Saturday, November 15, 2014

Asset or Liability?

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Picture: cc Rebecca Wilson

Sisters and brothers, do you know the difference between an asset and a liability? I’m sure you do. An asset is something useful and valuable. Something that’s advantageous for you to have. A liability, on the other hand, is just the opposite. It’s a burden. Something that adds trouble to your life. Puts you at a disadvantage. But have you ever considered how the way we classify something–either as an asset or as a liability–actually affects the way we relate to it?

Just the other day, I heard someone talk about an experience she’d had trying to discourage a couple from having an abortion. The man she was talking to was very angry, because the child that he and his wife had conceived was stricken with Down’s Syndrome. So upset was he that he couldn’t even bring himself to name his own child. Preferring to refer to the unborn baby as it. Thankfully, however, he finally agreed to have the child put up for adoption. And, in the process, this man was amazed by how many couples were more than happy to welcome his unwanted child into their homes. Why should all these couples want a handicapped child like his?

What do you think, sisters and brothers? What accounts for the difference in attitude between that man and the people who were willing to adopt his child? The answer is not difficult to guess, right? The man saw his child as a liability. A burden. Something that would put him at a disadvantage. In contrast, the other couples were somehow able to see the child as an asset. A gift. Perhaps even a blessing. Something that would bring joy into their lives... A single unborn child. Yet classified in two very different ways. Leading to two contrasting attitudes and reactions.

Don’t we find something similar in the parable that Jesus tells in today’s gospel? What is the difference between the first two servants and the last? What makes the first two invest their master’s money, and the last one bury it? At first glance the difference is simply between two kinds of people. The hardworking and the idle. Those who are good and faithful, and the one who is wicked and lazy. But why the difference? What is it that helps the first two servants to be diligent? And what is it that causes the last one to be lazy?

I’m not sure, sisters and brothers, but I think the answer has to do with how each servant classifies the money handed to him by his master. The first two servants quite obviously see what is entrusted to them as an asset. An opportunity. Something valuable that they can invest. So as to make more money for their master. The last servant, however, sees the money as a liability. Something that could get him into trouble if he somehow happened to lose it. The first two were eager to make a profit for their master. The last one was afraid to get himself into trouble. The difference has to do with classifying something either as an asset or a liability.

Which should also account for why the the perfect wife in the first reading is so hardworking. Even though she doesn’t really have to be. Since the bible tells us that she actually has serving girls of her own. People who can do the work for her. Like the first two servants in the gospel parable, this wife sees her work, and the time that she has, as assets. Opportunities to make the life of her family even better than it already is.

But what has all this to do with us? To answer this question, we might perhaps begin by asking ourselves what are the things that God has entrusted to us? Each of us will probably answer this question differently. But I think that probably the biggest thing that God has entrusted to us is simply the relationship that God has established with us. The relationship that God began simply by creating us. The relationship that God renewed by sending Jesus to be the sacrifice that takes away our sins. The relationship that God continues to keep alive and nurture by showering countless blessings upon us everyday. Even if some of these blessings remain in disguise.

If this is true, then a further question we might want to ask ourselves is how we view our relationship with God. Do we see it more as an asset? Or more as a liability? How can we tell? Well, one way is to consider how we feel about the things that help us to build up this relationship. How do I feel, for example, about having to come to Mass every Sunday? Or about spending quality time everyday in prayer? Or about reaching out to people who may be in need of my help? How willing am I to do these things? Am I eager or reluctant? Diligent or lazy?

And what can I do, if I happen to find myself more reluctant than eager? More lazy than diligent? What can help me to begin to view my relationship with God more as an asset than as a liability? There are at least two things I might consider. The first is something that both the gospel and the second reading invite me to do. Which is to look ahead to the future. Just as Jesus speaks of a time when the master will return, so too does St. Paul write about the Day of the Lord. When this day arrives, it is those who have taken the trouble to cultivate their relationship with God who will be rewarded. The people that Paul calls sons of light and daughters of the day. People who have taken the trouble to stay wide awake and sober. So as to be ready to welcome the Lord even when he comes like a thief in the night.

But that’s not all. I do not have to wait till the Day of the Lord to enjoy the benefits of cultivating my relationship with God. For the the responsorial psalm reminds me that those who fear the Lord, those who put God first, will be happy and prosper. This doesn’t mean, of course, that I will surely be rich and famous. What it does mean is actually what we prayed for earlier in our opening prayer. Where we asked God to grant us the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good. In a very real way, to cultivate one’s relationship with God is really it’s own reward. For the closer we come to God, the more rooted and grounded we become in God’s steadfast love for us. As St. Paul writes in the letter to the Romans (8:31) if God is for us, who is against us?

Sisters and brothers, how we relate to something depends very much on how we classify it. How would you classify your relationship with God? Is it more of an asset or a liability? And what difference will it make in your life today?


  1. O God,

    our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.

    You are the Vine and we are the branches

    In You, O God, we live and move and have our being.

    These, let me never forget.

    O Lord, You are my God, my Lord and my All, to whom shall I go?

    Seeing Is Believing 15 November 2014

  2. Hi- I would like to request prayers for the victims of rape and abuse by members of the Catholic Church. Many of them were children when they were attacked or abused. This is also an ongoing crisis, with new victims each year, worldwide. I will remember them and their stories forever, but for the healing to truly take place, it will take the voices and efforts of many. To paraphrase a poem by an Indian schoolgirl, "Too many Catholics, in too many countries, speak the same language-- of silence." Thank you.

    1. Yes, it is terrible what has is unspeakable, unthinkable...unforgivable. When I first heard about these abuses I found it hard to believe that such crimes could be committed by priests and religious. I always think of them as 'special people', chosen by God to serve Him and His people.
      I dare not think of the sufferings the victims of these abuses went through, many of whom were driven to suicide, many of them are/were unable to function normally mentally or physically.
      Because of this the church as a whole is suffering as well...people are leaving, are loosing their faith.
      Although it seems that nothing much or not enough is done by the Vatican authorities we can be certain - of that I am sure- that there are many prayers being offered by priest and religious alike as atonement for the terrible sins committed by their fellow religious.
      I personally think that we should also offer our prayers for the perpetrators of these heinous abuses so that they may realize what they have done, that they may admit their sins and ask God for forgiveness and , most importantly, repent...God will judge them very harshly because He had called them to serve Him!
      Let's not forget that Jesus said..."If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me - to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." ( Matthew 18:6, ....ref also: Luke 17:2, Mark 9:42)
      Both, victims and perpetrators alike, need our prayers and help.
      And yes, a more open apology from church authorities might be an immensely cathartic experience for all these victims of abuse...


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