Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30

My homily and farewell message at the 8:30 and 11:00 Masses at Our Lady of Fatima

Are we willing to take a risk for the Kingdom of God? Are we willing to move outside of our comfort zone so that we can serve God by serving our neighbors?

Jesus’ parable about the talents is a lesson about the value of the gifts God has given each of us to accomplish his work in the world. In the parable the master gives each of his three servants a very large sum of money before leaving on a journey. A talent was equal to about 20 year’s wages, and the master expected his servants to invest it wisely. Likewise, the gifts God has given each of us have the same inordinate value.

Like the master in the parable, God wants us to invest and take risks with our valuable talents, sharing them with others. He wants us to know that the more we give, the more we faithfully take risks for his sake, the more we will be given. If we generously give our gifts away in the service of others, these gifts will increase. The more we give, the more we will receive. This is the PARADOX of our faith.

Our Father in heaven is not interested in whether or not we are successful in everything we attempt to do for him. Our successes and failures are not what’s important to him. What he expects is for us to make the EFFORT to put our our talents to work for him.

The third servant in today’s gospel failed his master because he allowed his fear of making a bad investment decision to paralyze him. As a result of this fear, he made no effort to invest the talent he had been given. He didn’t even put the money in the bank to earn interest, certainly a safe bet! His failure was doing NOTHING with the talent he had been given.

We are challenged by today’s parable to honestly examine how we are using the gifts we have been given by God. In fact, we may even be unaware of a gift we have until we respond to an urging to step out in faith and try something new. I’d like to share a little story about how I was called out of my comfort zone by my wife nearly 5 years ago.

Many of you are familiar with the ministry Christine and I lead to our homeless neighbors in Knoxville. We call it the Bridge Ministry and we meet with other volunteers once a month to bring food and companionship to about 200 people who are homeless.

It all began on Christmas in 2015 when Christine insisted that we spend Christmas Day with the homeless who occupy the space underneath the I-40 overpass off North Broadway in Downtown Knoxville. This is something she had wanted to do for several years and I always found an excuse to avoid doing it.

But this time it was different. She insisted, and I really had no option but to go along with her. Through Christine, God was pushing me out of my comfort zone. He was working through her to reveal to me a hidden gift he had given me … the gift of compassion for the poor and needy.

I never dreamed that God’s urging through my insistent and loving wife would result in the creation of a diocesan ministry that is now nearly five years old and thriving. I never would have dreamed that this simple act of stepping out of my comfort zone on a Christmas day five years ago would have had the impact it has had on both the volunteers who serve with us, as well as those whom we serve. As a result of listening to my wife that day, I’ve come to realize more fully the truth found in today’s first reading,

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

Christine is my worthy and valuable wife. Her faithfulness to God’s call to serve the poor, and my reluctant agreement to follow her into these uncharted waters, awakened talents and a heart for service that were asleep within me.

So often our spouses, family members and close friends see the gifts we have much more clearly than we see them ourselves. We must learn to listen to the people God puts in our lives, even when it means denying ourselves the comforts and familiarity of our established routines.

So I ask you, what are YOUR gifts, given to you to serve your brothers and sisters in need? We have so many wonderful ministries here at Our Lady of Fatima that there is surely one for you. Perhaps your spouse or your children have been telling you that you should get involved in a ministry where you can share your talents? Listen to them! Take a chance! Be a risk taker, don’t be like the useless servant in today’s gospel who buries his talent!

Regardless of what they are, putting your gifts to work for God and his people will require you to break out of your routine and be willing to take risks for the Kingdom. This is what we are ALL called to do as Christians, and I assure you it is worth the effort!

I have one more thing to share with you today.

I came to Our Lady of Fatima two years ago from Holy Ghost parish in Knoxville, where I was assigned for the first two years following my ordination. I was so excited to come to this welcoming community, where you have made Christine and I feel so at home. It seems like just yesterday that I assisted at my first Mass in this lovely church with all of you faithful people.

In my time here I have assisted at hundreds of daily Masses, working side-by-side with my good friend Deacon Bill, and I’ve enjoyed my relationships with some amazing priests. I’m grateful that my pastors have allowed me to preach at Mass regularly, which is such a privilege for a deacon.

I’ve baptized several children (my favorite thing to do as a deacon), prepared couples for marriage, blessed pets, participated in parish council, stewardship committee, and Knights of Columbus meetings, assisted at weddings and funerals, and made many new friends. I have fond memories of our parish picnic last year, our men’s social group, and all the fun we’ve had together as a Christian community.

Recently I began to discern that God might be calling me back to Holy Ghost, as they have needs that match very well to my talents. I spoke with Fr. Pete and Fr. McNeeley about these thoughts, discussed it with my Spiritual Director, and prayed that I would know if it was truly God’s will that I return there. Everything seemed to indicate that it was indeed His will and just this past week it was confirmed when our Bishop approved the move I requested.

The decision was very difficult for me, as I love this parish and all of you. But one must be faithful to God’s call and be willing to step out of one’s comfort zone when that call comes. Each one of you has been given unique gifts and I pray that you too will listen to God as he calls you to share them with others in whatever way you may be asked or inspired.

This weekend will be my last weekend assisting at Mass here at Our Lady of Fatima. Next weekend Deacon Bill and I will be on retreat with the deacons of the diocese and my new assignment at Holy Ghost begins the following week, the First Sunday of Advent.

I’ll be keeping my usual daily Mass schedule this coming week and next, so I will continue to see some of you there before my departure.

Christine and I will miss all of you and we’ll always cherish the time we’ve had together.

So now I say goodbye, with the hope that our paths will cross again. I love you all and thank you for these past two years from the bottom of my heart.

God bless you.