Prior's Message


In St. Benedict’s chapter on Lent in the Rule, he uses the word ‘joy’ in conjunction with this season. This may seem a bit unusual to most of us. We associate Lent with more sober, serious language in line with what is the accepted penitential character of this season. Benedict understands our Lenten offering as done ‘with the joy of the Holy Spirit.’ The personal Lenten discipline each of us undertakes is already the result of the Spirit. The Easter gift of the Spirit is prompting us to shape up our lives. It is Easter, the goal of Lent, that actually shapes our behavior these forty days. Lent clearly is related to its goal, Easter. Lent is not a goal unto itself but a season when we try to open up to the Paschal Mystery. Lent is meant to train us in the language and spirit of Easter.

Benedict actually sees Lent as a focus on our desire for Easter, a longing for this feast characterized by joy. Lent is our time to hone our desires. Our Lenten practices are meant to make us aware of our true desire and to shape and discipline our ways accordingly. What are we longing for? Things of the Spirit? Then waiting for the feast of life in the Spirit at Easter can be a waiting in joy to celebrate once again God’s breaking into our hearts and world on the feast of feasts and breathing his Spirit upon us to make all things new.

Prior Joel Macul, OSB

Homily - 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

Our own Fr. Thomas Leitner celebrated Holy Mass this morning, at the Benedictine Mission House chapel.  Below is a video of his homily.  Printed copy follows. 

Mk 1:29-39   Job 7:1-4.6-7   1 Cor 9:16-19.22-23

focus: We cannot answer the question why humans have to suffer. Jesus does not answer it, either. But he shows us God’s loving solidarity with those who suffer.

function: It is our call to follow his example.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived an upright and blameless man called Job. He had a loving wife, seven sons and three daughters, and the largest estate in the kingdom.  He didn’t abuse the power and privilege he enjoyed.  He used his wealth for hospitality and his influence for helping the needy.  No one who went to Job’s house for help left disappointed.

However, Job’s piety and sanity are put to the test. In a series of disasters he loses his family, his friends, his fortune, and his possessions.  Messengers keep coming to him to tell him tales of horror, of loss and of tragedy.  Finally, Job is afflicted with sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  Job exclaims, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The only thing that Job doesn’t lose is his faith in God.

That Job is depressed, however, we hear in today’s reading:  “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? … My days are swifter then a weaver’s shuttle;  they come to an end without hope.”

Why does Job have to suffer?  Why should an innocent person face such a fate?

In Old Testament Times it was thought that suffering was directly connected with people’s conduct, and that anyone who suffered had sinned.  Job’s friends, who come to console him, represent this view.  However, Job cannot believe that he is personally responsible for all these terrible losses because of his own wrongdoing.  Job has become the image of the innocent person’s suffering.  None of us is sinless; but many have to go through suffering that is not caused (at least not in full measure) by their own sin.

In the end, God speaks to Job; and Job experiences God’s consoling presence.  It must have been a deep experience of God.  God doesn’t explain, however, why all this has happened. - There simply are things that are very difficult to understand for humans.  Why do I have to endure so much loss and suffering, some of us, too, may ask, while other people seem to be spared of it?

In today’s gospel, Jesus is surrounded by a large number of suffering people.  How does he respond? He is present. He approaches Simon’s mother in law and takes her by the hand.  He brings healing to the sick and the afflicted.  He faces the demons and commands them to leave.

Early in the morning, he goes off to a deserted place. There he communes with God, his heavenly Abba. Prayer replenishes his strength to care for the suffering.  Prayer helps him also with decision-making. In this case, he realizes that he needs to go to the nearby villages in order to preach there also.

Jesus’ communion with God in prayer makes it possible that he is so totally transparent for God’s love, that God’s love becomes so visible and tangible in him.  We, too, are meant to become transparent for God’s love more and more.  Jesus’ “person is nothing but love,” Pope Francis wrote, “a love given gratuitously… The signs he works, especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick and the suffering are all meant to teach [us] mercy.”

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, We cannot answer the question why humans have to suffer. Jesus does not answer it, either. But he shows us God’s loving solidarity that those who suffer can count on. That’s why he has come.  It is our call to follow his example.

Do we also set times aside, like Jesus, for personal or communal prayer, during which we open ourselves to the love of God and receive strength and inner clarity for the any activities of our day? Do we intentionally plan such times?

We can face suffering with the love of God. If we ourselves are going through a hard time, we can imagine that Jesus is present to us today in this Eucharist and is healing us, as he touches us in the Eucharistic bread and wine and becomes one with us.

And we can ask ourselves: Who are the suffering or grieving people in our families, and among the folks around us?  Is today’s gospel calling us to be present to one or more of them, to listen to them, perhaps to grieve and to weep with them, and to assist them? 

We can become instruments of God’s compassion and solidarity for others, we can become God’s compassion in flesh, God’s care in motion, and enduring witnesses of a God who cares. As it was with Job, so it is sometimes with us.  God doesn’t seem to answer our why questions. – However God, revealed to us in Jesus, and through us to others, always can heal the brokenhearted.

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB

Homily - 4th Sunday, Ordinary TIme

Fr. Tom Hillenbrand celebrated the Holy Mass this morning.  Watch the video of his homily.  A text copy is also printed below. 


Is the devil for real?  You better believe it!

One night at Blue Cloud Abbey, I was in my office reading.  I got a phone call from a young man in Revillo, a little town close by the Abbey that we served from the monastery.  It all started out normal enough.

He started to tell me that he was involved in a diabolical cult and he was scared and did not know how to get out of it.  The cult told him to burn his Bible and hang his crucifix upside down, which he did.

Then as he was talking to me, in an instant, his voice changed completely into a very deep and gravelly voice that I could hardly understand.  Just like the voice of the devil in the movie “The Exorcist.”

I hung up immediately but I was pretty shaken up by that experience. Believe me, the devil is real.

Even tho the devil is real, he is very seldom that dramatic or obvious.  He is generally more subtle in our lives, but he is there nevertheless.

In the missalette “Give us this Day” Rachel Linner writes of her little demon “resentment.”  She says: “I confessed the sin in the Sac. Of Reconciliation and prayed for the person whenever I found myself remembering the litany of wrongs he had done to me. And why was I reciting the litany anyway, which only nestled the unclean spirit deeper in my heart.” And don’t we all do this with those we resent?  Recite a litany of wrongs about those people we are at odds with.

Rachel goes on to say: “The more I asked Jesus to remove the stubborn sin and it handmaidens (pride, self-pity, righteousness, envy) the more barriers I put in Jesus’ way.  I know my unclean spirits and they know me.

I harden my heart because if Jesus expels the unclean spirits, I will be empty”.   Here Rachel was referring to the psalm response we had today: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Then she goes on to say: “Maybe I will spend years in purgatory before I am cleansed.  But I want my unclean spirits expelled long before I die, so that I can be free to do Jesus’ work in the world. If only I don’t harden my heart.”

Probably the one over-riding demon we all have to deal with is the same one that Rachel had to deal with.  Relationships.  Relationships with others that have gone sour, or worse, that have crashed and burned.

All of us, at some time or another, have people we just can’t forgive.  We can’t seem to get them out of our mind.  The main problem is that no matter how hard we try, we can’t, by our own effort,  forgive them.  We are carrying way  too much pain and hurt, too much emotional baggage, too much anger.

Even Jesus could not forgive all those who scourged, slapped, spit on him and than nailed him to a cross.  He was in way too much pain to forgive.  So what did he do?  He turned them all over to His Father and said; “Father, you forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

And that’s what we have to say as well to let Jesus drive the demons of hate, anger, and resentment out of our hearts.  When that person pops into our head we need to say immediately: “Father, forgive him, forgive her, they know not what they are doing.”  And then move on, and go about our business.  Live in the present moment, live in the now.

Our problem when we start getting down, getting upset or depressed or angry, is that we are thinking way too much, and praying way too little.  Stop thinking, and start praying.  Put that person at the foot of the cross and move on.  Don’t look back, don’t think back.

Martin Luther King was one of the most forgiving persons of all. He preached and practiced non-violence, and turning the other cheek.  He said it so well: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Paul says in the 2nd reading: “Brothers and Sisters,  I would like you to be free of anxieties.”  And he also says: “Try, as far as possible, to live in peace with everyone.”

So how can we all be free of anxieties?  How do we let Jesus drive out the little demons in our heart?  We need to do 3 things.

Pray more, think less.  Instead of thinking thru-out the day which we all do way too much, we need to start praying little prayers thru-out the day.  Little “Thank You’s” thru-out the day,  as one man told me after Mass one day.  He said: “I try to say little “thank you’s” everyday, thru-out my day.”

Pray “Father forgive them, they know not what they do,” for any person we can’t forgive. Then let them go and move on and focus on what you are doing.

Live in love.   Love alone can drive out hate, drive out the darkness in our life.

Fr. Tom Hillenbrand, OSB

Homily - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


Jonah 3: 1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

Paul doesn’t mince words today, does he? “Time is running out.” The time that is running out is a little more than the shopping days before Christmas that we went through just a month ago; it is a little more than getting that check written for a payment that is due. For Paul something bigger is at stake. It is more than the pressure of everyday living. Paul is trying to wake up the Corinthian community to the fact that a radical change is on the horizon. For him and the community it was the coming of Christ. Paul may have been off about when the Lord will return. But what remains valid is the feeling of urgency that such talk engenders. Time is running out and this world as we know it is passing away. Such language should make us think twice even today. Paul is right in the end. With the coming of Jesus, the world changes; things cannot be the same as they used to be. Paul is calling on the Corinthian community to realize that faith in Jesus Christ is not in addition to their daily lives; it affects everything about their daily lives, the choices they make, their joys and sorrows, their business plans, even their purchases.

This sense of urgency, the feeling that something new is on the horizon and demands a response from us, is found in all the texts of God’s word today. It is quite vivid in the story of the prophet Jonah, the reluctant prophet. We can easily get sidetracked by Jonah and the big fish. The big fish God sent was precisely to prevent him from escaping the urgency of the moment and his role in it. He was to go to Nineveh and call the city to repentance. God gives them a time limit of 40 days; 40 days or else you’ll be no more. After only preaching for one day, the whole city responds to the call and begins their fasting and mourning. The point being that the pagans or the non-Israelite Ninevites recognized God’s prophet and his message when he told them that “your time is running out.” They took the message to heart and acted on it even before Jonah finished his rounds of preaching in the city. The city, one and all, responded to the moment of God’s call and changed their ways. The surprising thing about the story is that the Ninevites were enemies of Jonah and Israel and yet they grasped the meaning of the moment. It would almost seem that it doesn’t matter who God sends with the message. The meaning lies in whether we recognize that this is God’s moment and respond accordingly.

Today we hear the first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark (Last Sunday we heard the first words of Jesus in John’s Gospel: What are you looking for?). Like Jonah and Paul, Jesus’ words are about time: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” These are his first words and they certainly should make us sit up and ask who is this and what is happening here? It is helpful to keep in mind that Jesus is talking about a special time here. He is not just talking about the next thing coming up in the schedule. Jonah, Paula and Jesus are referring to the moment of great and decisive events. It is known as a kairos moment, a time when things come together; it is a time when God breaks into our scheduled time and opens up new possibilities; it is a time when life takes on new meaning; it is what happens when we experience something that will clearly change our lives. It can be a death, it can be a birth, it can be falling in love, and it can be making a promise. These are kairos moments. That is what Jonah announces to the Ninevites; Paul says scheduled time is running out because a new moment is here.

Today Jesus breaks into the ordinary world and business of Galilee with a new time, a kairos time and event: the Kingdom of God is here. Such an event and promise call for a response. Jesus tells us what that response looks like: repent and believe in the good news. It sounds simple. Repent here is not so much concerned only with sin and bad behavior. The word means “to change your mind” or better “change the way you see things” The root meaning of the word metanoia “change the eye of your heart.” Look at things differently. Look at yourself and the world in a new way. And for Jesus that way of looking at things is through the lens of the Kingdom of God. Change your view of the world and see it through God’s eyes. God is doing something new here, he is breaking into the world with his dream, his vision for what he intended from the beginning. What is needed on our part is a change of heart, or a change of vision.

The response of the first disciples is an example of the metanoia. What is clear in the call of Jesus is that these men entered a new world with Jesus. They followed him, the gospel says. This following of Jesus would forever change their lives. The skill and expertise of fishing would now have as its point of reference the Kingdom of God.

Our baptism plunged us literally into this new time. We changed sides as it were: we went from the passing world to the new world of the Kingdom. But it is a slow process for us. We have a continuing need to go through the same process of abandoning what we think to be the only perspective (leaving the nets and their entanglements and their catch) for the work of fishing for hearts. For most of us, we will probably spend a lot of energy stepping out of the small things that entrap us and confine us. These fishermen from Galilee left behind a rather good living—for what? For a relationship with Jesus and for a Kingdom that was of God. Jesus saw them and in that seeing they were caught. And when they left to follow him, they would see the bigger picture of God’s Kingdom.

The urgency felt in such phrases as “40 more days, and it is the end of you,” “time is running out” and “the time is fulfilled” is still there today. We know very well what urgently needs to be touched by the Kingdom of God. For one thing there are the many social issues that stand before us today; each need the good news of the kingdom: they range from the essential truth that all life is a gift of the God of the kingdom from conception through death, the recognition of the refugee and migrant, the acknowledgment of the evil of racism that divides and discriminates the children of God, the disunity among us Christians, the pollution of earth, our common home. Which of these does not urgently need to be overtaken by the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that Kingdom that can transform all this into a God-blessed and God-loved existence?

The urgency of Jesus’ first words still bears on us today. The Kingdom of God is still ‘at hand.’ It is not finished. We can still join the disciples and get out of our boats and join Jesus in learning to make this Kingdom a true home for all with whom we live and for the earth that sustains our every step. We all need to leave behind one point of reference and find another in the footsteps of Christ, whose footsteps alone can lead us into the way of peace,  the way to God’s Kingdom.

Fr. Joel Macul, OSB

Epiphany-Marking the Door and Blessing the House


At Christ the King Priory we have the custom to bless our monastery on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. After Mass, the presider writes the characters C + M + B on the frame of the entrance door, which represent, “Christ may bless this house,” and also the numbers of the New Year  20 18 to the left and to the right of the characters. Then he walks through the building, sprinkling it with holy water and incensing it. In the end he speaks a blessing over the house. The holy water reminds us of our baptism. In baptism we were born to new life with Christ. From our baptism on we belong to Christ. During this ritual we pray that as the fragrance of the incense fills the rooms the Holy Spirit may fill this house with its aroma and that all the spirits which are not the Holy Spirit may be banned from it.

by Fr. Thomas Leitner

The Nativity Scene In The Chapel


The history of the Christmas crib at Christ the King monastery

This crib all started when I asked my family, the Hillenbrands from Evansville, IN to donate a nice set of Fontanini statues from Italy to my former monastery in South Dakota,  Blue Cloud Abbey. This was around the turn of the century, early 2000.  I brought this set with me when I transferred by stability to Christ the King monastery in 2013. 

The statues all vary in heights, the tallest ones being about 18” high, and the shorter ones about 8 or 10 inches. They are made out of a type of resin and are pretty much unbreakable.

I built the crib set in our carpenter shop at Blue Cloud Abbey.  The rough, old, and worn wood adds a certain warmth and ruggedness to the crib.  The posts came from an old farm house porch they we tore down. The rest of the wood came from an old fence we had around the feed lot for our cattle. 

For the kings I made a winding, rocky road, about 6 ft. long and put the kings at the far end of this road.  As we get closer to the Feast of the 3 Kings, Epiphany, around Jan. 6th,  I move the Kings a little closer to the stable and manger during the days leading up to Epiphany.

There is an angel hanging from the ceiling on a nearly invisible fish line with a spot light on it.

Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand, OSB

Homily - Christmas Vigil and Midnight Mass

Our Prior, Fr. Joel Macul celebrated the Holy Mass and give the homily for the Christmas Vigil and Midnight Mass at the St. Benedict Center.  Below is a copy of his words. 

Isaiah 9:1–6
Titus 2:11–14
Luke 2:1–14

Midnight! There is something attractive about that hour. Midnight seems to fascinate. Why? It is though we must have the light shine in the midst of the darkness. It must be that we have to struggle to stay awake. Or we have to get up and greet this light in the middle of the night. God’s word must be heard in the midst of deep silence. The creative power of his light, the new day of his creation, must be greeted just when it seems that darkness will win out.

Perhaps the tradition of midnight Mass is more than just a “Well, this is just the way we always did it.” Perhaps the tradition is grounded in the human hope that God will break into this shield of darkness and we need and want to be there to experience it and to be touched by it again. In the ritual of gathering in the middle of the night, more is happening than just a pleasant memory of family or monastic traditions. What is happening is that we are proclaiming a victory over everything associated with darkness. We are saying that the world is not grounded in the night but in light. And we will break our sleep; keep vigil in the very heart of darkness to greet the coming of light.

There is something of a mystery here. We dare to say that the darkness makes the light shine out all the more. Or the silence makes the sound of the word all the more clear. It is not when things are going OK that light is announced and conquers darkness. God’s light comes when humanity seems lost, covered with a shadow, a pall of hopeless and fear. It is then that God breaks in and starts to work his wonders and reversals.

A family is asked to move just when the wife is heavy with pregnancy. It seems like a poor time to be going anywhere. A wise person would stay put. But no, the mother must give birth in the right place, a place without much human hospitality, a place cold and damp.  And the only straw to be found is the straw that animals will eat. What is God doing? What is God saying?

The least he is saying is that he wishes to be seen among the least. He is at least saying that being God has something to do with taking on the human situation at is worst. God is saying that the peace he brings must begin with those who know no justice, who have no real hope. What God is doing is becoming Emmanuel in the least likely place: in the cover of darkness, in a family that is being forced to move; and God finds a bed in a feeding trough.

Christmas appears to be about God taking humanity for what it is: displaced, powerless, without shelter, wandering in the dark; hungry and fearful. All this describes our situation today as much as it does that of Jesus’ time. We do live in a world where some like to generate fear of others, of those who are different. We find ourselves more suspicious, judgmental and critical of others. And we also find ourselves in a world where more people are displaced and uprooted than ever before; where the number of victims of disease rises rather than slackens despite advances of modern medicine; where exploitation of natural resources continues to render people powerless over their own lives. We still live in a world that is governed by power and super powers. We do live in a world where greed, racism and lust seem more normative than exceptional.

All this makes our gathering at midnight in the year 2017 more urgent. We are assembled to hear again a birth story that has much more to it than a baby born 2,000 years ago. The child whose birth we celebrate is not limited to being a baby from long ago. We are here because this child has brought with him a new way of living. It is not that he is born in the middle of the night that is important. But it is that we have seen the light and glory that he brings with him. We are attracted to midnight because there is a glow around it and we want to be in that glow. We are attracted to the midnight child because he changes everything around him. Sure there is still darkness, corruption and abuse and oppression. But there is vision of something different, vastly different and it cannot even compare. There is the vision of something good and beautiful. There is a glimpse of the truth and a word spoken without deceit and a promise made that is kept.

It is not just Jesus that is born. It is a whole new order, a new Kingdom, a new way of relating that is coming to birth. Peace is not just a word about an ideal, but something that God is bringing about. Jesus will be about connecting all that is disconnected and discarded. Jesus will be the peace between all human beings. What is being remembered tonight is that  the child that is born for us brings with him all that humanity is about in its deepest desires and longings.

At our midnight gathering, we are blessed to connect with the Child and his kingdom no matter where our life’s journey has taken us. But in coming here to connect with the Child born for us, we are really connecting with our humanity at its best. Humanity as God truly offers it to us. And when we connect with our deepest selves, we are also connected with every other human being. When we do that consciously and with love, we will discover that God’s kingdom is being formed in our time. And the glow and attraction of that kingdom is a peace that arises from justice and integrity. To be at Christmas midnight Mass is not only to wait and see the light. It is to be overcome by it. We are here tonight because we want to give ourselves over to that Kingdom of the Child which is vast and forever peaceful.

Prior, Fr. Joel Macul

Homily - 3rd Sunday of Advent

Our Prior, Fr. Joel Macul celebrated Holy Mass on this 3rd Sunday of Advent.  Read his homily below or watch the video. 

Isaiah 61:1–2, 10–11
I Thessalonians 5:16–24
John 1:6–8, 19–28

John the Baptist is still with us. Last week we heard him as a herald, as a messenger, proclaiming baptism for forgiveness, dressed in camel’s hair—by all accounts a rough figure. The gospel today definitely shifts the description. It describes John as simply a man giving testimony, as bearing witness. John is someone who testifies on behalf of someone else. He is not out in the desert or at the edge of the Jordan to speak for himself, about himself. His only purpose is to speak for another.

The Gospel of John has its own understanding of John. In fact, his baptizing is minimal. Instead, in this Gospel John might be better called John the Testifier, John the Witness. For that is what he is.

There is something very certain about John, a man sent by God. He seems so sure of his identity. He lets no one tell him who he is. Nor does he let other people place expectations on him. He will not deceive anyone but he will not allow anyone to name him. He knows very well there is a feeling of expectancy in the air; he knows there is much curiosity that demands satisfaction. Why else would people come out to question who he is? There is an opportunity here to take advantage. But he does not. He will not be pushed around by other people’s dreams and wishes, even if it is connected with a deep rooted hope and dream: the Messiah.

John knows his place. He knows who sent him. He is a man sent by God. His place is to give testimony: he does not seek to take anyone else’s place. He knows his relationship to the Messiah who is coming. He will not usurp that position. When Jesus does finally appear, he is most willing to get out of the way.  He must increase, I must decrease, he says.

There is something wonderfully free about John the man of God; and something wonderfully strong. He comes across to us as a man who is sure of himself and his place. There is no self-seeking; no looking for another position other than the one allotted him by God who sent him. There is no such thing as wishing he were the Messiah, Elijah or the Prophet. John is free to stand in his own place. He is free to give testimony about Christ. It is the sure knowledge of who he is and his role that makes him strong. In that strength he does not let others force their hopes and expectations upon him. As one who testifies, he invites his questioners to put their hopes in the one coming after him.

There is a challenge for us in John the Baptist as one who testifies, as a witness on behalf of God. The challenge is rather simple. Does our whole life, our whole being, point to the one who is coming? The season of Advent is more than just a passive waiting for the coming One. It is an active season of giving testimony, of bearing witness, of enthusiastically pointing. There needs to be something about our lives that will make others say: maybe he/she knows about the one who comes. There ought to be something about our actions, our words, our attitude that will make others say: Oh, the Kingdom of God is surely among us; look at the way he or she is living. We must be enough of a witness so that others can surely get a taste that there is something more here, that life is for a purpose, that nothing is just an accident. And yet, we must have enough sense and humility to know that we are not IT. What we do and say is not yet the Kingdom. We must be attractive enough so that others take notice, but transparent enough so that others can see through us to the one is coming and what truly belongs to the Kingdom. We must be able to give testimony and not stand in the way of God’s work and love. Advent is being clear about your identity, your relationship to God, to the Messiah, the Spirit-filled Christ.

If we need a clarification of what we are to testify to, then we can find it in the description of the Spirit-filled Messiah in Isaiah. We are bearing witness to the Kingdom where there is good news for the disadvantaged and healing for broken hearts. Where freedom is being affected in the face of any kind of slavery, human trafficking or addiction. We are to testify that a jubilee year of forgiveness and restoration of human dignity is going on. In economic terms, this would mean a cancelation of debts and the ability to start over with a clean slate. A big wish, but very much within the realm of God’s Kingdom.

John, the man of God, turned witness and giver of testimony stands as a reminder to us that real light is coming and it will dawn on the darkness of our situation whether it is personal, national, global or relates to our Church. John gave testimony that he was not the light but that there was real light coming. We are challenged to testify that real wisdom will guide us in the questions of today; real healing will come to broken families and hearts; real freedom will open prisons of many kinds. All this, we can testify, will happen with the one whom God has anointed and sent.

When we Christians are as faithful in our witness to Jesus as was John the Baptist, then the situation will come out on the side of justice, love and truth. Our Advent task is modeled for us in John the Baptist. We must be a faithful witness to Jesus. In order for that to happen, we may very well have to get ourselves out of the way and let Christ’s work of healing, freeing and bringing Good News come through loud and clear. A faithful witness to Jesus knows that there is light and no darkness can overcome it.

Homily - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 31:10–13, 19–20,  30-31
Matthew 25:14–30

The word “talent” in English has come to mean a kind of innate or natural skill or aptitude for some physical or mental activity. One has a talent for playing the piano or singing, for instance. Or one has a talent for a certain sport. We think of talent as an ability or skill that we possess somewhat naturally. Ironically, it may well be that this parable about talents, master and servants led to that understanding, even definition of the word.


I say ironically, because originally and in the parable, the talent was a large amount of money. Some say one talent was worth 15 years’ salary. Today we would say the master entrusted his servants with millions of dollars. While we may say that we have talents, given by God, and we should use them, develop them, and then give them back, and that is true enough, a close listening to this Jesus parable takes a slightly different approach. The parable says that the master entrusts talents, large sums of money. He does this because they already have the “talent” to handle it. The master gives his possessions precisely because he sees that his servants are skilled and competent to handle them. The parable takes for granted the “talent” of the servants to receive and work with the master’s precious entrustment. The master entrusts his possessions to his servants; in that word “entrusts,” there is implied a positive relationship between the master and his servants and there is a certain expectation on the part of the servants.

So the focus seems to be on what is the talent. On the surface, the talents are millions of dollars. But the parable is about the Kingdom of God. In kingdom language, the talent may well be certain aspects of being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus was with the disciple-servants for a certain length of time, and then he died, rose and left the disciples to go home to the Father. He is not here, he is away, but he promised to return. What he left us was a new way of life; he left us his word to listen to and then to put into action. The parable says the master entrusted, implying a special relationship, his possessions to his servants. Jesus has clearly entrusted to us his relationship with his Father. That is what he possesses, that is the gift he hands on to us. He opens our eyes to see how his Father wants his children to be. Jesus goes about breaking down any barriers that would get in the way of our being called his children. He gives us his word and in the same breath, he says we too can be his brother or sister when we hear the Father’s word Jesus speaks and we do it. Doing his word makes us a part of the family of Jesus.

Jesus shows us the way of living like children of God, children of the light, Paul says today: a concern for the weak and the stranger, a commitment to forgiveness no matter how many time one is hurt, turning one’s check, loving the enemy, a care for mercy and justice, and the willingness to take up the cross believing that in carrying it is the only way to true life. All this is the million dollar talent the master has entrusted to us.

Jesus possesses the love and life of the Father; he possesses a way to live out that life and love and he has handed it over to us. In our “yes” to him, no matter how fragile, we acknowledge that we want to live this new life and are able  to carry it out. With baptism we were given the Spirit that enables us to do it. We hold a precious gift even in the earthenware vessels of our lives. But that is the trust that the master, Jesus, God the Father has in us. Earthenware vessels can hold a treasure and share it.

Let us be honest! Really, this parable is a tragedy. Usually when there are three characters in a parable, it is the last one who comes out the winner. Think of the Good Samaritan. The first two people who pass by are the losers, the stranger and the foreigner (Samaritan) is the winner. But today, it is the reverse. The last one loses. What happened? Well, he took his millions, his precious gift of having a forgiving and loving Father, and he buried it! It was safe! And in the way of thinking at the time, since he buried it, if someone else stole it, he was not responsible! He had the precious gift of being a disciple of Jesus but he did not take that gift and encounter the world with it. While the Master was gone, the world went on, times changed, people came and went, but he was afraid to have the Good News speak to the world. He thought he had to keep it safe, don’t let anything change it. Don’t let somebody else get it. What was the result of this way of thinking? In the end, he lost it because he did not grow and he did not take the talent with him and interact in the world that was changing. The Good News died because it had no chance to meet, challenge and grow in new circumstances, in a different world from what even the master knew. But just maybe, that is why he, the master, entrusted the talent of Good News, of the Word of God, to the servant in the first place: so that he or she could carry it through history.

The parable reflects a male world. But the reading from Proverbs gives us a wife, a woman. She shows us what doing the talent looks like. The key word is the same as in the gospel. The husband has “entrusted” something to his wife (“Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize” (Prov. 31:11)). And what has he entrusted to her— his heart. This is his most precious possession, his very self, so to speak. His heart is where he thinks, feels, makes decisions. The description of the wife’s life is a description of what can happen when someone entrusts their heart to you. You live from that heart and you make that heart everything, and your world becomes rich with generosity to those around you because you have been trusted. You hold nothing back. Your skill becomes service out of love. Once again, the woman is the model for the disciple. Last Sunday it was the same–five wise virgins!…. Has not Jesus entrusted his heart to us, his very desire, his love, his very self? He did what he did for us. There is an expectation, and rightly so, that what has become gift to us, we will in turn activate in the world around us. But why would we not do that? What we have, this precious relationship, we dare to risk, sharing it in unknown, even unthinkable places and with people of all kinds. Love is like that; it goes out of itself.

True love, God’s covenantal love, involves accountability. We have been given a talent or two of God’s love in Christ. When we have lit up the world around us with love, then the Master can say on the last day, when he comes to take us with him to the Father’s bosom, come faithful one, share in my joy. Joy is the final talent the master give us. It is the crown of risking love and sharing in our world with the same fidelity, mercy and trust that our Master did.

Joel Macul, OSB