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Fr. Tim’s Homily for November 13, 2016

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

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Malachi 3: 19-20a

2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12

Luke 21: 5-19

 

Today we hear a topic in the Scriptures – in the second reading from the second letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians – that we do not regularly hear about.  Paul is talking about laziness or, as the British say, about being “bone idle.”  He writes:  “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”

There is a story about a duke and a duchess who had a servant in their longtime employ.  One day the duchess called in this servant and asked, “James, how long have you worked here?”

“Thirty years,” he responded.

She then said, “As I looked through your contract, you were hired to watch our dog.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.

“But James, the dog died twenty-seven years ago!”

“Oh,” he said.  “Is there something else that you would like for me to do?”

Being lazy or bone idle…  Paul gets after the Thessalonians about this.  You see, there were some of them that thought that Jesus’ second coming at the end of the world was going to happen very soon.  “So why bother with work?  Let’s just sit back and enjoy ourselves!”

But Paul says, “No, no.  We don’t know when Jesus is coming again.  It may be today.  It may be thousands of years from now.  So get busy and do your share of the work.  Don’t be lazy.  Don’t be bone idle.”

And then Paul adds, “In toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you.”  Paul was a tent maker by trade and he worked with his hands as a model for them.

The Jewish people had a saying:  “If parents do not teach their children a trade, they teach their children to steal.”  If scholars and rabbis were afraid to get their hands dirty, then how could they give any practical advice for daily living?  So Paul says, “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”

Notice that Paul is not saying that people who are unable to work should not eat, or that people who want to work but cannot find a job should not eat.  Rather, he is saying that those who are able but are unwilling to work should not expect to come to the table.

We have a saying that “an apple does not fall far from the tree.”  The quality of our work is a great reflection on our character.

This passage is urging us to do our best work not only in the great things of life but also in the little things – maybe making something for dinner from scratch instead of relying upon “microwave magic” or maybe doing that chore or that homework with a little extra care and effort.  Paul urges us to do our work, and to do it well.

There is a story about a man who bought a house without ever having seen it.  He was asked how he could be so trusting.  His answer was:  “I know the person who built it.  And that builder puts his Christianity in the bricks and mortar.”  The buyer knew the reputation of the builder, so the house would certainly be well built.

We have been blessed by God with so many talents and opportunities.  Everything we have is a gift from God.  As stewards of God’s bountiful blessings we show our gratitude by developing our gifts, and by sharing them generously with others.  And so, what return can we make to the Lord for all that He has done for us?

There is a great hymn of the Church that provides an answer to that question.  The hymn is entitled, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and the first and fourth stanzas have us look at the cross and say:

 

When I survey the wondrous cross

                  On which the Prince of glory died,

                  My richest gain I count but loss

                  And pour contempt on all my pride.

                  Were ev’ry realm of nature mine,

                  My gift would still be far too small.

                  Love so amazing, so divine,

                  Demands my soul, my life, my all!

 

Paul teaches us, “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”  We look at our lives and the work that we do in light of what God has given us.  What return can we make to the Lord for all that He has done for us?

Love so amazing, so divine,

                  Demands my soul, my life, my all!