"I CAN'T!!!!" "Just try..."

Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111311.cfm .  As always, thanks for reading and all your feedback.  I always appreciate reading your comments and thoughts.  God Bless, Fr Jim


    “I CAN’T!”

    If you’ve ever worked with little kids, it’s a bit stunning when you’ll hear them utter those two little words when they’re invited to do something. 
    Jump in the water, it’s okay, you’re going to be fine!
    Try riding this bicycle, you’ll be okay - it’s got training wheels
    Tomorrow you’re starting your first day of school

    Hearing “I can’t” from a kid to those things is jarring.  Not just because we know that they can do it... but there’s a sadness in hearing this young person has imposed limits on themselves.  Maybe it’s from fear or self-doubt.  Maybe they have trust issues.  Whatever the reason, they’ve somehow limited their potential, limited what is possible, and are not able to see what is right there within their reach as they make their short declaration – I CAN’T.  That’s where others - parents, coaches, teachers, other relatives and friends are so important, so essential.   Hoping to remove that fear, helping them to see past their self-imposed limits and encourage them to move beyond those two defeatist words they offer two little words of encouragement  – just try. 

    Jump in the water, it’s okay - you’re going to be fine!  I Can’t...Just try, your coach is right there, see all the other kids, they used to not be able to swim either, and he was right there able to help them... Just try

    Try riding this bicycle, you’ll be okay – it’s even got training wheels on it I CAN’T Just try - Mommy and Daddy are right here, we promise if you even start to fall, we’ll catch you...

    Tomorrow you’re starting your first day of school I CAN”T GO - I don’t know anyone, (and the older brother or sister says) you’ll do great - when I started school, I was scared too, but once you get in there, you’ll see, it’s not bad, it’s okay – Just try....

    When we think about it, those types of experiences don’t end in grammar school or on the playground.  Throughout life, fears and doubts re-emerge and seem more justifiable as our mind conjures up seemingly more logical reasons that make them seem true.  The lack of trust we have in others, the lack of confidence we have in ourselves can hinder us. We might not vocalize the words but say them in our mind – I can’t.

    If I told my family, my friends that I was thinking about doing this with my life – I can’t

    I hate my job, I hate what I’m doing but I can’t take that new job...

    What good will a degree in that field be, I can’t study that...
    With added responsibilities and commitments we make through life, it’s not as easy to say “just try” as we get older.  Perhaps that’s why it bothers us so much when we hear little kids being so defeatist.  We don’t want them to believe those lies they’re telling themselves that diminish themselves.  We know that those demons can crush a person’s spirit... and that people can become too comfortable with saying “I can’t” as they close their hearts and ears from considering a person’s hopeful invitation to “just try”.

    At the heart of this Gospel, Jesus’ parable is making a similar point.  The Master in the parable isn’t just some CEO or disconnected administrator demanding a profit from nameless employees.  He knows his “servants” intimately, closely.  He knows their strengths and weaknesses.  He knows what they’re capable of and what they’re not.  That’s why one guy gets more “talents” (an interesting vocabulary quirk that in the original language refers to a large sum of money - for us we use the word “talent” to mean skills, abilities) than the others.  He knows what each of his servants is capable of.  What’s so frustrating to the Master in the parable – is that the one servant doesn’t even try...

    Here’s he has given these talents not to maximize his own personal fortune (if he had, he would’ve given them all to the first guy).  He’s interested in seeing the servants taking what is so precious to him and doing something with it.  Making something greater.  And the one guy opts out of it completely.

    It’s not hard for us to recognize the deeper meaning in the parable.  God has entrusted us with Jesus Christ.  He gives us His Word; His Body and Blood... It’s great that we are here - that we recognize our need to receive these gracious gifts.  But that’s not enough... It’s not enough for us to simply receive them.  We’re expected in this time we have on this earth to somehow invest them, to make them increase the already vast expanse of the Kingdom of God right here in our little patch of it.

    One of our retreat speakers last weekend made an interesting observation.  He re-iterated how in Early Christianity, people could see a radical difference in how Christians lived as opposed to those who were pagan.  The Early Christians radically loved Jesus and one another in a way that people could see it, feel it, experience it.  That’s how the Gospel was proclaimed, how the kingdom expanded.  For the first believers, the words “I can’t” didn’t come from the mouths..  They knew that they could do all things through Christ.  They were rejected, mocked by the world.  They were isolated and abandoned by family and friends.  They were martyred for their faith.  That love, that joy, that boldness in their lived faith helped fulfill Jesus’ command to “preach the Gospel to all nations.”

    Nowadays in some ways we seem to live, to act as Pagans who go to Mass on Sunday. Because how often in the face of His invitation to live radically, authentically Christian lives, do we find ourselves again saying “I can’t.”  I can’t even tell my family or friends that I go to Mass let alone pray with them or invite them to come with me... I can’t go on a mission trip, or work at a soup kitchen – it costs too much, I have too much to do...I can’t go to confession, it’s been too long, I’m afraid the priest is going to yell at me.   I can’t take chastity seriously, my boyfriend won’t want to stay with me/my girlfriend will think I’m not interested in her...I can’t be bothered with pro-life, pro-family issues – that might lead to a fight or a disagreement and I can’t deal with it...
    As brother’s and sisters, we’re meant to support one another in these challenging things.  To point out examples of people who said “I can”; to be living examples of people striving to say “I can” – I can live selflessly.  I can live lovingly.  I can center my life on Christ.  I can reject the glamourous, the false lies and empty promises of this world.  I can live chastely.  I can do all of these things – and countless others – If I can truly believe that God has created us, saved us and sanctified us  for Him.  That He has given us the capacity, the ability the “talents” to be saints.  Not plastic statues on the wall - but real, holy people reflecting his presence in our day and age here and now. That seems out of reach to us.  Our humanity kicks in and all those old bad habits re-emerge making us pause and utter I can’t.  Jesus Christ with all His Love, all His confidence and Hope in us pleads with us– just try...

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