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The Gifts Received and Shared

November 11, 2017. XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A — November 12, 2017

Roman Rite

XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A – November 12, 2017

Prv 31, 10-13.19-20.30-31; Ps 128; 1 Thes 5, 1-6; Mt 25, 14-30

Ambrosian Rite

1st Sunday of Advent

1)  The first talent is God’s Love.

The “talents”1 of which Jesus speaks in today Gospel are not only the qualities or the abilities that God has given to each one of us but His Love and gifts of grace, strength and intelligence, with which He fills us so that we assume the responsibility of children and brethren.

In this regard, Pope Francis asks: “Have you thought about how you can put your talents to the service of others?” then he says: “Do not bury your talents! Bet on great ideals, ideals that enlarge the heart, the ideals of service that will make your talents fruitful. Life is given to us not to jealously preserve it for ourselves, but to give it to others. ”

The Pope reminds us that, in this parable of the talents2, Jesus wants to teach his disciples (and us) to make good use of the gifts that God gives to every man and woman. He calls them to life, gives them talents and a mission to be accomplished using and sharing such gifts. This is also a parable with which Christ invites us not to be afraid of life and God. He is not a master excessively and unfairly demanding, but a Father who with the gift of Charity allows us to live in freedom and love.

In addition to His love these are the gifts- talents that Jesus offers us: his Word deposited in the Gospel, Baptism which renews us in the Holy Spirit, prayer – the ‘Our Father’ – that we address to God as children united in the Son, his forgiveness which he commanded to be given to everyone and the sacrament of his sacrificed Body and Blood. In a word: the Kingdom of God, which is Christ himself who is present and alive among us.

The talents that Jesus has entrusted to us, his friends and brothers, multiply when we donate them to others. It is a treasure given to be invested and shared with everyone. If it is foolish to think that the gifts of Christ are due to us, it is also foolish to renounce using them because it would be defeating the purpose of our existence. Commenting on this passage of the Gospel, St. Gregory the Great notes that the Lord does not deprive anyone of the gift of his charity and love. He writes: “It is therefore necessary, my brethren that you’d put every effort in the safekeeping of charity and in every action that you must perform” (Homilies on the Gospels 9.6). And, after stating that true charity consists in loving both friends and enemies alike, he adds “If one lacks this virtue, he loses every good, he is deprived of the talents received and is thrown out into the darkness”

2)  A parable framed by two others parables.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, the parable of the talents is preceded by the one of the wise virgins and followed by the parable of the final judgment on love (I was hungry, thirsty, I was naked … and you gave me something to eat, something to drink, to get dressed …).We can consider it as the central pillar that illuminates the other two. First, it sheds light on the meaning of wisdom, represented by the reserve of oil. True wisdom comes from the novelty of a free and creative relationship that the human person has with the Lord. Second, the parable of the talents teaches that the grace given by God and accepted and recognized by us, becomes a gift for the brothers, who identify with the person of Christ. Also, if we consider the Gospel of Luke, this parable is closely linked with the story of Zacchaeus freely encountered by Jesus. This parable reveals a curious fact: in front of God, man is not only forever in debt but is called freely to a meeting with him, which is pure grace. Being wise and skillful in front of God is then the only way to liberation, which will become a free gift in the meeting with the brother.

Unfortunately, sometimes we are in front of God like the third servant, the one who did not grow his talent, and we remain closed in our preconceptions about God and our modest ideas about Him. We care too much about our peace of mind and of our routine. Novelty frightens us. Christ calls us to be his confident disciples that are not afraid of him and stand by without servile fear. The disciple of Jesus must move in a relationship of love, from which alone can spring courage, generosity, freedom and even the courage to take the required risks.

Looking to the One who “has made all things new” we are-unfortunately more frightened than enlightened. This is why the parable of the talents stimulates the freedom and generosity that flows from the recognition of the sheer gratuitousness of an encounter. This meeting is wanted by man, as it was for Zacchaeus, but is made from the goodness and love of God who went to his house and brought salvation. It was the coming of Christ in the house of a repentant sinner.

3)  Coming = Advent.

All Latin Christians equate Advent to a period of 4 weeks for the Roman rite and 6 weeks for the Ambrosian rite, but many ignore the origin of the word “advent” and some “curiosity” that this term carries with it and that is worth reminding.

Let’s start with the word “Advent”, which is derived from Latin and literally means “arrival”, “coming”. It was used by the rulers of ancient times, especially in the East, to indicate the ritual with which they wanted to solemnly celebrate their arrival (in fact, their “coming”) in a city. They demanded to be welcomed as benefactors and gods. For the Christian liturgy the choice to use this term for the “coming” of Jesus Christ, the true giver of salvation and redemption among men in the great cities of this world, was therefore consistent with the mentality of ancient times.

Thus the real “advent” would coincide with the celebration of Christmas, which is the day when we celebrate the coming of someone. The word Advent later was amplified to indicate the period of preparation for the feast of December 25th. Therefore the question of how long should we prepare for Christmas came up. The most ancient solution that the Ambrosian rite has retained to this day, was to “build” the period of preparation for Christmas in imitation of the period of preparation for Easter, namely Lent. Because Lent is marked over six Sundays, so Advent was “built” on six Sundays3.

These are Sundays intended to keep alive the vigilance of expectation, so that Christ doesn’t find us indolent and lazy, and the devil doesn’t rob us of this treasure. These are Sundays when we are reminded that to have faith means to make fruitful the talent that has been placed in our hands.

4)  The one who loves, lives in vigilant expectation.

 To receive and treasure the presence of Christ in us we must have the vigilance of the heart, that the Christian is called to exercise in everyday life, but especially in the season of Advent when we prepare with joy to the mystery of Christmas.

The environment that surround us offers the usual commercial messages, even if perhaps to a lesser degree now, due to the economic crisis. The Christian is called to live Advent as a time of waiting without being distracted by the lights of shops and supermarkets, but looking with the eyes of the heart to Christ, the true Light.

In fact, if we persevere “vigilant in prayer and rejoicing in praise “(Preface for the First Sunday of Advent), our eyes will be able to recognize in Him the true light of the world that comes to enlighten our darkness.

The Virgin Mary teaches us an active and joyful vigilance on the path to the encounter with God. Following the example of our Heavenly Mother, the consecrated Virgins are daily witnesses of how to live this expectation by showing that the greatest talents are the Love of God, his Kingdom and His righteousness.

The virgin is the person who waits, even with her body, the eschatological marriage of Christ with the Church, giving herself completely to the Church in the hope that Christ gives himself to the church in the full truth of eternal life. The celibate person anticipates in his flesh the new world of the resurrection. He or she is the witness in the Church of the awareness of the mystery of marriage and defends it from any reduction and impoverishment. (cf. Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, nr. 16)

The consecrated Virgins in the world are called to testify that, being persistent and “vigilant in prayer and rejoicing in praise” (Preface First Sunday of Advent), allows our eyes to be able to recognize in Christ the true light of world that comes to enlighten our darkness.

The task of the consecrated Virgins is to build a life on the rock of a Lord loved, listened and waited (cf. Mt 7.24 to 25).

1 The talent was not a coin, but a unit of account. It was not possible to mint a coin of almost 27 kilos! It indicated, however, a very large value, as huge as it is the treasure left to us by Jesus. In fact a talent was 60 mines and 6,000 drachmas. The drachma was treated as equivalent to the dinar (which was the currency of the time) and an unskilled worker earned about a dinar a day. The Mishnah says that the minimum for a family to live was 200 dinar per year. With a talent, a family could live 30 years.

2 In the parable of the talents recorded by the Evangelist St. Matthew (25, 14-30), Jesus tells of three servants to whom, when going on a long journey, the master entrusts his money. Two of them are doing well, because they earn twice their talents. The third, however, hides the money received in a hole. Back home, the master calls the servants to give an account of what he had entrusted to them, and while he appreciated what the first two did, he is disappointed with the third one. The servant that kept hidden the talent without enhancing it. He miscalculated: he acted as if his master would no longer come back and as if there was not a day when he would be asked to be accountable for how he had “managed” the gift.

3 This year, November 16 is exactly the sixth Sunday before Christmas, precisely the beginning of the Ambrosian Advent. In more recent times the Roman Rite shortened this period to “only” four Sundays and that explains the difference in the calendar and the words “Roman Advent” on November 30th.