Sunday, November 19, 2023

Beware false humility and false piety (Sunday homily)

 In the first reading, you have a wife and mother 

who is attentive and faithful in small things. 

The result is a great impact on her family and beyond. 

In the gospel, we have two servants 

who are likewise attentive and faithful in small things. 

Notice, by the way, that the second servant could have gotten envious – 

because the other was more celebrated. But that didn’t happen.

Maybe because the second servant, like the first,

wasn’t focused on himself or on his fellow servant, but on the Lord!

Now we come to the final servant, who rejects the Lord’s gift. 

He is fearful and perhaps proud. 

There is a kind of false humility that is actually pride: 

that says, I am not good enough, I don’t dare, 

I should hold back, and is consumed by timidity and fretfulness. 

This is false humility: “oh, poor me, nothing me!” 

But it really is pride, because it’s me looking at, focusing on, ME, 

rather than focusing on God.

This mindset, by the way, is related to scrupulosity, 

which some people wrestle with.

Scrupulosity is hyper-focus on sinfulness that becomes oppressive.

And here is the connection: with scrupulosity, 

The problem again is too much self-focus.

It is not God’s idea that look at self, self, self, self, 

either in pride of our own accomplishments – 

or in detailing with the greatest precision, our failings. 

So let’s apply this to the sacrament of confession.

The point isn’t to focus on our sins;

The main point is to be rid of them; after we admit them.

And then turn away from sin and self, toward God and our neighbor,

which the grace of the sacrament helps us to do.

The word “talent” in the Gospel can be misleading, 

because we think about ability; 

but at the time the Gospel was written, 

the word referred to an amount of silver. It was money. 

So really, the parable is about having readiness 

to use whatever resources we have, 

whether time, money or personal gifts; 

but not to focus on how much or how little we have.

Some can feel as though they have very little to offer. 

Many times I have talked to people in their later years, 

who aren’t mobile and active as they once were,

and they will say, “I don’t know why I’m still here.” 

All I can say is that, however limited you may feel you are,

you still do have something to offer the Lord, even in a small way. 

Remember that Jesus makes great things of meager offerings. 

Beware the temptation to say, like the third servant, 

“I don’t have enough to offer, so I won’t do anything.”

This directly applies to the task of sharing our faith.

It is in small things and small steps 

that we will bring people back to the Faith, 

or bring people for the first time. 

Very soon you will get a mailing 

about our Advent plans as a family of parishes. 

Along with lots of confessions and our Christmas schedule, 

you’ll see some events like Lessons and Carols 

and a Live Nativity Scene, 

that are perfect opportunities for you to invite others.

Let me give you a personal example.

When I was in my 20s, I had left the Catholic Faith 

and joined another church. 

My dad was devastated but he didn’t give up, even though – 

I am embarrassed to admit – my “no” was a very emphatic “no.”

So my dad just dropped little invitations to things,

and one time, I came with him to Stations of the Cross.

And you know what? It did soften my attitude.

That was one, small step along the path 

that brought me back to confession, 

back to the Eucharist, and eventually, to the priesthood.

So, maybe you have only one little insignificant coin.

And if we refuse to give it to the Lord, it will prove useless.

But when we place our little bit in his hands, anything can happen.

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