15 November 2020

Staying sober, staying alert

Audio File

 

33rd Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

OLR, NOLA


Nothing belongs to you. Nothing belongs to me. Not permanently anyway. The most we do is have use of the gifts we receive from God. If pressed, we would likely describe all we have – houses, cars, kids, boats, savings accounts, credit cards – we'd likely describe these as a mixture of stuff we've earned and stuff we've been given by God. The house, the car – we definitely earned those. The spouse, the kids – gifts from God! (Though I suppose that would depend on the spouse and the kids!) We readily give God thanks for our less-material gifts, like your amazing ability to dance; your song-bird singing voice; your sharp, computer-like analytical mind. It's the stuff we work for, pay for, and protect with insurance premiums that we stubbornly believe we're entitled to. Not gifts. Oh no, this stuff wasn't just given to me. I earned it. And just who are you to earn anything w/o God. Who am I? Even the stuff we've earned with the sweat of our brow and a quick debit from the checking account is a gift from God. Any and everything that is not God is a gift from God. The sooner and better we receive this truth and make it our own, the sooner and better we will be prepared for what's coming. Don't sleep as the rest do. Stay sober and alert.

Any and everything that is not God is a gift from God. Starting with your creation, your conception in your mother's womb right up until this very second – every single physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional characteristic you possess; every single chemical, electrical, and biological process that keeps you alive; every single civil, religious, personal, and professional relationship you depend on is a gift. Freely given by God. That any of us exists at all is a gift. Anything over and above mere existence is also a gift. And everything that happens after we cease to exist is a gift. Why am I beating this “giftedness” drum? B/c if anything can pull us away from the Gift-Giver it's the stuff we feel entitled to, the stuff we feel is ours by right. The Master gives his servants talents according to their abilities. Their abilities? Their abilities to do what? Their abilities to invest the gifted-talents and bring them back to the Master better than they were. Their abilities to use the talents for the Master's greater good, accomplishing his goals and achieving for him the glory that raises up his entire household. Don't sleep as the rest do. Stay sober and alert.

If feeling entitled to our gifts leaves us ungrateful, how much more does being lazy and wicked servants render our gifts impotent? Now, it might seem a bit harsh to label ourselves “lazy and wicked.” But think about it: spiritual laziness is all about neglecting our relationship with God; ignoring our duty to render Him thanks and praise for His gifts. Sure, we all here this evening – singing, praying, receiving His graces – but what happens out there? What happens at work, at school, at home? What happens to our thanks and praise at the restaurant, the bank, the grocery store? Ask yourself: do I use every gift I have received from God every moment of every day? Do I invest my talents in such a way that it is obvious to all that I am offering them to God for His greater glory? We are quickly approaching a time in our lives when a public witness to the Gospel will be called a crime. Teaching and preaching the Gospel on most college campuses is already counted a “hate crime.” Corporations around the nation are making obedience to the Woke political agenda a condition for remaining employed. How long do we have before “the free exercise of religion” is reduced to “freedom of worship only” and we are forced by law and profit to deny Christ just to get an education and work? Don't sleep as the rest do. Stay sober and alert.

We think it can't happen here. Here in the U.S. We have laws and courts and rights. But these mostly limit gov't action. Political action. Where Christ and his bride are being challenged most fiercely is in the cultural and business arena – entertainment, media (esp. social media), arts and letters, and sports. Politics is downstream of culture. What the culture-machine permits and forbids almost always makes its way into law. So, as followers of Christ, we must be willing and able to bear witness to Christ in the public square – not just at church with our fellow Christians but anywhere and everywhere we might find ourselves. This means making the best possible use of the gifts we have received from God. This means resisting the temptation of the world to become “lazy and wicked servants” by abusing our gifts. This means being loud, visible, and active participants in our civil life; being bearers of the Good News – joyful, loving, forgiving, steadfast against the Lie and always ready to testify to the mercy of God. And finally, don't sleep as the rest do. Stay sober. Stay alert.

 

 

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