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Monday, November 17, 2014
The Difference between Fear of the Lord and Burying our talents out of Fear.
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'
His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!
The common theme that goes through all three of these readings, and I didn't realize it until a couple of days ago when I read about the third servant, the common theme that goes through all of them is this notion of fear. And it gives us a couple different versions of fear.
One version of fear is fear of the Lord. And it's a Godly fear. It's a gift. It's one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The last gift is fear of the Lord. And the other fear that we hear about with the servant is a fear that causes him to be servile, to kind of bury his talents, and to actually kind of wither up inside and do nothing. It's a paralyzing fear. They're two very different kinds of fear.
And I think fear of the Lord is one of those things that's often misunderstood or not understood at all by the faith. So that's what I'm going to talk about today, the difference between fear as we know it and what it means to fear the Lord.
The first reading we hear about the wonderful wife. Charm is deceptive and beauty, fleeting. The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward for her labor and let her works praise her at the city gates. So notice, the woman who fears the Lord is to be something that's praised and sought after, and her fear of the Lord throughout her life brings about a reward for her labors. Her labor is done out of fear of the Lord, bring about reward, and her works actually will praise her at the city gates. When she goes to heaven, she is going to be praised for all the good works that she did, all of it motivated by this fear of the Lord.
In the Psalm we hear, "Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored."
So again, we hear the psalmist saying, "Blessed are those who fear the Lord," and then right after that we hear some of the fruit of fear of the Lord. "Those who fear the Lord will walk in his ways." So that's one of the graces. When we have this fear of the Lord, this holy fear of God, we walk in his ways throughout our life.
"You shall eat the fruit of your handiwork." When our work is done and motivated out of this fear of the Lord and not motivated by anything else, there will be fruit from it.
"Blessed shall you be and favored." So God is going to bless you if you do all of your work and live your life under this fear of the Lord.
Now, here is where we hear about a different kind of fear. This is the fear we normally associate with fear. "Then the one servant, who had received the one talent, came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.'" Notice he did nothing. He buried histalent. "Here it is back. His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked and lazy servant.'" The master is not agreeing with him. He is not saying you didn't do this because you really feared me. The truth is you are a wicked and lazy servant. That's why you buried your gift.
And then Jesus says, "For everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." So this seems like, I don't know, this seems kind of crazy to me. Doesn't it to you, like a little bit unfair of God?
But what we have to remember, whenever Jesus uses a parable, he uses real-life situations. It kind of works with us today. For any of you that invested heavily in the market and lost a few years back, you can probably relate to this and say, "This is crazy. You don't want to invest your money like that." And Jesus is not talking about money. He's not talking about anything worldly. He's talking about the gift of the spiritual life. All of his parables are talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. And what he is saying is he has given each of us -- he's given each of you the Kingdom of God. He's given you this spiritual life. He's given you in baptism this life of grace. He's given you this gift of the Holy Spirit; one of them being the fear of the Lord. All of these gifts are given to you.
Now, here is the reality of the spiritual life.
Any gift that we try to keep to ourselves, any gift that we bury in the ground is going to die. It's going to bear no fruit. However, if we are willing to risk and willing to give our gifts and spend our lives in service to others, it is not only going to bear fruit, it's going to multiply and double anything that we are given.
That's kind of the mystery of the Gospel today.
You have to remember, he's talking about the spiritual life. Now, I want you to think about your spiritual life right now. So when you think about fear of the Lord as being a gift to the Holy Spirit, so true fear of God is supposed to be this tremendous awe, this tremendous wonder, this tremendous almost disbelief that he's given us, the spiritual life, that he's given us this access to the Kingdom of Heaven, that right now in a few moments, that you can receive the body and blood of Christ. You're going to experience Heaven on Earth right here. Fear of the Lord should evoke some sense of wonder and awe before that.
Now, the opposite of that fear is a fear that is, like he says in the Gospel, lazy and wicked. The opposite of that fear is a fear that says it's just all about me and what I do.
Let me give you a couple of examples. So people will say to me all the time -- you know, actually, I was just with somebody and I was asking him if he's going to church because he's been away for a long time. He's Catholic. And he goes, this is a classic line, right? "Father --" now, he's from New Jersey. "Father, I don't really go to mass. Me and God, God and I, we got our own thing going on right here. So I don't need the church. You know, you got all that, but we got our own thing going on." He's got his own thing going on with God. Where do you think his talents are buried? It's in the ground, right? He's not sharing it. It's not a part of anyone else. It's not a part of community. It's, me and God, we got our own thing going on, and I'm burying my gift right here. I'm not doing anything with it. The truth is he's burying his gift. And the other truth is we're either growing in our faith or we're dying in our faith. There's no remaining stagnance.
I'll give you another example. It's the heresy that I call the good-guy heresy. So there's a heresy going on in our modern-day culture called the good-guy heresy, and this is basically what it's sounding like. Father, I'm a good guy. I don't really have to go to mass, or I don't go to church or anything like that, but I'm a good guy. I haven't killed anyone. I haven't done anything really bad in my life, so I'm a pretty good guy. Is that someone that's growing in their prayer life and increasing their gifts, or have they buried their gifts? They have buried their gifts, right? The good-guy theory. The good-guy heresy.
So think about yourself. Think about your own life, you know, the gifts you have been given, your faith. Do you tend to see your faith as just something between you and God and something you don't need to grow in, something that you are fine with?
The third example that I will leave you with is I have these three older Catholics who are running a marketing business. And you may or may not know, but I started a nonprofit, and I'm trying to -- the whole vision and mission is to help people grow in their prayer life. So I'm trying to present this vision to these three marketers, and they're awesome guys. They're Catholics. They're very faithful Catholics. But the whole vision is to have this deeper prayer life. And all three of them told me about their prayer life.
And one of them said, well, you know, I only pray to God when I need something. So if I'm going to work, I'll talk to God and I'll tell him what I need. And I said to him, "Is that your whole prayer life? Is that all you do?" He's like, "Yeah."
I said, "How about the next guy? Tell me about your prayer life." He goes, "Well, Father, I'm more thankful. So I just thank God. You know, if something good happens, I feel grateful and I thank God, and you know, that's kind of how I pray." I said, "Well, is there any other time you pray during the day, or is that kind of it?" "No," he says, "No, that's good. That's it."
These are all good prayers, by the way.
And the third guy goes, I said, "How do you pray every day?" He says, "Well, Father, I always pray. I've always done this my whole life. Before I go to bed, I say the 'Our Father,' the 'Hail Mary' and the 'Glory Be,' and I go to bed. I pray every night like that, Father, before I go to bed."
I tell them all, "That's wonderful. You're all praying. Those are vocal prayers. It's kind of a beginner prayer. Hopefully, at some point, we do meditative prayer and we even enter into contemplative prayer. Are you guys happy with your prayer life, or would you like to grow in your prayer life?"
You know what all three of them said? Take a guess. What do you think they said? "We're happy with it. We're good. I'm good, Father. 'Our Father,' 'Hail Mary,' 'Glory Be,' I'm good." And I looked at them and I said, "Really? You learned to pray those prayers in second grade and you're not growing any more. You're good." Hopefully the response should be, "Yeah, Father, I want to grow in prayer. Can you teach me?"
I just want you to think about that. What's your disposition? Do you have this notion of, like, I'm good, you know, God and I are good. We got our thing going on. You know, I kind of got it under control. Or do you have a desire to actually grow in your spiritual life? Do you take every opportunity to come to a mission or to join a prayer group or to join a renewal?
You know, this weekend we had 50 women making the Women's Renewal. And I know a number of them were on the fence. You know what I mean? They just weren't sure about it, weren't sure if they wanted to do it, weren't sure if it was their time or they needed it. I got to say, they're having an amazing experience. It's changing their life. But they were willing to take that risk. They were willing to kind of get out of their comfort zone and take a risk and draw on their faith. And now it's coming back to them multiplied of what they ever could have imagined.
So think about it for a moment. Are you growing in your faith or is it stagnant? And if it's stagnant, you're dying in your faith. There can't be any stagnation. We're either growing or we're dying.
You know, Jesus has given you this great gift. He's given you talent, and some of you he's given you more talent than I can even express.
Are you using them to build up his Kingdom? And if you are, you are going to experience all of his goodness and all of the joy.
He says to his servants, "Come, share your Master's joy. Well done, good and faithful servant." Or do you kind of have that mentality of, nah, we're doing fine. You know, I've got everything I need. Prayer is pretty good. Go to mass. I'm a good guy. I got it buried here. I'm just going to kind of hang on to this until I get to eternal life. If that's more of your mentality, then you're dying, and Jesus would say you're wicked and you're lazy. Just to kind of shake you up a little bit.
Ultimately, hopefully, we are willing to take that risk. You know, so if you are like an investment person today, a banker, you would always look at risk versus reward, and risk versus reward versus how much you could actually profit from it. We're talking about eternal life. We're talking about the ultimate reward. And so it is risk. It does mean taking a risk and growing in your faith. It does the mean taking a risk and getting to know God more. It does mean taking a risk and letting yourself be vulnerable to others and letting others know you have more, and growing in this faith. It does take a great risk, but the reward is beyond anything you can imagine.
When we come to the end of the life, of our life, hopefully when we meet our maker he will say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Since you are faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come and share your Master's joy."