Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Lost Opportunities!
Everyone wants to live life to the full! Why, then, are so many disappointed? Could it be because we set ourselves impossible goals? Or is it because we neglect opportunities offered to us? Today's readings touch on this matter of "win/ lose" situations.

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20,30-31: tells of the character who courted and won a treasure for a wife, no doubt against stiff competition! Then, as now, "faint heart never won fair lady"!

Thessalonians  5: 1-6: Paul warns that time is slipping by while they argue over when Christ will come the second time.

Gospel Matt. 25: 14-30: Jesus is quite blunt in his advice - use your talents or else!!!!

Introduction: I think we all recognise that "hindsight is a wonderful gift"! "If only I knew then what I know now" - how different life would be. When "Xerox" first announced its marvellous new technique for copying documents, instead of asking "what's wrong with carbon paper?" I would have bought into the company! Or IBM! or Microsoft! But that's life for most of us. "We are constantly bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted"! And if we ask why is this, it would seem that it is either because we have become disillusioned about our ability to pick winners -"once bit, twice shy"; or, we simply hold off, waiting for a favourable time to make a move. Either way, we neglect to live in the here and now.

Point 1: Inside each of us there exist two different characters - the would-be gambler and the bet-hedger; and most of us live caught between these two characters. We take very few chances and often miscalculate when we do; but, if we are to avoid total stagnation, we must learn to take some risks. The authentically human life is one that maintains a balance between the gambler and the bet-hedger.
This is the challenge that Jesus is laying down in today's gospel reading. The religious leaders of the time, the Scribes and the Pharisees, had become obsessively cautious. Any change, any development, any alteration, anything new was anathema. Their approach had induced a religious paralysis which Christ was determined to challenge. For Christ, there is no place for the closed mind in religious thinking. His statement is that to each has been given different abilities which will contribute to the growth of the Kingdom - to one is given five, another two, and another one. Although people are not equal in talent, it is expected that they will be equal in effort - five makes five; two makes two. It is expected that each will work to the best of one's ability. But the person who does not even make an effort is in serious trouble. Christ makes no bones about it - "Use it or lose it"!

Point 2: Why is it that a person holds back from having a punt in the Heavenly Stakes? For some it is the "if only" syndrome "if only I had known...."; "if only I had listened"; "If only I had studied harder...". For others, it is the "but" word - "I hear what you are saying, but...."; I could have done that, but....". Others hold back for fear of being criticised, usually by those who are doing nothing! All such excuses stifle the present moment, and the possibilities that are at hand are lost. Omar Ibn Al-Halif, ancient Persian sage, commented that "four things come not back - the spoken word; the sped arrow; time past; the neglected opportunity". Fortunately, with Christ, there are second chances.

Conclusion: The big question is - in what areas of life are we expected to show this constant growth? Essentially it is in our religious development where it is expected that our Faith in and acceptance of Christ, will continue to grow. Consequently, as we grow stronger in our Faith, our sense of Hope in the promises given by Christ becomes more real; as these two basic virtues strengthen and grow, the virtue of Love grows commensurately until Love motivates us rather than Fear. Such an attitude will, of necessity, have impact on our every day lives and relationships. It is at this point that we have a better understanding of the opportunities that come our way to use our talents..
We have been given a life time of opportunity; for some this time is longer than for others. But, short or long, what is given is time enough for God's purpose. All that is required of us is that we use the opportunities that come our way.

Scriptural reference: We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. [John 9:4]