Blog & Pastor Letters

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 19, 2023

11-19-2023Weekly ReflectionFr. Ralph D'Elia

Our lives are not our own. This may be a jarring reality, but our difficulty in accepting it makes it no less real. Everything that we have has been given. In other words, everything we have — including our very lives — is a gift. This is the logic the Lord invites us into in the parable of the talents, the logic of the good things the Lord desires to share with us and our response to His gifts.

The fact of our dependence run contrary to many of the cultural narratives of our day. We are told that we should be independent, that we should live our truth, that we are the masters of our destiny. Without diminishing the importance of free will, the evidence that much of our lives lies outside of out control becomes — if we are willing to face it — at a certain point becomes insurmountable. In the first place, I did not give myself life. I did not choose the family or the circumstances that I was born into. I did not predetermine my various personality traits or natural abilities. What, then, are we to do with what has been given?

In the parable of the talents, we see that the three servants are given different amounts, “to each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15). Perhaps we may object to the fairness of the master, but the rest of the parable makes sense of his logic. The two servants who received more didn’t cling to the talents possessively but put them into play in order to offer even more in return. The servant who received less, on the other hand, buried what was given to him as if he had received nothing at all. It could be said that the two servants who received more were generous to receive what had been given to them.

This generous receptivity lies at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. We are called to be open to receive all that the Lord has given us in order that it may bear fruit and multiply. In this way, nothing is lost but everything becomes a gift. Tout est grâce, everything is grace — or a gift — as St. Thérèse would say, so long as we neither bury it nor cling to it possessively. Our life has been given to us so that it may be shared.

When we speak of living our lives for Christ, this is the dynamic that is at play. This is what it means to live one’s life for Christ, for the work of Another who makes me all that I am and gives me all that I have. Does this mean that the Lord desires for us to suffer through difficult circumstances outside of our control? No! Rather, He desires to work through those circumstances to bring about something good so long as we are sharing those challenges with Him, receiving generously all that comes our way. This is what Msgr. Luigi Giussani, the founder of the Ecclesial Movement Communion and Liberation, calls the positivity of reality. Not that everything that happens in reality is good, but that the Lord came to redeem reality and work for the good of all who love Him through what is given (Romans 8:28).

The fact that our lives are not our own, that there are factors out of our control, is not a threat but a gift. Like the servants who received the talents and put them into play, we are called to put our lives into play, all of the gifts that we have received — yes, even the challenging ones — so that our hearts would be open to receive even more. Only in entering into this logic of gift can we be given more and grow rich (Matthew 25:29) and experience the hundredfold for which we were made (Mark 10:30).