The first reading and the gospel can be summarized like this:
“Do not be afraid to use what has been entrusted to you.”
In both readings something precious is entrusted to someone,
and in both readings fear plays an important role.
The master entrusts his possessions to his three servants.
And the husband entrusts his heart to his wife.
The third servant is afraid of the master.
And the worthy wife has the Fear of the Lord.
To entrust is to put something precious into another’s care.
The master puts his possessions into the care of his servants.
Five talents, three talents, even one talent—
these are great sums of money.
The master is placing his trust in the ability of his servants
to do something with that capital.
They’re expected to use the money to increase it,
so that when the man returns from his journey
there is more than when he left.
They are to buy low and sell high,
and make smart investments.
It’s risky, trading with someone else’s money.
There’s always the chance you will lose some of it,
or all of it.
A husband takes a chance, too, entrusting his heart to his wife,
just as a wife takes a chance entrusting her heart to her husband.
The two enter into a covenant,
a solemn promise of unending relationship.
The husbands offers his entire being to his wife.
The wife offers her entire being to her husband.
Both intend to grow together, not to remain stagnant through life.
They remain open to the possibility and the reality of children.
They learn together what true love is.
But it’s risky to open your heart so much to another person.
There’s always the chance for pain and betrayal.
And the more of yourself you entrust, the greater the risk.
We have been entrusted with something precious.
Through our baptism, we have been given a trust.
Like the master going on the journey,
God has entrusted his possessions to us:
This planet, our families, our physical bodies, our jobs.
But even more importantly,
like the husband of the worthy wife,
God has entrusted his heart to us.
The worthy wife is held up to us today
as a model of how to receive God’s heart.
With strength drawn from her husband’s heart,
The worthy wife reaches out her hand to the poor and needy.
True love between a wife and husband
always moves beyond just the two of them
and into the greater community.
She is a worthy wife because she does the work of love.
We, the Church, are called to be like this wife in Proverbs.
Scripture is filled with marriage imagery
to describe the relationship between Christ and his Church.
Christ is our Bridegroom and we are his Bride.
How do we as Church measure up to the worthy wife?
God has entrusted his heart to us in an eternal covenant.
Do we bring God good and not evil?
Do we reach out our hands to the poor,
and our arms to the needy?
A few days ago the Vatican announced
that this coming Monday, November 17,
the Church in Rome is going to start building showers for the homeless
in the public bathrooms at St. Peter’s square.
Fr. Conrad, the priest appointed by Pope Francis
to look after the needs of the poor and homeless in Rome,
is personally supervising the project.
He also visits the parishes in Rome
in areas where the homeless dwell
and he examines the parish halls
to see if there are showers that the homeless can use.
If there aren’t any showers, he asks them to be built,
paid for by the Pope’s charity.
Fr. Conrad is also working with a nearby school for hairdressers,
so that in addition to getting a shower,
the homeless can also get a haircut every once in a while.
This is just one way the Church can be like
the worthy wife of Proverbs,
this is how we can be like the two servants
who increased their master’s wealth.
What new, creative ways
can our parish community use what has been entrusted to us?
One thing our parish has been given
is the means and talent to put on lovely dinners and receptions.
It takes great coordination, talent, and taste
to put together the kinds of social events that we sponsor.
And our parish has been given those gifts,
which were fully on display
in the elegant farewell reception for Bishop Cupich.
The Knights of Columbus breakfasts, the dinner dances,
the wine and cheese socials,
these parish events bring us closer together.
There’s only one thing that could make them better:
Having more people there,
especially the poor and the needy.
Down at the bottom of the hill
we see the face of the poor standing on the corner
as we enter or exit the freeway.
These men and women with their signs asking for food or work
are also treasures entrusted to us by the Bridegroom.
Maybe what we need is a reception for the needy,
a monthly dinner event where the homeless, the poor,
the physically or mentally handicapped
can come and be treated like royalty,
where there are candles on the tables,
cloth napkins next to china plates,
and classical music in the background.
Would this solve the problem of poverty? No.
But it would allow us to see Christ
in people where we’ve never seen Christ before.
And it would allow us to be Christ to people in need.
And who knows what the fruit of such an event might be?
We have been entrusted with this building,
with a parish hall and a kitchen.
This parish is in close proximity to both the needy
and the comfortable.
Could we come together for the sake of Christ?
And what can we do in our families, in our personal lives
to reach out our hands to the poor,
to extend our arms to the needy?
Maybe you saw the headlines out of Florida a few weeks ago,
where 90-year-old Arnold Abbot was arrested
for giving food to the homeless in a public park
against city regulations.
There’s always a risk involved in using what is entrusted to us.
The Vatican might be afraid
that showers would attract more homeless men and women,
and would frighten away visitors.
We might be afraid of the kind of people that would show up
if we held a dinner for the homeless.
We might be afraid that helping the needy would be enabling them,
taking away their initiative to get out of their situation.
Our fears can keep us from doing good.
That’s the warning of the third servant in today’s gospel.
He was afraid of punishment,
so he buried the money he’d been entrusted with.
He was full of fear.
“What if I lose some or all of my master’s money?”
But the worthy wife was full of fear, too:
Fear of the Lord.
Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is a fear, not of punishment,
but of damaging our relationship with God.
Fear of the Lord grows out of a deep love for God,
a love so great that we can’t bear the thought
of doing anything apart from God’s will.
Human fear makes us afraid to reach out our hands to the poor.
Fear of the Lord asks,
“What if I miss this chance to see God in the homeless or needy,
to be Christ to my sisters and brothers?”
Human fear makes us bury what’s been entrusted to us.
Fear of the Lord leads us to risk our time, our talent, our treasure,
for the sake of those in need.
Today’s Good news calls us
to be unafraid to use what is entrusted to us,
to be the worthy wife of Christ our Bridegroom,
and bring good not evil
all the days of our life.