Sunday, November 19, 2017
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the annual ThanksForGiving Mass, hosted by the archdiocesan Development Office and celebrated at St. Mary Cathedral, Nov. 19, 2017. The Mass honors donors to the ABCD (Archbishop’s Charity and Development drive) as well as those who have included the archdiocese in their estate and financial plans.
In a few days, we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. As Catholics, we do well to remember that Eucharistic means “thanksgiving.” The Mass is the perfect “Thanksgiving meal” – for united with Christ in his sacrificial gift of Himself, we give God thanks for the gift of our salvation, the gift of faith, the gift of knowing that we are loved by a merciful and compassionate God.
I thank you for being here this morning – and for your support of our Archdiocese through your generous gifts to the ABCD. At this Mass, together with you I offer our “thanksgiving” for all the talents that God has given us; at the same time, I also offer each one of you a sincere “thanks-for-giving” for your sharing of these talents with others, especially through the Archbishop’s Charity and Development Campaign.
On Sundays, the first reading of the Mass always has a connection with the Gospel that is read. In today’s first reading, we heard a wonderful tribute of praise to a worthy wife. And you might ask, what’s the connection between this first reading and the Gospel parable of the talents? That first reading from the Book of Proverbs ends with these words: “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.” Obviously, she used her talents well – and used them for the benefit of others.
Thus, the woman – and for that matter, the man – who “fears the Lord” is to be praised. Now, this “fear of the Lord” – which is also listed as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit received in Confirmation – is not a servile fear. Fear – in our common usage of the word – refers to that unhealthy emotion of dread that often paralyzes us, that turns us inward and makes us defensive or suspicious of those around us. Too often we can be filled with that unhealthy, emotional fear, a negative fear that causes us not to act for the sake of the other but leads into a selfish gathering-in of things that we keep only for ourselves. Such a fear prevents us from loving others; it keeps others at a distance; and can isolate us into a self-imposed hell of loneliness.
That’s not what we mean by “fear of the Lord.” Fear of the Lord refers to the awe and respect we should have for God. A healthy “fear of the Lord” acknowledges that God has expectations of us and it inspires within us the courage to embrace the risks of discipleship. Do we want to find love in our lives? Then we must take risks – the risk of being a disciple – and invest in others. Do we want to find happiness in our lives? Then, we must take risks – the risk of following Jesus – and like Jesus invest in others. Do we want to find meaning in our lives? Then we must risk investing our time, talent and treasure in others.
God, of course, has given each one of us many talents. That is to say, God has invested himself in each one of us – and Jesus puts his life on the line for us so that we can live out that call to discipleship by being self-sacrificing, self-giving, and to use our gifts and talents to benefit others, even to sacrifice our lives for the sake of others. We are not the self-made men and women we sometimes pretend to be; rather what we are, who we are, is a gift we each have received ultimately from God. And what God has given us he has given not just for our own sakes but also for the sake of others. A major theme of the Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments is the call for us to care “for the widow, the orphan, the alien, the oppressed and the poor among us.”
Of course, in saying all this, I am preaching to the choir – for you have shown through your support of the ABCD that you understand this. And ABCD helps us to “care for the widow, the orphan, the alien, the oppressed and the poor among us.”
And we do this in so many ways – through our Catholic Charities, through our religious education programs, our Catholic schools. We do this through our support of our seminarians and priests. We do this in our marriage preparation programs, our lay ministries that form people to minister to the bereaved, the homebound. Yes, we do this in so many countless ways. But we can do it only because of the generosity of people like yourselves, people who in good times and in bad times keep their support of the Church on their list of major priorities.
As your Archbishop, I am grateful – deeply grateful – to each and every one of you for your stewardship, for your tending the talents that you have received.
Your gifts opened the door of our world to God and bring hope for our people. On Thursday, you will gather with your loved ones for your “Thanksgiving Meal.” I thank you for sharing in this thanksgiving meal, the Holy Mass. Again, this Mass is our “Thanks-for-giving” Mass which I am happy to offer for you, your loved ones and for all your personal intentions. God bless.