The first reading is about more than a “worthy wife.”
It is about the personification of God’s Wisdom,
which is manifest in this woman who excels as a spouse.
It’s worth considering the alternatives.
The author could have spoken of a valiant queen like Bathsheba,
or a prophetess like Deborah, or a warrior like Judith –
all part of the history of God’s People.
But instead, the author chose a wife.
To cite something St. Josemaria Escriva said:
“Perseverance in little things for Love is heroism.”
And that is what we see in the Gospel.
The three servants were all given different amounts of money.
Don’t be confused by the word “talent” –
in the Gospel, it doesn’t refer to abilities, but rather, to money.
A “talent” of silver was approximately 100 pounds.
In today’s dollars, that would be about $20,000.
So one servant was given five talents – or $100,000;
another was given $40,000, or two talents;
and the third servant was given the equivalent of $20,000.
Now, $100,000, $40,000 or even $20,000 sounds like a lot of money.
But if you have a home and a family, or if you are running a business,
you know what things cost, and that money can go fast.
These servants weren’t being given vast enterprises to be in charge of.
Rather, they were being given relatively small shares
of a much larger project.
The challenge for them – as well as for the excellent wife
in the first reading – is to make the most difference
in an unsung, unglamorous responsibility.
It’s the same challenge for every parent here,
every farmer and business owner.
It’s the same for you students.
You feel pressure from others around you
to cheat on exams and papers,
to try to fit in with the crowd that drinking and using drugs,
and it seems so much easier to do that
than to do the right thing, the honest thing.
But the payoff is to hear, one day, Jesus say to you:
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy!”
To quote St. Josemaria Escriva again:
“Perseverance in little things for love is heroism.”
There’s a film called “A Bronx Tale,” and it tells the story
of a boy who grows up in a neighborhood
where there’s a gangster who seems really glamorous,
and the boy is drawn into the mobster’s orbit.
His father wants nothing to do with crime,
even though there’s easy money in it for him.
And one time he pulls his son away from hanging out with the crooks.
His boy is upset, and parrots what the mob boss says:
that working people are “suckers.”
And the father tells his young son,
"He's wrong, it don't take much strength
to pull the trigger but try and get up every morning day after day
and work for a living, let's see him try that.
Then we'll see who's the real tough guy.
The working man is the tough guy."
This year, Pope Francis has started a new tradition;
he has designated this day the “World Day for the Poor.”
This is as good a time as any to remember
that whatever challenges any of us have
with paying our bills or making ends meet,
how blessed you and I are in comparison to
the full reality of poverty and privation.
Even the poverty we see in this country is far different
from what people face in so many other places.
When we think about it, we may be tempted to say,
it’s all so overwhelming, what can I do?
That risks making the same mistake as the third servant in the Gospel,
who said the very same thing.
And he buried what resources he did have,
and made absolutely no use of them.
As you know, there is a second collection today
for the Campaign for Human Development.
The bishops, who created this fund,
have the purpose of helping people escape poverty.
I will be very candid with you:
I know that many people have serious questions
about how these funds are spent,
because over the years there have, indeed, been misjudgments
in where the money was sent.
I was as unhappy about that as you have been.
All I can do is to repeat to you what the Archbishop has said:
that he and the other bishops
are making every effort to avoid having this money
go to any organizations promoting abortion or same-sex marriage
or other things in conflict with Catholic teaching.
But if you have qualms, and do not wish to contribute,
that is entirely your decision.
That said, may I then make this suggestion?
Look for another way to help people rise from poverty.
Don’t just put your resources in a hole and do nothing.
Just to wrap this up.
It’s pretty common for us to compare ourselves to others.
There is always someone who has more money, more good looks,
more ability, more opportunity, than it seems you or I have.
But what really are the best gifts Jesus has given us?
Is it money? Is it good looks or a great job or a fancy car?
No, of course not!
Here are the best gifts Jesus gives us.
He gives us forgiveness of our sins.
He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us.
He gives us grace, that will – if we cooperate –
make us saints and take us to heaven.
And he gave you your life, which you may doubt is worth much,
but Jesus considers priceless, because he died for you.
Is it really true that you don’t have much?
Is not rather true that you and I have everything?
Rich in Christ! Rich in his love. Rich in hope.