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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A 2020

1. One of the things many people miss

a. in this time of Pandemic and quarantine

i. is our Family mass.

2. Celebrated on the First Saturday of the month,

3. We started that tradition shortly after I became pastor,

a. to accommodate the many families with children,

b. both in our school and not,

i. who were looking for a family-friendly mass.

4. Many people loved the welcoming environment.

5. Many kids loved the pizza we served afterwards.

6. But many, many people

a. loved the homily we preached to the children.

7. Preaching to children can be fun;

a. but kids can be unpredictable;

b. they can say things that will throw a preacher completely off their game,

8. Like that one homily I started years ago,

a. in another church,

b. with a group of children,

c. where I began with the seemingly innocuous question, “WHO IS GOD?”

9. To which three of the children shouted out, “YOU!”

10. It brought the house down.

11. OF course, it was funny.

12. And of course, there are indeed preachers

a. who would like to THINK they are god (not me)

13. But it brought home something far more profound. And that is that everyone has one;

14. you know an image of God.

15. AS I have shared in another homily,

16. when I was in Roman Catholic seminary,

a. my Spiritual Director at the time asked me what I thought God looked like.

17. I’d never been asked that before – but the image came to me in a flash, so quickly that it startled me.

18. “God. . . well, God is a man with a great big mallet, hiding behind the doorway. When you walk in, he smashes you flat with the mallet.

19. Then he stands over you, smashed flat like in a cartoon, and says ‘I did that because I love you.’ ”

20. I know! My spiritual director reacted the same way.

a. But he knew that that image had a history – as all such images do.

b. made up of the experiences of my life

c. where in my family and in my education, especially in Roman Catholic Seminary,

i. I was constantly being told that

ii. I did not measure up,

iii. I was not good enough, holy enough, obedient enough,

iv. And would periodically be smashed flat for it.

v. and then told it was for my own good.

d. As a result, I lived my life in fear that another disappointment, roadblock or failure lay just around the corner.

21. what is your image of God?

a. Whatever it is it would be intensely personal

b. But because our image of God

c. Is shaped by experiences we have had throughout life.

d. And thus, that image reveals not only who we think God is,

e. But also, who we are.

22. But I don’t have to ask you what God looks like.

a. because Jesus already has. In this morning’s gospel

23. Did you hear the question? Maybe not, because just like the way I began this homily with a story, that is how Jesus always begins - with a story.

24. In it, he tells us of a master who, upon going on a journey, hands out his possessions, in the form of talents - basically cash - to his servants.

25. Much later, the master returns to see what the servants have done with what he gave them.

26. Now A talent was a large sum of money for a servant.

a. It would be like someone giving us thousands of dollars,

b. or a new sports car,

c. or fabulously expensive jewelry.

27. Now the first two servants risked losing the money by investing it.

28. But not the third servant. what did he do? What would any of us do?

a. We would not risk someone else’s money by investing it.

b. We would not risk a new sports car by driving it

c. We would not risk someone else’s jewelry by wearing it.

29. We would do exactly what he did;

a. we would carefully hoard it, guard it, and protect it.

b. Especially if we knew the master to be dangerous and unpredictable

c. and we were afraid of him.

30. And yet when the master returned

a. it was precisely those careless servants who risked the master’s money who were rewarded by the master!

b. and that careful steward who was punished!

31. A master who punishes the careful and rewards the careless?

32. What kind of God is that?

33. Jesus’ kind of God, evidently. Because when we look at the life of Jesus

34. we see that Jesus’ life is the ultimate example of the careless servant,

a. gambling everything he had been given by his father . . .why?

i. Because he was not afraid.

b. He was not afraid when he encountered rejection

c. He was not afraid when he encountered suspicion

d. Even though he was deeply troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane

i. He was not afraid when he was arrested.

e. He was not afraid when his last possessions were stripped from him

i. and he was hung on the cross between two thieves

f. He was not afraid when the last thing he had, his life was taken from him by death.

35. Would any of us react like that? OF course not.

a. Because unlike Jesus we would do anything we could

i. to protect our reputation our possessions, our lives.

b. And that is not because Jesus is God and we are not.

i. It is because Jesus knows what God truly looks like

ii. And in this parable he tries to get his disciples - and us- to see it to.

36. For the parable of the careful servant isn’t just about angry masters and fearful servants

37. IT isn’t about investing versus saving

38. Or punishment and reward.

39. it is about everything we have and we are

a. All of it already belongs to God; and God can’t lose it

i. all that can happen is that we choose not to use it.

b. And while that might seem to make sense to us it is really a tragedy.

i. Because people who don’t invest themselves in life,

ii. who don’t take risks

iii. who don’t use their talents because they are afraid that they will be smashed flat by a judgmental God

iv. don’t save anything; for all they have really isn’t theirs to begin with

1. but they do risk losing out on everything

2. for they risk not seeing that all that we have and are isn’t lost when we give,

3. it is multiplied, for then everyone has a share.

40. This might seem all rather abstract to us,

41. But it really isn’t - it is really rather basic.

a. Who here has not known someone

i. whose fear of being hurt keeps them from having healthy relationships?

ii. whose fear of being disappointed has kept them from forming close friendships

iii. whose fear of failure has kept them from trying out for a sports team, finishing school, or applying for a job?

iv. whose fear of being judged has kept them from coming and investing themselves in this place, and sharing with other as part of this community?

b. In all these cases and many more like them, this fear doesn’t protect us, it destroys us, because it keeps us growing and becoming the people God would have us be.

42. An image of God that is based in fear is hard to shake – in many ways we never do.

43. I know for me whenever something goes wrong, my knee Jerk reaction is to think that that guy with the mallet is at it again.

44. But over the years I have come to understand that that guy with the mallet – he’s not God

45. That guy is life, health, a friend or family member, or sometimes just my own poor judgment.

46. No God, is the one who comes after, who picks me up after I have been smashed flat, and gives me the strength to begin again.

47. That god doesn’t get heard of much in religion these days. And that is a shame,

48. because wouldn’t it be ironic if, after everything were said and done we discovered that what we needed in our fear filled, world is not more fearful careful people.

a. But more careless servants, willing to riskeverything in service of God and one another,

b. It makes you think. It should make us all act.

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