
– disrespect of parents should be punishable by death
– sleeping with a woman during her period should make both parties
– don’t eat pork
– shellfish are an abomination

So my question is, why are some of the verses ignored and others so important?

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