Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon
Homily for the 33rd Sunday of the Year – 15th November 2020
This week we gather with many consolations and good news. We are happy that this country underwent a peaceful election. Just ten years ago, democracy was a dream but today it is a vibrant stream running in the hearts of every one of us. We are grateful the seed of democracy is growing in our country. We send our greetings to our elected leaders. We pray that they may usher in peace and prosperity of this great nation. In America there is a slogan: MAGA = Make America Great Again. Myanmar also has our own slogan: Make Myanmar Golden land again. Let our leaders make this country MEGA, a country of peace and prosperity.
We have our own good news in the diocese. Very Rev Msgr. Noel Saw Naw Aye, has been elevated to the mission of Auxiliary bishop. With our Archdiocese expanding in numbers and number of parishes increasing, we need greater and direct pastoral care. I invite all of you to pray for Msgr. Noel Aye to be blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be the Good Shepherd like Jesus. We join with Pope Francis in his prayers that the new bishop may go to the sheep and come back with the smell of the sheep in his new calling.
We have many things to pray. We have not ceased our prayers against the lethal virus. But this week also brings a great news there is a vaccine and hopes are rising. Stay safe and stay blessed despite all challenging news. Pray earnestly for God’s hand of healing. Ultimately it is to God that this world turns.
Let this year, 2020 end with hope. Let the birth of the Savior bring “Peace to all men and women of good will.” Till a medical vaccine comes, dear brothers and sisters, always use the vaccine of compassion. Never give up your concern for those who are suffering. Respond to the hunger of thousands during this pandemic.
We read “end time readings!” As the season of Advent approaches, the readings of every Sunday call us all of to be prepared. In today’s second reading St Paul asks us to be prepared since the “day of the Lord will come like a thief.” Last week, we read the parable of ten virgins and the need for preparedness as the Lord may come any time. During the COVD times the Evangelical pastors frightened the innocent people with their end of the world apocalyptic sermons. It is very important that the message of Jesus is always life giving, life enhancing and life affirming. Fear not, he says, I am with you always. We need to understand the Bible message for our own good.
Today’s Gospel sees Jesus once again giving a beautiful parable: Jesus often packaged spiritual truths and lessons of faith into short, relatable narratives known as parables. These stories were his way of explaining the attributes of God and instructions for godly living in accessible human terms. And while Jesus also used sermons to communicate, his use of story holds a special place in his ministry and teaching style.
Today he gives a beautiful parable: The parable of talents with the message. “Be on the alert,” he said, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” In the parable, he describes a man who goes on a journey, entrusting his servants with his wealth and possessions in his absence. To one servant, the master gives five talents, to a second servant he gives two talents, and to a third servant he gives one talent (Matthew 25:14-15). When the master comes back after a long time, the man who got five talents gives him five more talents, so does the man who got two talents gives back two more talents. The last man angers the master. Because he buried the talent and did not multiply. He is punished and is ordered to be thrown into fire.
What lessons do we draw from this parable? That too during the COVID time? Multiplying? We only hear the virus multiplying in huge numbers. We have no time to celebrate anything else multiplying. Fear and Anxiety probably is multiplying.
Jesus parables always put to us perspectives in life. Like the sower, like the Good Samaritan, this parable is a guideline during these dark challenging days. This story talks of talents, which is often interpreted as the capacities and capabilities God bestows on each one of us.
Talent during Jesus time was the bag of gold that was valued very high. The five talents are very high value and in today’s worth it might be thousands of dollars. The master did give the servants very valuable gifts to multiply.
God is the master who gives each one of us talents. Very often like foolish virgins we are unaware of the God’s gift. In each one of us these five talents, two talents and single talents are given in various forms.
This parable is beautiful when we interpret in deeper way: take the five talents – each one of us is given five senses - vision, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. These are the five talents with which we can do wonders in our lives. Like the first servant we can use these five senses during this COVID times and multiply hundred fold. These are the times when social distance has separated us. The five talents given by God can reach out to our brothers and sisters. When we listen to their suffering, when we see those who need our assistance, when we smell the poverty of our people during these suffering days, when we taste the bitterness of despair in our people, when we reach out with our hands to our people, our five talents are multiplied. Like the five loaves that multiplied and fed thousands.
God has given to us five senses as the talents, most valuable gifts. Those of us who feel for our brothers and sisters in our families, in our communities, use these talents, these five gifts to see God in our suffering people. When we share our talents, God’s Grace inspires us to do more, we get more energy to reach out to more people. Grace abounds. More Grace abounds for all those who use God given five senses for the good of others. The master of the story strongly affirms this when he says: To those who have more; more will be given.
The two talents are the our ability to choose the good and avoid evil. Choose life and avoid death. Choose kind words and avoid harsh words. Choose love, avoid hatred. Choose virtue, avoid sin. God’s gifts are given to all of us. Gifts are useless unless we make choices. Choices in life are very important. That is the meaning of the two challenges. In life we have to choose every minute. This choice is between two: Good and evil. Enhance Good and avoid Evil. Cain or Abel in life? Law of Spirit or Law of flesh? Choose. The book of Deuteronomy says:
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:19).
In the parable, the third servant was given a single talent. He did not use it. He was condemned to harsh punishment. What is this talent in our life? Why not multiplying this is such a risk of eternal damnation? That talent is talent to love.
All of us may not have talent to sing or draw or dance. But all of us are born with the one great talent: the talent to love. As the Paul Coelho, the great novelist says:
“Everyone knows how to love, because we are all born with that gift. Most of us have a natural talent for love, but the majority of us have buried that love talent in our past wounded memories, past emotions.” - Paulo Coelho
Jesus made this talent to love as the core commandment: LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I LOVED YOU. Weeks ago we contemplated the Love commandment of Jesus during our Sunday mass. St Paul raises this love talent as the greatest Gift (1 Cor 13)
Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.
Never bury the talent to love! That is the message of the first reading today.
More than ever during these dark days we need this talent in our families in our communities. If we bury this talent in fear of the virus, then the verdict is clear: Throw them into the hell of despair.
There are other talents.
Dear brothers and sisters the Bible calls us to use our talents in lightening our life and the lives of others through the call for:
Spreading the gospel “ Go and Proclaim”. (Matthew 28:16-20);
Forgiving those who have wronged them (Matthew 6:14-15).
Loving one another as I loved you (John 13:34-35);
Caring for his church (John 21:17).
Being an example to the world (Matthew 14:13-16);
Feeding the hungry and thirsty (Matthew 25:25).
Caring for the poor, the prisoner, and the sick (Matthew 25:36);
Being hospitable to strangers and outsiders (Matthew 25:35)
Let us use these talents as the advent approaches and we look for the birth of Jesus as hope in our hearts. When he finds us multiplying talents of God’s kingdom, Jesus will bless us with the life giving words: “Well done my good and faithful servant; since your were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.”
Yes. That is the call and cry of joy we hear, as we approach the season of Advent.
Stay safe; stay blessed.