Diocese of Little Rock Encuentro

Published: November 18, 2017

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the closing Mass of the Diocese of Little Rock Encuentro, which was held as part of the Fifth National Hispanic Pastoral Encuentro (V Encuentro) process, at Barton Coliseum at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. It is based on the readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.

Bishop Taylor

Immigration has always been a risky business and it is only the most courageous who are actually willing to take the risk. Most people simply resign themselves to their circumstances because they are afraid to face the unknown, especially if it means going to a place where they don’t know anyone, don’t know the language and customs.

Worse, in our country we have laws that try to keep people from exercising their God-given right to immigrate when circumstances so require and then try to prevent them from finding work.

In this respect, immigrants today have a much harder time than immigrants 100 years ago. So today’s immigrants have a correspondingly greater need for us as Church to step forward to provide welcome and support.

God has entrusted to each of you many talents and he wants us to use these talents to reach out to those who are far from the Lord and far from his Church.

Immigration is a risky business and all of us present here today are either courageous immigrants ourselves or the descendants of immigrants in the past. One of the things I am praying for is that this V Encuentro will increase our courage and gratitude going forward, especially among those of you who belong to the second generation and are now benefitting from the many sacrifices that your immigrant parents made to provide you with a better life.

And specifically, that you now become courageous missionary disciples yourselves, which will involve taking some risks.

In today’s Gospel we have Jesus’ parable of the talents, which is a very large unit of money worth about $1,500. We often hear homilies based on this parable exhorting us to use our talents — in this case, meaning our abilities — in the Lord’s service.

But what such homilies often fail to notice is that it is the courageous risk taking that Jesus is complimenting, not the mere fact that they simply made an effort. A rich man entrusted three servants with five, three and one talents — a lot of money.

The first two made investments and doubled their master’s money — and we all know that any investment that has any chance of doubling your money is going to be very risky. The third servant hid his money in the ground out of fear. He thought that by just sitting on his talent he had protected his master’s money ... after all, he didn’t lose anything.

But in fact he probably did — they had inflation in those days, just like we do now. Over the long haul, the most irresponsible thing we can do is refuse to take risks: Sure, if you take risks you may lose money, but if you don’t take risks you will almost certainly lose money through inflation.

Let’s apply this to ourselves. God has entrusted to each of you many talents and he wants us to use these talents to reach out to those who are far from the Lord and far from his Church. Many are recent immigrants who just need us to visit them and welcome them, help them get to Church, help them with their needs.

Some need help finding a job, or are lonely, or don’t have a car or are afraid to drive very far. We have young adults who feel neither here nor there: born there but grew up here; born here but don’t feel fully accepted — especially with all the fear caused by the hateful rhetoric of our government and the threat of deportations.

I could give you a long list of problems: parents working long hours who don’t have enough time for their kids; kids who grow up unsupervised and are vulnerable to bad influences — drugs, gangs.

We all know situations like this, situations where we are invited to leave our comfort zone and set aside our fears and take risks for the benefit of others. Sometimes we hesitate because we are afraid of sticking our neck out and possibly even making a mess. But isn’t that what Pope Francis has challenged us to do?

At the end of his visit to South America he said, “Make a mess, but then also help tidy it up. A mess which gives us a free heart, a mess which gives us solidarity, a mess which gives us hope.” The first two servants with the five and three talents who made the risky investments didn’t know how things would turn out.

But they believed in a merciful God who only asks that we be courageous and faithful and willing to take risks for him. May this V Encuentro give you the courage to now go forth and build the Kingdom of God in your local communities. And if you do make a mess, please also help tidy it up.