Use Your Gifts ~ The Rev. Shawn Gisewhite, OPI


Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus tells us that one day a man went away on a journey. But before he left, he entrusted his assets to three of his servants. They were each given “talents.” The Greek word talanta literally means “weights.” Back in those days, a talent or weight was valued according to the kind of metal of which the weight consisted. It could be a talent of copper, gold, or silver. The most common talent was silver. Assuming that these were silver talents, then they could have been worth more than $1,000 each. So one servant was given five talents, or over $5,000; another two talents, or more than $2,000; and the last servant was given one talent, a “measly” $1,000 or so. How many of you could use even a measly $1,000 right now?  I know I could!

Now Jesus told many of His parables as a way to explain what the kingdom of God is like. The parable of the talents is another one of those. And so, you see, the characters in the story represent various types of people in the kingdom. Who is this rich master who went away to a far country? It’s the Master…JESUS.

When He told this parable, Jesus was well aware that within weeks He too would go on a long journey. He would depart from the top of the Mount of Olives and ascend up, up and away to a far land—to the distant heavens—and there take up His place at the right hand of the Father. In the same way that verse 19 tells us that the rich man would be away for a long time, Jesus knew that His return would not be as soon as some people might think. Yet Jesus also knew that He, like the rich man, would return to receive back His property and obtain a careful accounting from each servant.

Now who are these three servants in the parable? They represent you and me, and every other person who is called to serve the Master. They symbolize every servant of God who is born into His house, bought with His blood, and employed for His praise and profit.

1. God has entrusted much responsibility to His servants.

Verse 14 says that the man “called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.” So the first point I want to make is that God has entrusted a lot of responsibility to His servants.

While the rich man called his servants to manage his financial empire, the Lord Jesus has called you and me to manage His earthly kingdom. We have been given an enormous responsibility. We manage the earthly affairs of the Master of masters…the Lord of lords.

God has entrusted much to us. King David in Psalm 8:3-6 expressed his wonder at how much trust God has placed into the hands of human beings: 3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Think of it! God went to all that work to create a perfect world; yet He put man in charge of it all. What incredible confidence He has in His finite and fallible creatures!

Verse 14 tells us that the servants were commanded to manage his “goods,” or his property. Servants in those days owned nothing themselves. Everything they had, even their spouses and their children, were the property of the master. And even when he would go off to a far country, they had no right to say, “The boss is gone now, let’s take our money and run.”

Let’s face it, everything we call ours is really His. Even our own bodies are not ours. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19,20: 19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

As servants of Jesus we own nothing. We are managers of God’s property. Our knowledge of the “mysteries” or “secret things” (1 Corinthians 4:1) is still the knowledge of the mysteries of God. Our husbands and our wives, our sons and our daughters, our houses and our land, our spiritual gifts and our ministries, our time and our talents—they are all His property, entrusted into our care until He returns to receive them back.

Now if we would only realize that we are but tenants on His land, we would be less selfish and demanding; if we would only realize that we are not the king of the castle, but He is the King, then we would not be so quick to run away from our responsibilities. In fact, we would ask His permission before we did anything.

Now before I leave this point about God entrusting great responsibility to us, we must not ignore the fact that not all of us have equal responsibility. Verse 15 of our text says, “ ‘And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability….’ ”

Not every servant was entrusted with the same number of talents. One was given five talents, another two, and the third servant was given only one. What we discover is that God makes us managers according to our “manage-ability.”

The master in this parable is not only wealthy; he is also wise. He knew that his servants did not have equal ability. Likewise, God never gives to us more than we can handle. He knows our strengths and He knows our weaknesses. God never demands from a man abilities which he has not got; but he does demand that a man should use to the full the abilities which he does possess. Peter said it well in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

2. But many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve got.

So my first point is that God has entrusted to each of us some kind of important responsibility in the kingdom, though it might not be equal to the responsibility given to someone else.

The second point I want to stress, and it’s something that Jesus wished to stress, is the fact that although God has entrusted something to each of us, some of us who have been entrusted with little don’t make the most of the little we’ve got.

Servant number three was given only one talent to invest. We’re told in verse 18 that upon receiving his talent, he “went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” Now at first glance, this doesn’t appear to be such a terrible thing to do. His master told him to look after one talent and so that’s what he did. He buried the talent for safekeeping. In those days, it was common to hide some of your money in case some invading army conquered the land and took over the banking system.

So this third servant perhaps said to himself, “I’m going to keep my master’s money safe and sound by digging a hole and burying the talent it might get a little muddy, but at least it wouldn’t be stolen.”

But what did the master think of this servant’s logic when he returned? He was not impressed at all. We’re told at the end of the parable that not only was he fired from his job, but the master ordered that he be thrown “into the outer darkness,” a place where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

It’s scary to admit this, but did you know that many of us are just like that poor one-talent servant? Many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve been given. And because we don’t make the most of what we’ve got, even the little we have will one day be taken away.

I want us to take note of the behavior and attitudes that characterized this third servant and caused him to displease his master so much.

The Fear of Failure

Upon the master’s return to ask his servants for an accounting, the third servant tries to justify himself, saying in verse 24 of our text that he knew his master to be a “hard man.” And then in verse 25 he says that he was “afraid,” and therefore went and hid his master’s talent in the ground. So we see that the first thing that characterized this third servant and that caused his master’s displeasure was fear.

He buried his talent because he was afraid.  Afraid that if he took the talent and invested it, he might risk losing it all and then have nothing to return to his master. For fear of losing everything, he did nothing.

Fear is probably the most powerful enemy of success. So many people miss opportunities to do something significant with their gifts or talents or possessions simply because they fear failure. You may have been blessed with a natural ability to sing, but much of this talent has gone to waste because you fear you’d fall apart once you stepped on the stage. Or fear of being booed by an audience. What a tragic thing it will be if you bury your God-given talent.

Some of you have been given a naturally warm and loving personality. Yet you’ve never allowed yourself to get close to anyone because of the fear of rejection. And so you’ve buried a treasure. It’s buried so deep that most people don’t even know that you have it. Instead of warmth and love, they see you as cold or shy. Only you know that deep down inside there is something in your possession of great worth.

Some of you have been given a marvelous gift of communication. But because you think that you might say the wrong thing, you freeze up, you lock your lips, and you’re paralyzed because of fear.

How many of us, because we fear to step out and invest the gifts and abilities God has given us, are missing opportunities to use and develop our talents to their full potential? We leave the treasure lying buried in the dirt.

That’s the first characteristic of the third servant: He was paralyzed by the fear of failure. Now let me mention a second characteristic: laziness.

Laziness

Servant number three had one more tragic flaw. When the master returned to settle accounts, he indicated what he thought of that servant’s decision to bury his talent. In verse 26 the master called him a “wicked and lazy servant!”

If fear of failure is a great enemy of success in the kingdom, laziness at least runs a close second. It probably took servant number three all of five minutes to dig a hole and bury the talent. He saved himself all the time and energy needed to think through all the investment options that were available to him. He couldn’t be bothered researching the possibility of buying a house or a piece of land at a bargain price and finding good tenants. Nor did he even have enough ambition to make a trip to the bank and take the time to decide on whether to invest the talent in a daily-interest shekel account, or a fixed-interest foreign-currency account, or whatever. This man was just plain lazy.

The Bible has a lot to say about lazy people. Proverbs 10:4,5 declares: 4 “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.” Proverbs 20:13 advises, “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” And I love this line from Ecclesiastes 10:18, “Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks.”

We can be lazy at school or work. And we may be too lazy to pray for other each day.

So we have seen that God has entrusted us with much responsibility; yet even when this responsibility is smaller than that received by others, many of us fail to make the most of what we have been given. Like servant number three in Jesus’ parable, we may be paralyzed by a fear of failure, or we may be lazy, or both. Now I want to make a third point: There are serious consequences for a person who doesn’t make the most of what he’s got.

3. There are serious consequences in failing to make the most of what you’ve got.

Losing What You Have Been Given

The first consequence of fear and laziness for servant number three was the loss of even the one talent that had been entrusted to him. When his master returned and found that the servant had been negligent and had buried his talent, he was angry. He said in verse 28 that the talent should be taken from him and given to the servant who had 10 talents. Now in this parable Jesus is not justifying taking from the poor and giving to the rich (a kind of Robin Hood principle in reverse). What Jesus is doing is teaching a simple principle of life: If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

This principle has been proved in my own life. Many years ago I played the trumpet and the drums. I practiced hard. I developed a talent. But if you were to hand me a trumpet or a drum right now and I were to try and play them for you, you would plug your ears! I can’t play the trumpet or drums today. Why? Because I haven’t used my talent.

That’s what can easily happen to buried talents. The third servant not only didn’t achieve a profit on his master’s money; he even lost the one talent he was given to manage. This fearful and lazy manager had dug a hole, little realizing that he was digging it for himself! He didn’t realize that if he didn’t use it, he’d lose it.

Sometimes we wonder why others seem to succeed but we don’t. Maybe it’s because we are not using the talents that God has given us. How would you feel if you gave a friend a gift (one you were sure they would like and use) but then you noticed that they never wore the shirt you gave, or never took the game you bought out of the box? Wouldn’t you be a bit offended? You might think twice about ever giving another gift to that thankless person.

I wonder if God sometimes feels that way about us. He has given us gifts. We have buried them in the ground out of fear, or because we’re just too lazy to do anything with them. Why should God ever give us more gifts and more responsibility if we aren’t faithful to use what He has already given us?

Jesus said to a group of “religious” people in Matthew 21:43, “ ‘Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.’ ”

Future Everlasting Darkness

If losing the only talent he had was not enough, then the third servant heard his master call him an “unprofitable servant” in verse 30, and order that he be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here was the second consequence of his failure to make the most of what he had.

What could Jesus possibly mean by these harsh words? Remember, we learned in verse 19 that the master returned to settle accounts with his managers “after a long time.” This speaks to us of Jesus’ own return. Yes, it’s been two thousand years and He hasn’t returned yet. But this “long time” is coming to a close. The signs are clear. And one of the reasons He is returning is to settle accounts. Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Jesus will look for a profit on his investment.

Here Jesus is not talking about just our natural gifts or talents. Here He is talking about how we will deal with the greatest gift of all, the one gift that God has offered to everybody…the gift of salvation. The greatest gift that you have been offered is the gift of Jesus, God’s Son…the gift of the Savior. We read in John 3:16-18:

16 “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’ ”

God has given us the one gift that, if accepted, will give us eternal life, a life in heaven full of reward and personal fulfillment. But if we reject it, because we’re afraid or too lazy to receive it and act upon it, then even the life we have now will be taken from us. In place of eternal life, we will be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

To conclude, I don’t know about you, but I want to be most like the first servant, not the last one. It says in the parable in verse 16 that the one “who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.” In another Bible version, we read that this man “went AT ONCE.”

One thing that set this servant apart from the third servant was his faith. And there were two things that showed that he had faith. First of all, he took a certain measure of risk. He could easily have taken the safe route and buried his talents too. But instead, he took his money and invested it.

Another indication that this was a man of faith was the fact that he “went at once.” Alexander the Great, when asked how he had conquered the world, replied, “By not delaying.” This servant didn’t waste any time in investing his master’s money.  He didn’t want to lose even a day’s interest on that money, so he “went at once.” He wasn’t fearful or lazy, but he believed so strongly that he could make a profit with his master’s money that he “went at once.”

There’s a man named Lee Iacocca and he was the chairman of Chrysler Motors. Iacocca said, “Obviously, you’re responsible for gathering as many relevant facts and projections as you possibly can. But at some point you’ve got to take that leap of faith…because even the right decision is wrong if it’s made too late.” “You’ve got to take that leap of faith.” Very few things are ever accomplished unless we step out in faith and take certain risks.

Many of us have problems making decisions, taking steps of faith. And we end up being poor managers of God’s resources.

It’s no accident that I’m sharing this message with you. God planned this encounter before you and I were born; He wanted you to receive this message. God is offering you His free gift—His son Jesus. You can take Him or leave Him. But before you leave Him, before you reject Him, at least take a good look at Him. Take a close look at this gift, this treasure.

Read the instruction manual, the Bible, before you say to yourself, “Jesus doesn’t work for me.” I can tell you from life experience that Jesus works! I’ve read the instruction manual. I’ve read the Bible. And one day I decided to believe that Jesus works, and at that moment God flipped on the power switch and Jesus started working in my life. I have never been the same since.

God has given you gifts and talents. Use them. And God has given you the greatest gift of all, Jesus. Don’t reject that gift. Don’t bury Jesus. Take a step of faith and believe and follow the instruction manual. He’ll work for you too!

Amen.

 

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Blessed Lucy of Narni

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Blessed Lucy of Narni was the eldest of eleven children of Bartolomeo Broccadelli and Gentilina Cassio. When she was only five years old, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Two years later, she had another vision, this time of the Virgin Mary accompanied by Saint Dominic. Dominic is said to have given her the scapular at this time. When she was twelve years old, Lucy made a private vow of chastity, and determined to become a Dominican nun.

Circumstances, however, changed to make doing so difficult.  The next year her father died, leaving her in the care of an uncle. This uncle determined that the best course of action he could take would be to get Lucy married as quickly as possible.

He made several attempts to do so. One of these included holding a large family party. He had invited the man he had chosen as Lucia’s husband to the party, with the intention of having the couple publicly betrothed. He however had not informed Lucia of his intentions. The suitor made an attempt to put a ring on Lucia’s finger, only to be slapped repeatedly for his efforts by Lucia.

A later attempt involved Count Pietro de Alessio of Milan, an acquaintance of the family. Lucia was actually quite fond of him, but felt her earlier vow to become a nun made the possibility of marriage impossible. The strain Lucia felt as a result of the conflicting feelings made her seriously ill. During this time, the Virgin Mary and Saint Dominic again appeared to her, this time accompanied by Catherine of Siena. They reportedly advised Lucia to contract a legal marriage to Pietro, but to explain that her vow of virginity would have to be respected and not violated. Pietro agreed to the terms, and the marriage was formalized.

In 1491 Lucia became Pietro’s legal wife and the mistress of his household, which included a number of servants and a busy social calendar. Despite her busy schedule, Lucia made great efforts to instruct the servants in Christianity and soon became well known locally for her charity to the poor.

Pietro observed Lucia’s behavior, and occasional quirks, quite indulgently. He never objected when she gave away clothing and food nor when she performed austere penances, which included regularly wearing a hair shirt under her garments and spending most of the night in prayer and acting to help the poor. He also seemed to have taken in stride the story he was told by the servants that Lucia was often visited in the evenings by Saint Catherine, Saint Agnes, and Saint Agnes of Montepulciano who helped her make bread for the poor.

However, when one of the servants came up to him one day and told him that Lucia was privately entertaining a handsome young man she appeared to be quite familiar with, he did react. He took up his sword and went to see who this person was. When he arrived, he found Lucia contemplating a large crucifix. The servant told him that the man he had seen Lucia with looked like the figure on the crucifix.

Lucia left one night for a local Franciscan monastic community, only to find it closed. She returned home the following day, stating that she had been led back by two saints. That was enough for Pietro. He had her locked away for the bulk of one Lenten season. She was only visited by servants who brought her food. When Easter arrived, however, she managed to escape from Pietro back to her mother’s house and on 1494 May 8 became a Dominican tertiary. Pietro expressed his disapproval of this in a rather dramatic form, by burning down the monastery of the prior who had given her the habit.

In 1495 Lucia went to Rome and joined a group of Third order Dominican tertiaries. The next year she was sent to Viterbo and here she found she was frequently the object of unwanted attention. It was here, on February 25, 1496 that she is reported to have received the stigmata. Lucia did her best to hide these marks, and was frequently in spiritual ecstasy. The house had a steady stream of visitors who came to speak to Lucia, and, often, just look at her. Even the other nuns were concerned about her, and at one point called in the local bishop who watched Lucia go through the drama of the Passion for twelve hours straight.

The bishop would not make a decision on Lucia, and called in the local inquisition. Reports here vary, some indicating that he referred the case directly to the Pope, who is said to have spoken with her and, with the assistance of Columba of Rieti, ultimately decided in her favor, telling her to go home and pray for him. Other sources question the accuracy of these reports.

At that time Pietro also came to her, making a final plea to persuade Lucia to return with him as his wife. She declined, and Pietro left alone. He would himself later become a Franciscan monk and a famous preacher.

When Lucy returned to the convent in Viterbo, she found that the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d’Este I, had determined to build a convent in Ferrara and that, having heard of her, he determined that she would be its prioress. In summer of 1497, he invited her to be the founder of this new monastery. Lucia herself, the Dominican order, and the Pope all agreed quickly to the new proposal. The municipal council of Viterbo, however, objected, not wanting to lose Lucy. Lucia had been praying for some time for a way to create a new convent of strict observance, and agreed to go to the new convent.

 

Lucia’s departure precipitated a conflict between Ferrara and Viterbo which would continue for two years. Viterbo wanted to keep the famous mystic for themselves, and the duke wanted her in Ferrara. After extensive correspondence between the parties, on April 15, 1499 Lucia escaped secretly from Viterbo and was officially received in Ferrara on May 7, 1499. Thirteen young girls immediately applied for admission to her new community; the construction of the monastery began in June and was completed two years later, in August 1501. It contained 140 cells for sisters and the novices, but to fill it with suitable vocations proved to be very difficult. Lucia expressed the wish to have there some of her former friends from Viterbo and Narni. Duke Ercole, in September 1501 sent his messenger to Rome asking for the help of the pope’s daughter Lucrezia Borgia, who was preparing to marry Duke’s son Alfonso. She collected all eleven candidates Lucia had indicated and sent them, as a special wedding present to Lucia and to the Duke, a few days ahead of her bridal party. She herself solemnly entered Ferrara on February 2, 1502.

The Duke petitioned the local bishop for some help for Lucia in governing her new community, and he sent ten nuns from another community to join Lucia’s convent. Unfortunately, these ten nuns were members of the Dominican second order, who were canonically permitted to wear black veils, something Lucia and the members of the Dominican third order community were not allowed to do.

Tensions were heightened when one of these veiled outsiders, Sister Maria da Parma, was made the prioress of the convent on September 2, 1503. When Duke Ercole died on January 24, 1505 the new prioress quickly found Lucia to be guilty of some unrecorded transgression, most probably of the support for the Savonarolan church reform, and placed her on a strict penance. Lucia was not allowed to speak to any person but her confessor, who was chosen by the prioress. The local provincial of the Dominican order would also not permit any member of the order to see Lucia. There are records that at least one Dominican, Catherine of Racconigi, did visit her, evidently by bilocation, and that Lucia’s earlier visitation by departed saints continued. In response to Lucia’s insistent prayer her stigmata eventually disappeared, which caused some of the other nuns to question whether they had ever been there at all. When Lucia finally died, in 1544, many people were surprised to find that she had not died years earlier.

Then suddenly everything changed. When her body was laid out for burial so many people wanted to pay their last respects that her funeral had to be delayed by three days. Her tomb in the monastery church was opened four years later and her perfectly preserved body was transferred to a glass case. When Napoleon in 1797 suppressed her monastery the body was transferred to the Cathedral of Ferrara; and on 1935 May 26 – to the Cathedral of Narni.

Lucia was beatified by Pope Clement XI on March 1, 1710

Saint Albert the Great

Saint Albert the Great was born sometime between 1193 and 1206, to the Count of Bollstädt in Lauingen in Bavaria.  Contemporaries such as Roger Bacon applied the term “Magnus” to Albertus during his own lifetime, referring to his immense reputation as a scholar and philosopher.  Albertus was educated principally at Padua, where he received instruction in Aristotle’s writings. A late account by Rudolph de Novamagia refers to Albertus’ encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who convinced him to enter Holy Orders. In 1223 (or 1221) he became a member of the Dominican Order, against the wishes of his family, and studied theology at Bologna and elsewhere. Selected to fill the position of lecturer at Cologne, Germany, where the Dominicans had a house, he taught for several years there, at Regensburg, Freiburg, Strasbourg and Hildesheim. In 1245 he went to Paris, received his doctorate, and taught for some time as a master of theology with great success. During this time Thomas Aquinas began to study under Albertus.

In 1254, Albertus was made provincial of the Dominican Order, and fulfilled the arduous duties of the office with great care and efficiency. During his tenure he publicly defended the Dominicans against attacks by the secular and regular faculty of the University of Paris, commented on St. John, and answered what he perceived as errors of the Arabian philosopher Averroes.

In 1260, Pope Alexander IV made him Bishop of Regensburg, an office from which he resigned after three years. During the exercise of his duties he enhanced his reputation for humility by refusing to ride a horse—in accord with the dictates of the Dominican order—instead walking back and forth across his huge diocese. This earned him the affectionate sobriquet, “boots the bishop,” from his parishioners. After his stint as bishop, he spent the remainder of his life partly in retirement in the various houses of his order, yet often preaching throughout southern Germany. In 1270, he preached the eighth Crusade in Austria. Among the last of his labors was the defense of the orthodoxy of his former pupil, Thomas Aquinas, whose death in 1274 grieved Albertus. After suffering a collapse of health in 1278, he died on November 15, 1280, in Cologne, Germany. His tomb is in the crypt of the Dominican church of St. Andreas in Cologne, and his relics at the Cologne Cathedral.

Albertus was beatified in 1622. He was canonized and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. St Albert’s feast day is celebrated on November 15.

 

Blessed John Licci

Blessed John Licci, born to a poor farmer, his mother died in childbirth. His life from then on, all 111 years, was a tale of miracles.  His father, who fed the baby on crushed pomegranates, had to work the fields, and was forced to leave the infant alone. The baby began crying, and a neighbor woman took him to her home to feed him. She laid the infant on the bed next to her paralyzed husband – and the man was instantly cured. The woman told John’s father of the miracle, but he was more concerned that she was meddling, and had taken his son without his permission. He took the child home to feed him more pomegranate pulp. As soon as the child was removed from the house, the neighbor’s paralysis returned; when John was brought back in, the man was healed. Even John’s father took this as a sign, and allowed the neighbors to care for John.

A precocious and emotional child, John began reciting the Daily Offices before age 10. While on a trip to Palermo, Italy at age 15, John went to Confession in the church of Saint Zita of Lucca where his confession was heard by Blessed Peter Geremia who suggested John consider a religious life. John considered himself unworthy, but Peter pressed the matter, John joined the Dominicans in 1415, and wore the habit for 96 years, the longest period known for anyone.

He founded the convent of Saint Zita in Caccamo, Italy. Lacking money for the construction, John prayed for guidance. During his prayer he had a vision of an angel who told him to “build on the foundations that were already built.” The next day in the nearby woods he found the foundation for a church called “Saint Mary of the Angels,” a church that had been started many years before, but had never been finished. John assumed this was the place indicated, and took over the site.

During the construction, workmen ran out of materials; the next day at dawn a large ox-drawn wagon arrived at the site. The driver unloaded a large quantity of stone, lime and sand – then promptly disappeared, leaving the oxen and wagon behind for the use of the convent. At another point a well got in the way of construction; John blessed it, and it immediately dried up; when construction was finished, he blessed it again, and the water began to flow. When roof beams were cut too short, John would pray over them, and they would stretch. There were days when John had to miraculously multiply bread and wine to feed the workers. Once a young boy came to the construction site to watch his uncle set stones; the boy fell from a wall, and was killed; John prayed over him, and restored him to life and health.

John and two brother Dominicans who were working on the convent were on the road near Caccamo when they were set upon by bandits. One of the thieves tried to stab John with a dagger; the man’s hand withered and became paralyzed. The gang let the brothers go, then decided to ask for their forgiveness. John made the Sign of the Cross at them, and the thief‘s hand was made whole.

One Christmas a nearby farmer offered to pasture the oxen that had come with the disappearing wagon-driver. John declined, saying the oxen had come far to be there, and there they should stay. Thinking he was doing good, the layman took them anyway. When he put them in the field with his own oxen, they promptly disappeared; he later found them at the construction site, contentedly munching dry grass near Father John.

While he did plenty of preaching in his 90+ years in the habit, usually on Christ’s Passion, he was not known as a great homilist. He was known, however, for his miracles and good works. His blessing caused the breadbox of a nearby widow to stay miraculously full, feeding her and her six children. His blessing prevented disease from coming to the cattle of his parishioners.  A noted healer, curing at least three people whose heads had been crushed in accidents, he was Provincial of Sicily, and Prior of the abbey on several occasions.

Got Oil? Are You Prepared?~The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI


MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

 

Lets paraphrase this story and make It a little easier to understand. There was a wedding, to which ten young virgins were invited as participants. It would seem that in some way they were instructed to bring lamps, so that at the right time they could form or lead some kind of torchlight procession. All ten virgins brought their lamps, but only five brought the necessary oil as well. They all waited for the groom to arrive. Time passed and darkness set in. The groom tarried longer than expected and so all ten bridesmaids (virgins) slept until he arrived. Suddenly, at midnight someone cried out that the groom was approaching. All ten virgins are awakened by this cry, and they begin to prepare their lamps for ceremonial service. The need for these lamps is now particularly obvious (it is midnight, pitch dark). The five foolish virgins ask the five wise virgins to share their oil, but their request is denied. It wasn’t that the five wise virgins didn’t care; it was because there would not be enough oil for all ten lamps. Better to have a torchlight parade with five working lamps than with ten non-functioning, lightless, lamps. The foolish virgins were told to go purchase their own oil, which they did. But during their absence the torchlight parade took place, and the groom, accompanied by the five wise virgins entered the celebration hall. The doors were then closed. Later, the five foolish virgins arrived, with oil, but it was too late. That part of the festivities had already been completed. There was no need for the services of these five virgins, and they were not allowed to enter and join in the wedding celebration. Even though the five virgins pled, “Lord, Lord … ,” they were sent away with the words, “I do not know you!” Our Lord then concludes this parable by applying it to His disciples (and thus the church). He urges His disciples to stay alert, because they, too, do not know the day or the hour of His return.

Isn’t today’s technology great? Today’s cars tell us when the tires are low on air, when the engine is low on oil or coolant, and when the gas tank is low on fuel. We are spoiled actually. The lamps of Jesus’s day did not come equipped with low oil light and a chime to let them know that they were low on olive oil. There was no roadside service or trip  AAA to refuel your lamp, people needed to be prepared for every situation, so lamp oil was a staple of every household, and people actually traveled with lamp oil. The five who were unprepared for this situation were left out of the celebration and therefore wasted a trip. This parable teaches us that no one knows the time and date when our Lord will return, but that we should be prepared always. In Matthew chapter 24, the disciples want to know what sign would signal our Lords coming and the end of the age. Jesus spoke to them about the last days and made it clear that the end would not come immediately, but only after considerable time and troubles. Since no one can know the day or the hour of His return we must be in a state of constant readiness  We might illustrate the need for readiness in a different way. Firemen are trained and equipped to fight fires. They know there will be fires, but they don’t know when. And so they are in a constant state of readiness, even when they sleep. Their clothing is all laid out so they can quickly dress and get to the fire. We, too, must be ready, Jesus tells us. We do not know the hour of His return, and more than this, the coming of the Son of Man will be at a time that we don’t expect. I am tempted to think that while His return will be preceded by very difficult days, the actual day of His return will appear to be trouble-free, much like the day Noah and his family entered the ark. (I’ll bet the sky was blue and clear all day long.) When Jesus returns, people will be going about their normal routines because there will be no sign of imminent danger. We therefore must be ready at all times. Take some time to get ready for the return of our Lord. Have everything on hand that you will need, pray diligently and love one another.

Heavenly father give us the strength and foresight to be prepared in every situation that we face; and give us the wisdom to know that you are in control. Even though we can not know the date and time of your coming, help us to know the season. Amen

 

Blessed Peter Cambiano of Ruffia.

Blessed Peter Cambiano of Ruffia. Peter’s father was a city councilor, his mother was from a noble family, and the boy was raised in a pious household. He received a good education, and was drawn early to religious life, with a personal devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary.   He joined the Dominicans in Piedmont, Italy at age 16. He continued his studies, and was ordained at age 25, and was a noted preacher throughout northern Italy. He worked to bring the heretical Waldensians back to the Church, and was appointed inquisitor-general of the Piedmont.

In January 1365 Peter and two Dominican brothers went on a preaching mission through the mountains between Italy and Switzerland, working from the Franciscan friary at Susa, Italy.  Peter’s preaching brought many back to the faith, which earned him the anger of the Waldensians. Three of the heretics came to the friary, asked to see Peter, and then murdered him at the gate.

. Blessed Jerome, Valentine, Francis, Hyacinth & Companions (Martyrs of Tonkin)

Blessed Jerome, Valentine, Francis, Hyacinth & Companions (Martyrs of Tonkin)  Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the twentieth, there have been many thousands upon thousands murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, some nuns or brothers, some lay people; some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.

Jerome Hermosilla, a Dominican missionary to Manila, Philippines, and a priest, he went as a missionary to Vietnam in 1828 where he was the Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Tonking, Vietnam and titular bishop of Miletopolis. H was martyred with Saint Valentin Faustino Berri Ochoa.

Valentin Faustinao Berri Ochoa. Born in the Basque country, and ordained on June 14, 1851, Valentin was a missionary to the Philippines and then to Vietnam.   He was appointed coadjutor vicar apostolic of Central Tonking, (the modern diocese of Bùi Chu) Vietnam and titular bishop of Centuria on December 25, 1857. He was martyred with Saint Jerome Hermosilla.

Francis Gil de Frederich was educated in Barcelona, Spain where he joined the Dominicans. He was a missionary to the Philippines first and then a missionary to Vietnam in 1732. He spent nine years in prison for his faith during which time he converted fellow prisoners and supervised evangelists on the outside.

Hyacinth Castaneda was a Dominican Priest and missionary to China.  He then was sent as a missionary to Vietnam. He was beheaded for his faith in 1773 in Vietnam