Sunday Scriptures

Gifts Are Meant to Be Used

by Msgr. Joseph Calise

Several years ago I was visiting some friends for Christmas. After dinner it was time for our customary exchange of gifts.  They presented me with a beautifully wrapped package that I opened very quickly.  Unfortunately, they were there to watch. As soon as I opened the gift, I knew it was some electronic novelty that I would never use.

My expression must have betrayed me because they quickly said, “Give it back – we’ll exchange it. But, this time you get a gift certificate.” I was embarrassed but relieved that they had not gone through the trouble and expense for the gift to sit in a closet unopened.  Gifts are meant to be used.

Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman from the late 18th century, is best known for the quote, “All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”

This week’s Gospel parable reinforces that idea. The master was pleased with all the servants who showed some profit on the gifts he had given them. The percentage of the profit may have qualified the compliments they received but the only servant to be punished was the one who did nothing.

Anyone who has taught a sacrament preparation class for Confirmation has, no doubt, pressed upon his students that knowing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (piety, counsel, wisdom, understanding, fortitude, knowledge and fear of the Lord) is important, but it is more important to open your heart and use them. The same can be applied to the exercise equipment in my room that is used as a laundry rack and the computer screen that becomes a convenient place to hang stick-on notes.

One of the best illustrations of this came by way of an e-mail.  I was sent the story of a wealthy young man who was about to graduate from college. He had already decided that the best gift his father could give him as a graduation present would be a new sports car. He knew it would be expensive but he also knew that his father could afford it and the young man believed he deserved it. So, the appropriate hints were dropped.

It is not the size or popularity of the gift that matters but how it is accepted and opened. Each day is an opportunity to discover and use our gifts. Whatever they are, gifts are meant to be used.

A Very Special Gift
On the day of his graduation, his family had a big celebration. At one point, he was called in to his father’s office. Expectations were high that a new car was in his immediate future. His father sat him down and began to speak of his own history and the struggles that led to the wealth they now enjoyed. He explained to his son how important faith was to him and how grateful he was that his father, a man of deep conviction, had taught him faith practices that sustained him throughout life. He told his son that he wanted him to have a very special gift and handed him the same Bible he had received from his father.

Disappointed, confused, angry – the son refused the gift and left the house. He stayed away a long time, choosing to remain bitter. One day news of his father’s death reached the young man and he suddenly regretted his behavior. He returned home for the funeral.

At one point during the services, his father’s attorney called him into that same office where he stood with his father years before. The lawyer spoke of something his father wanted him to have. To his amazement, he was handed the same Bible he had once refused. Only now, it was a treasured possession.

At home, he finally opened the book. There, taped inside the front cover, was the key to the brand new sports car — the one he had wanted years before — the one he left behind when he stormed out of his father’s house. A gift unopened that deprived him of so much more – the car, his father, the words of Scripture.

Each of us is gifted in some way. Each of us has some talent with which God has blessed us.  Perhaps, we are excellent cooks – or maybe we maintain a vegetable garden to help someone else be an excellent cook. Maybe we are great artists, or paint houses to help others live more comfortably.  Race car drivers certainly need good mechanics.

The pope needs his bishops who need their priests who are grateful for altar servers. It is not the size or popularity of the gift that matters but how it is accepted and opened.

Each day is an opportunity to discover and use our gifts.  Whatever they are, gifts are meant to be used.  The only thing we cannot do is nothing.[hr] Readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
    Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31
    Psalm 128, 1-2, 3, 4-5
    1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
    Matthew 25:14-30[hr] Msgr. Calise is the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Williamsburg.