A sermon on Matthew 25:14-30
Fr. Mike Paraniuk
By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church (Hillsboro)
St. Benignus Catholic Church (Greenfield)
Saint Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church (Peebles)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church (West Union)
Years ago, I married a young couple who created a beautiful set of twin boys. When they turned 3, the mom and dad wanted to teach them the joy of giving presents at Christmas.
They took the boys shopping at Kroger to buy mom's most favorite candy – a big bag of candy corn. On Christmas Day, Mom opened the gift that she bought for herself. The gift of the candy was nice. But what really made her happy was to see her boys give the gift back to her. They beamed with delight knowing that this gift made their mom happy.
She told me, "The best gift I received that Christmas was hearing my boys say in unison, 'Love you, Mom' and then dropped the candy bag on my toes because it was too heavy. They eyed that candy corn bag for hours. Finally, they asked if I could open the bag so they could sample a few pieces to make sure it tasted OK. By the end of the day, the bag was empty. I never got any of the candy, but received their love. What greater gift than that."
God gives you gifts to serve others. God said in 1 Peter 4:10, "Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well."
I believe the greatest gift God gives you is...you. You are God's gift to the world. What you do with the gift of you is how you give this gift back to God. So how do we give the gift of ourselves back to God? I found the answer on a gravestone.
There is an epitaph on the tombstone of actress Karen Black which reads "To love someone is to make them feel seen." I didn't understand the meaning of this epitaph until I heard Barbara Streisand give an emotional interview to promote her new autobiography entitled, "My name is Barbara."
She remembered the pain she felt in her teenage years because her mom and stepdad never saw her as worth anything. They never touched her. No hugs. No kisses. Not even holding her hand. One night Barbara suffered a bad ear ache. Her mother brought Barbara a hot water bottle to sleep with. Mom simply threw it at her and left the room. The next morning Barbara's mom never asked her daughter if the pain went away. Streisand said the pain of her mom's indifference was far worse than her ear ache.
She recounted another story of how the stepdad completely disregarded her. After supper was finished, stepdad would at times give money to one of the kids to buy ice cream. He instructed the son, "Buy ice cream for everyone here except Barbara."
When the son asked, "Why?," stepdad replied, "Because Barbara is ugly."
During the interview, Streisand became emotional when remembering the pain of "not being seen." She carries that pain to today. She is now 81.
Streisand then told the story of when she first felt "seen," accepted and cherished. Another older woman became a surrogate mother to her. This woman was Virginia Clinton, the mother of President Bill Clinton. Barbara remembered one of her concerts attended by her biological mother Diana and Virginia Clinton. After the concert, mom Diana never said a word of praise to her daughter. In fact, mom ignored her. She went to a party with a friend.
Diana was so jealous of her daughter's success. Not so Virginia Clinton. She found Barbara after the concert, heaping gobs of accolades for her boffo performance. Then Virginia did something Streisand so desperately craved. Virginia grabbed Barbara's hand, holding it tight. The simple touch of Virginia who loved her, who validated the gift, not only of her singing but of her existence, sent Streisand into ecstasy. She held hands with Virginia for a long time that night. She could not let go.
Your very life, your existence in this world, is a gift from God. "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him." (Genesis 1:27.)
You have a God-given task to see others as sacred to God and to help others see the sacred gift that they are. That's why we who claim to be Christian must do what Jesus did. And what did He do? Jesus proclaimed everyone is special, everyone is sacred, everyone is important to God.
Pope Francis declared in His encyclical "Fratelli Tutti" (All Brothers) there is room for each person at God’s table. It will not go well at your judgment when you judge and reject someone that God accepts. You will see those whom you judged as not worthy sitting at the table of Heaven. You will ask God to let you inside. “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from, away from me." (Luke 13:26-27.) “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." (Matthew 21:31.)
God begs you not to bury the gift of God that you are by fear, judgment or condemnation of others. Help others see they too are gifts from God. That doesn't mean you condone everything others may do. But it does mean you welcome them as children of God that they are. God knows all His children are unfinished creations. But God never sees His children as unloved.
"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:31.)