BY: Fr. Robert DeLeon Csc

Matthew 25:14-15, 19-21
“‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:20-21)

When our Holy Cross community gathered for prayer this past Labor Day, we gathered with some nostalgia as we considered that, within a day or two, school buses would be rolling through our neighborhood collecting young people to begin a new academic year. We were a bit nostalgic because all of us in younger days had been teachers, counselors and school administrators. Indeed, we had labored mightily on behalf of the young lives given to our care. But what now as, on Labor Day, we gathered in prayer, we in our 70s, 80s and 90s. What is our present labor to be, we asked.

In the gospel passage we hear this day, Jesus presents a parable that offers the beginning of an answer to our question. It’s a story about the use of gifts and aptitudes, about resourcefulness, about generosity. The parable ends with a dialogue between the master and his most industrious servant: “‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:20-21)

So, what then is our present labor to be? It’s to use our hearts, heads and hands to build the heavenly kingdom on this worn and weary earth. And every one of us, until our last breath, is to labor to that end. If we are breathing, our earthly work is not finished. Consider the true story of a man who, having little, made much of it: “A hardworking Bangladeshi dad named Idris hid his job as a trash collector from his four daughters so they wouldn’t be ashamed of him, and he spent everything he earned on their education. Then one day, he had no choice but to be upfront with them.

“He said, ‘I never told my children what my job was. I never wanted them to feel ashamed because of me. When my youngest daughter asked me what I did, I used to tell her hesitantly that I was a laborer.’ He went to great lengths to make sure they wouldn’t suspect what he did for a living. He even washed himself in public toilets before going home each day. ‘I wanted them to stand in front of people with dignity. I never wanted anyone to look down upon them like they did to me,’ Idris explained. For his daughters to complete their education, he worked tirelessly. ‘I never bought a new shirt, instead I used the money for buying books for them. Respect is all I wanted for them,’ he said.

“‘The day before my daughter’s college admission, I could not pay her admission fees. I was sitting beside the rubbish, trying hard to hide my tears. I had failed and felt heartbroken. I had no idea how to face my daughter who would ask me about the admission fees once I got back home. I was born poor. I believed nothing good can happen to a poor person. After work that day, all the trash collectors came and sat beside me and asked if I considered them my brothers. Before I could answer, they handed me their day’s income. When I tried to refuse, they insisted, ‘We will starve today if needed, but our daughter has to go to college.’ I couldn’t reply to them. That day I did not take a shower, I went back to my house as a trash collector.’

“That was the day that Idris finally revealed to his daughters that he was a trash collector. He also confessed that he couldn’t come up with enough money for his youngest daughter’s college admission fees, but his colleagues had sacrificed their salaries for her, and for him. “After his daughters learned of their selfless father shouldering such a great burden for them, the ‘three of them didn’t let me go to work anymore.’ Idris’s youngest daughter, who’s still studying, has a part-time job, while his three other daughters are working to pay their sister’s tuition.

“Idris is still working as a trash collector, but now his youngest daughter frequently takes him to work and brings food for all of Idris’s co- workers. They laugh and ask her why she feeds them so often. ‘My daughter told them, “All of you starved for me that day so I could become what I am today. Pray for me that I can feed all of you every day.” Idris goes on to say, ‘I no longer feel like a poor man. Whoever has such children, how can he be poor!’” ( mb.ntd.tv/ inspiring/parenting , July 31, 2017, paraphrased) God sent his beloved son to dwell with us and within us that our hearts might forever ache for heaven to come to earth. Jesus taught us how to build this new world, and then he left the project to our resourcefulness, to our generosity, to our hearts and hands. This is our present labor.

Let a poem by St. Teresa of Ávila inspire our efforts: “Christ has no body but yours, / No hands, no feet on earth but yours, / Yours are the eyes with which he looks with / Compassion on this world, / Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, / Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. / Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, / Yours are the eyes, you are his body.”

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