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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: November 15, 2020
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. John Newman University Parish in Jonesboro on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020.
We’ve all had the experience of giving someone a gift and then getting a nice thank you note back in the mail. If you gave the gift in person, they probably had already thanked you in person. The purpose of saying “thanks” is to express gratitude, but sometimes the words are just a polite formality.
For instance, you give someone a beautiful shirt that you picked out just for him. And he said, “thank you” and even wrote you a note. But that’s the last you saw of the shirt. You’re around him all the time, but he never seems to wear it. For all you know, it's in storage up in the attic.
He said “thanks,” but did he really like it? Is he really grateful? Contrast that with the gift you always see in use. You give a kid a basketball and he’s playing with it every day. Even if he never wrote you a note, you know that he liked it because he’s always using it. You know he’s grateful for having received it.
They were grateful that the master had entrusted them with the money and they wanted to put it to good use — partly out of a desire to please the master, and partly because they felt honored that the master trusted them. ... By contrast, the third servant didn’t seem to care much. He wasn’t grateful. He didn’t have much desire to please the master. So, he just put the money in storage and forgot about it.
In today’s Gospel, three men are entrusted with money — 5, 2 and 1 talents, to each according to their ability. Two of them put the money to use, the other puts it in storage. Our story emphasizes the profit the first two made for their master, that they were industrious. But what is implied is that they were grateful.
They were grateful that the master had entrusted them with the money and they wanted to put it to good use — partly out of a desire to please the master, and partly because they felt honored that the master trusted them. They were grateful. By contrast, the third servant didn’t seem to care much. He wasn’t grateful. He didn’t have much desire to please the master. So, he just put the money in storage and forgot about it.
In less than two weeks you and I celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving. We thank God for all the wonderful blessings he has showered upon us in this country: the fertile land, the economic opportunities, all our freedoms, our present position of power in the world. And we thank him for all the blessings he has showered on our individual families: our home, our marriage, our children, our job, our health (even in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic), our intelligence, our friends.
We tell God we’re grateful. But you know, words are cheap. Anybody can say “thank you” and on Nov. 26 most people in our country will do so in the midst of a big Thanksgiving banquet. We speak our thanks and even ritualize our thanks with a celebration, but this doesn’t mean much unless we also show our thanks. And how do we show our gratitude? By putting these gifts of God to good use.
Most of the things we thank God for on Thanksgiving are collective gifts, gifts that none of us truly possesses unless all of us possess it. I cannot be truly free unless you are also truly free. A husband cannot have a good marriage unless his wife also has a good marriage. And so, if we are truly grateful, the way we put these gifts to use will also be collective.
We have a basically good economy that should be able to produce good jobs for everyone. America’s position of importance in the world is not so that we can better pursue our own self-interest … rather, it is so that we can use that power to make the world a better place. Your intelligence is not just for your benefit, but rather for the benefit of all of us.
My friends, each of us individually and all of us collectively have been given many gifts by God. In this, we are like the people in our Gospel reading. We to have been entrusted with talents — in both senses of the term, talents as in a unit of money, the original meaning of the term, and also talents as in abilities that God has given each of us. This Thanksgiving, let us be sure that we are putting these gifts to good use. That’s the way to truly show our gratitude to God.