11.22.17 Wed. wk. 33 – O.T. (I)
1st Rdg – 2nd Maccabees 7: 1, 20 – 31
Gospel Luke: 19: 11 – 28
While people were listening to †Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins* and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’ He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’ And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’ Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’ He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’ And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’ I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.’”
After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy The Gift of the Word of God
How do we understand this parable? It is very similar to the one we had just recently heard from the Gospel of Matthew, about the talents. But today, in the Gospel of Luke, the parable was about “gold coins”. The gold coins refer to special gifts; maybe intellectual gifts, maybe a physical gift, or a musical gift; like those who look to St. Cecilia and pray for her intercession. Or, maybe you have financial gifts, the ability to be very prosperous. All of these are to be used for God’s glory. This is a popular and accurate interpretation of this particular passage. We use our gifts for the glory and honor of God.
But there is another interpretation of the “gold coins”. What other capital has God entrusted to us? First and foremost, He has entrusted to us: His Word. The “Word of God” was the first gift given to humanity. Recall this in the very first verse, of the very first chapter of John’s Gospel.
“In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)
His Word has been instilled within us through the Holy Spirit, to be used for His glory and honor. The ‘Word of God’ will open our lives up to vast horizons, if we allow it. It has the power to transform us, it has the power to bring us eternal salvation, and it has the power to bring others to the Lord. Just as those 10 coins earned ten more, when we live the ‘Word of God’ do we bring others to the Lord? Are we bringing others to the Lord to experience His joy and love, His mercy and His kindness?
What has the ‘Word of God’ given to us? The Commandments, as we read in the book of Exodus: to respect God and others, to have no strange gods before us (as the brothers in the Book of Maccabees professed with their lives). They would not bow down and worship the King or the idols he had built. And at the same time they strengthened others by their fidelity to God.
In the Gospel of Matthew, †Jesus gave us ‘The Beatitudes,’ (Matt.5) which are the attitudes of Holiness; to surrender ourselves to God and others. We have beautiful parables in the ‘Word of God’ – like John 15 – the parable of “The Vine and The Branches,” (John 15) and how we remain in Christ; connected to Christ. We have the sacrificial love as †Jesus witnessed in the Passion, when He said: “There is no greater love than this, to lay down your life for another.” In the prophecy of Hosea – He has given us instructions to live justly, humbly and mercifully. In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians – chapter 13 – that beautiful soliloquy of love. We are taught that: “Love is patient and kind; it is not rude and selfish.” We are given lessons on forgiveness in parables like – ‘The Prodigal Son’ (Luke 15:11-32) – that speaks to us of God’s forgiveness. And in the Song of Songs – spouses are taught how to give themselves completely in love to one another. This is the richness of the ‘Word of God’ – Golden Coins that we have all been given.
And the Gospel asks us: What am I doing with the gifts I have been given? Is the ‘Word of God’ planted within me and is it growing? ‘The ‘Word’ is given to us in varying degrees of understanding. We can’t all be a brilliant Scripture scholar, but the ‘Word of God’ is given for a reason. Some have the intellect to study and share the Word, to those of us who sit in Parish Bible Studies and try to do the best we can in understanding God’s Word and what it means for us when we share our faith. So it is given in varying degrees, but we are all called to live the ‘Word of God,’ to read and process the ‘Word of God’. And some have more capacity to do this than others, but what is essential is that we express the ‘Word of God’ to the maximum (not just living a minimal Christian life) but to truly live the ‘Word’ with all that we are.
Am I living God’s Word with all that I am? Or am I like many people who choose a Catalog-Christianity. They look through the Scriptures and say: ‘I like this one, and I like this one. Oh, I don’t like that one about suffering!’ Can we pick and choose? Some do, but †Jesus is clear in the Gospel: “The gift given, must grow.” Double the investment or return it with a little bit of interest, but I must at least try. If we don’t try or if we return the gift unused, †Jesus was very clear: “From the one who has not, even what he has, will be taken away.” Trust me, I don’t want that happening to me. The gift of living His teaching, ‘His word’, is to be integral in our lives. Now others will try to prevent us from using this gift, coercing us to choose worldly ways instead, not the way of ‘God’s Word’.
That’s what the family of St. Cecilia tried to do, because their stature in Roman Society in the third century was at stake. They had made this promise with another family and here was their daughter saying: “No, I will not marry.” And so they became that force of evil trying to make her do something she did not want to do. (These forces could be in our own family or society in general. These evil forces are all trying to turn us away from living God’s Word.) These are the enemies of the noblemen that we heard read in the Gospel today; they entice us not to respond radically to the ‘Word of God.’
And the secular culture tries to use psychological tactics on us; to frighten us, as in the first reading. The mother’s relationship with the Lord and her son was very, very strong, but as each one of her sons were killed, one after another, the king was hoping that would eventually convince her to implore her youngest son to give in to his demands. All the mother did was to strengthen each of her sons to heroic fidelity to God. Imagine a mother having to watch her seven sons die and not try to dissuade them. This is a strong woman. Do we strengthen others to heroism by how we live “God’s Word’? Are we willing to risk it all or will we hide it?
The heart of †Jesus bled for us on the cross and our imitation of Christ demands the same. What is at stake? What is at stake is our eternal relationship with the Lord. God loves us, He wants us to be one with Him, but we must take the gift of ‘His Word’ seriously because our faith is under attack by the demonic forces. Make no mistake about that! These forces can only be defeated by faith, especially by holy families of faith, like that Maccabean family. Let us risk living the ‘Word of God’ and not bury that ‘Word’ in selfishness or fear.
Spend your life for †Jesus and you will reap a rich return.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.