HOMILY FOR THE 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A (10) HOMILY THEME: TAKE THE GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN AND USE THEM, MAKE THEM GROW


HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.

HOMILY THEME: TAKE THE GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN AND USE THEM, MAKE THEM GROW

BY: Fr. Brian Wideman

HOMILY:
It was the wedding day—again. The bride walked shyly, but steadily and slowly up the aisle; one small step in front of the other. She was dressed in her favorite white gown, flowing and graceful. Atop her head was a small tiara, with a single dazzling pearl set in it. Her face was aglow, and the music was just phenomenal.

There at the altar stood her groom, waiting for her to come to him. And they embraced and kissed. They spoke simple, loving words of commitment to each other. And they walked away from that wedding day, not as two people, but as one. It was a lovely scene, a perfect day. Of course, it didn’t really happen that way at all….

Actually, she was just another person in line. She shuffled her feet like everybody else, and when she got up to the altar, the priest held up the host and said, “The Body of Christ.” And she said, “Amen.” And, like everybody else, she just went back to her pew and sat down. She was just going to communion. Or, was she…?

Last weekend we talked about how rituals are natural, human things. We talked about the handshake and flirting. We talked a little about our cemetery services and how people act and talk in a particular way in a cemetery, and how it “just happens” that way. We mentioned rites of passage: graduation, baby showers, the rituals we natural do when someone dies.

Rituals are very human things. But then God takes those human rituals, and he makes them channels of his grace. But, you know, it takes imagination to believe all that. From the outside, most everything we do here at Mass is pretty routine, it’s expected. We sit, we stand, we kneel when we’re supposed. If I say, “The Lord be with you,” you say, “And with your spirit.” And if we offer our prayers “Through Christ our Lord,” an “Amen” just pops out of our mouth—whether or not it’s supposed to happen.

From the outside, our rituals—even though they’re rooted in our human nature—can appear to be rather mechanical, unthinking, dry, routine. And they certainly can be…if we stop believing there’s more to it. Imagination is essential. The ability to see or envision something beyond what’s here is essential. It’s what turns the routine of going to communion into a weekly event!: into the celebration of a wedding, where bride and groom become one in the intimacy of communion.

But imagination isn’t about making things up. It isn’t about living in a “fake” world, or stepping out of reality. Imagination is about living in “the world of possibilities.” And that world is based on what we already know. But it isn’t only about what we already know; it takes what we know (and what we think we know) as a jumping off point into something else. Imagination asks the questions: “What if?” and “What else?” and “What about?”

Psychologists think that our imagination begins to develop when we’re about three years old. That’s when we have the capacity to take what we know and add new meanings to it; to take something concrete and attach an image to it in our mind. And that’s probably why three-year olds are known for asking question after question after question. All their questions are about feeding the imagination: “What if?” “What else?” “What about?” “How’s this work?” “What’s that?” Three-year olds take the world as they know, and they run with it!

Now, today we hear the Parable of the Talents. And we’ve heard it a hundred times before. We know what it means. It means: Take the gifts God has given and use them, make them grow. We know that. We’ve heard it before. But it takes imagination to hear the parable with fresh ears…every time we hear it. It takes imagination to realize that…hey, this parable might be about…imagination.

The first two servants took their talents and, right away, asked: “I wonder what I can do with this? What if I did this? Or how about if I did that?” Right off the bat, they were using their imagination. When they looked at their talents, they didn’t just see money—they saw possibilities.

But that third servant, not so much. He didn’t have any imagination, not even enough to put the money in the bank. He knew too much to really think outside the box. Remember what he said: “Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter.” That little servant was too smart for his own good. He looked at his talent, and he saw…nothing, really. He had no imagination, and so he couldn’t enjoy the things of God.

So we might think we know what this Parable of the Talents means. After all, we heard it a hundred times before. But…it could mean other things, too. Jesus might be saying to us: “Use your imagination. Take what I’ve given you and see what you can do with it; live in the world of possibilities. Don’t get trapped by what you think you know; use your imagination.”

And maybe that’s why Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” It isn’t because children are sinless; maybe it’s because they have an imagination. And if we’re going to be in touch with God, if we’re going to live a deeper, truer reality, we have to use our imagination. We have to ask those questions: “What if?” “What else?” “What about?” “How’s this work?” “What’s that?”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes what we do here at Mass as being like children’s play. The rituals, the buildings, the artwork, the music, the garments we wear…all of it is like a bunch of children playing; using our imaginations, getting in touch with the deeper reality we call the “kingdom of God.”

Imagine—picture in your mind—a triumphal arch; something from ancient times, a triple arch where the victor, having come back from the battle, enters through the center arch to meet the people. It’s a glorious scene. Well, we have that right here. Each of our churches has three arches up front, and who comes through the center arch? Christ the Lord, the Victor over sin and death. He comes to meet us, and we come to meet him. It’s a triumphal scene, right here at the Mass.

Imagine—picture in your mind—the heavenly realm where God the Father dwells, and—even as much as God dwells within us here on earth—the heavenly realm is still not quite where we are. There’s a thin veil that separates us from where the angels and saints dwell, but the veil is there. And that veil is here. The veil is the difference, the separation, between the sanctuary and the nave, the body of the church. When churches used to have communion rails, it was easier to see the veil; it was easier to imagine, to envision, the deeper reality that, yes, we’re still not in heaven yet. But that’s where we’re going. We don’t just sit facing anywhere in church, we gather with our eyes focused on…heaven. Of course, it takes imagination to see that; it takes a little bit of child’s play to picture that.

Imagine—picture in your mind—this difference between heaven and earth. There’s an opening between the two, a beautiful doorway, a gateway we call Jesus. Jesus stands in the midst of this wall, a wall made up of all the angels and saints who gaze on the beauty of God on the other side of the wall. Jesus stands there in the doorway. Sometimes he’s facing toward God the Father, praying to him for us. He is on our side, our friend, the one who gives voice to what’s in our hearts. But then sometimes he’s facing us, speaking to us the words of God the Father.

Jesus, a revolving door between us and God the Father, a swinging gateway between earth and the heavenly realm. Well, we have that here, too.

That’s what the priest does; that’s who the priest is. Sometimes the priest speaks to the people on behalf of God. And sometimes the priest speaks to God on behalf of the people. The priest is like Christ, the revolving door. It’s why, during our prayers at Mass, I’m not looking at you. I’m standing with you, looking together with you toward God. Our entire Eucharistic Prayer—even the part where it says, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Take this and eat of it’—our entire Eucharistic Prayer is a prayer to God the Father. And when I’m speaking to you on behalf of God, obviously I look at you. Christ, the revolving gateway, is here at Mass in the person of the priest. In the old days (before the 1970s), the priest literally turned back and forth— sometimes facing God (the altar) along with the people, sometimes facing the people extending God’s blessings and words to them.

It’s children’s play, what we do here. And children’s play is serious business. You know, it doesn’t take much to make a fort in the dining room. You take the chairs and make a wall around the table—make sure there’s room for a doorway—and then you put a few sheets or blankets over the whole thing. And, voila!, you have a fort—an honest to goodness fort, and it’s real. It’s serious business to guard that fort, because…it’s a fort.

On one level, we know it’s just a dining room table with a blanket over it. But on a deeper level, we know it’s much more; it’s a fort. On one level, we know what we have here at Mass is a bunch of routine things we do. We sit, we stand, we kneel. We say prayers we’ve said a thousand times before: “Our Father, who art in heaven…Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my room…The Mass is ended, Thanks be to God.” We eat little wafers and take a sip from the cup. It’s all very routine. On one level we know what we’re doing here.

We just don’t want to be like that servant who took his talent, and thought he knew so much, and had so little imagination that he didn’t do anything with gift, other than bury it in the ground. That’s when ritual becomes dead; when we have no imagination at all; when we’re unable to see and to imagine as children do.

On one level, we know what we’re doing here at Mass. But on a deeper level, it’s much more; it’s the heavenly wedding feast, a celebration, a cosmic event between Jesus Christ the Lord, King of the Universe and his faithful people, who go through thick and thin to remain valiantly and courageously dedicated to him. It’s much more than a routine, this is serious business; this is children’s play.

God has given a tremendous gift—the gift of the Mass, with all its routines, its rituals. And he says, “Here, see what you can make of it. Now, don’t change it into something that’s more familiar; it’s familiar, it’s natural and human enough. Take it as it is, and consider the possibilities.” The natural, human rituals of the Mass are a jumping off point to another realm, another world. But it takes imagination and a little faith to enter that world.

And if you haven’t used your imagination in a while, now’s as good a time as any. In a few minutes we’ll be celebrating the Eucharist, asking Almighty God to send down his Holy Spirit to transform some little wafers and some wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who walked on earth 2,000 years ago. We’ve seen it happen a thousand times before. But each time it’s a chance for our imagination to kick in. It was the wedding day—again. The bride walked shyly, but steadily and slowly up the aisle; one small step in front of the other. She was dressed in her favorite white gown, flowing and graceful. Atop her head was a small tiara, with a single dazzling pearl set in it. Her face was aglow, and the music was just phenomenal.

There at the altar stood her groom, waiting for her to come to him. And they embraced and kissed. They spoke simple, loving words of commitment to each other. And they walked away from that wedding day, not as two people, but as one. It was a lovely scene, a perfect day. Of course, it didn’t really happen that way at all….

Actually, she was just another person in line. She shuffled her feet like everybody else, and when she got up to the altar, the priest held up the host and said, “The Body of Christ.” And she said, “Amen.” And, like everybody else, she just went back to her pew and sat down. She was just going to communion. Or, was she…?

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