Sunday, November 16, 2014

Uncovered Treasures

The Antiques Roadshow has been one of the most popular programs on public television over the past several years. The show follows experts as they go around the country appraising the antiques people have in their homes. It is a delight to watch the shock and surprise registering on people's faces when they learn that an item which they may have purchased for a few dollars at a yard sale or at the corner store is really worth thousands. Their small investment increased significantly in value. It makes one wonder what treasures we may have stored in our attics or basements.

In today's gospel, Jesus tells the story of three men who are entrusted with a treasure by their king who is going on a journey. Jesus calls the treasure they are given "talents", which was an ancient measure of silver roughly equivalent to 90 pounds. The English word "talent" meaning a special ability is taken from this ancient word. Though the king is gone only a short period of time, two of the men are able to double their money by investing it. How were these men able to be so successful? First of all, they recognized the value of the treasure which had been entrusted to them and knew that the best use of it was to invest it. Secondly, they understood that the treasure belonged to the king and not to them, and that they would have to give it back some day. They were convinced that the king would want his treasure back with interest. They were not willing to let the treasure gather dust, unlike the third man who buried his talent in the ground out of fear.

Jesus' meaning could not be clearer. Each of us has been entrusted with a treasure by God, and God expects us to make good use of it. During this week, each of us will have to examine our own conscience to determine what that treasure is and how we can multiply it for the glory of God. Today's readings, however, suggest to us two treasures which all of us share and which we can so often take for granted like valuable antiques gathering dust in our attics. They are, namely, our family and our time.

The first reading from the book of Proverbs is a poem praising a good wife whose "value is beyond pearls". Pearls were among the scarcest and most valuable items in the ancient world. In essence, the poem is saying that there is nothing more valuable than a good wife. By extension, our families are the most valuable treasure entrusted to us by God.

We see how true this is throughout Scripture. In the ten commandments, the first three spell out our obligations to God. The very next commandment, the fourth, commands that we honor our father and mother. Except for our obligations to Almighty God, our obligation to our family is first and foremost.
It is often said that charity begins at home. And, Pope John Paul II often wrote that the home is a school where children are taught to love and serve God. Whether we are parents or children, the home is the place where we learn to become holy. In fact, homes in which families eat at least one meal together daily, pray and go to Mass together have practically a zero percent divorce rate. Our homes must be places where God is honored if our marriages are to be strong and our children are to grow in virtue. And that means our homes must be more than just the place we eat and sleep in between our jobs, our classes and our other activities. Our homes must be the place where we pray, where we come to love and understand each other, and where we practice kindness and generosity.

The second treasure we have all been entrusted with is our time. In today's second reading, Saint Paul warns us that the time is short. The day of the Lord is coming at a time we cannot know. Whether the "day of the Lord" is the end of the world or our own death, it is closer today than it was yesterday. All of us would agree that time is something we all take for granted. We assume that we have plenty of it. And yet, we are shocked by how quickly it passes and that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. 

So, if we were to turn off the television, what could we do with the extra hours we would have in our day? We could go for a walk with our spouse. We could go to the park with our children or grandchildren. We could spend time marveling at the beauty of God's creation. We could read the Bible and pray. We could go out for ice cream. We could go to daily Mass.

The Danish author, Karen Blixen, once wrote: "Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever..." The world is full of much beauty for us to discover and our families full of much love for us to share.

Our family and our time are among the treasures God has given us for our enjoyment and for his glory. The way a valuable antique can get lost in the clutter of our attics, they can get overlooked because of the hectic pace of modern life. How our lives would be blessed if our families were to continually grow in love and faith! How rich we would be if we used our time to be continually mindful of God's presence! How glorious it would be to stand before God and hear him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant", because we were able to recognize the value of all the gifts he has given us and to return them to him with interest!

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