This gospel today is often referred to as the “Matthew Effect,” and the Matthew Effect is this principle that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It’s a principle that is just evident in our world. There is no blame or judgment. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, but it seems to be a reality. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
Jesus, whenever he is speaking in parables, always draws from life examples. He’s taking this example of finances and showing us that the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. He wants this to help illustrate our faith life. Those whose faith is rich will grow richer, and those whose faith is poor will grow poorer. I want us all to think about this and evaluate where we are on our faith journey.
I think, especially during this time of pandemic, it is good for us to take a step back and see if this pandemic has helped increase our faith, or has it taken us away from our faith? During the pandemic we don’t have our normal routine, our masses were taken away for a while, we are dispensed from coming to mass, and we are watching on TV. Are we growing our faith or is it being taken away? Think about that. From the time the pandemic started until now, has our faith grown, or has it been lost?
A man came up to me at a funeral recently. I had known him from one of my earlier assignments, and I haven’t seen him in years. He came up to me with his wife, and he said to me, “Father, you saved my life.” I looked at him and wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that because I don’t remember saving his life. He said to me that when I was at that parish his son was in grade school. His son had come to me for confession. As I often do with grade school kids, I asked him if he had been going to mass. Have you missed mass? That’s one of the sins that kids forget to bring up. So, I must have asked him if he missed mass, and his dad told me that his son said yes. Apparently, I gave him the penance to go home and to invite his parents to come to mass that Sunday. So, he went home and invited his dad. He asked, “Do you think you can go to mass this Sunday? Fr. Michael gave it to me for penance.” The father was kind of knocked back, being blown away by his child asking him to take him to mass and realizing that he hadn’t been going. He was realizing that his faith was at a very low level. He came to mass that Sunday, and I had just started a renewal program. We were doing a pitch for men to join the renewal and be a part of it. He joined the renewal, and it changed his life. He is still part of that renewal group and that men’s group that started all those years back. “Father, you saved my life.”
I use this story as a real example that God gives us invitations to grow in our faith all of the time. If we look at all of the things we have going on in our parish, are we investing ourselves in the faith? Are we taking every opportunity that we have, or are we dying? The reality is that in the spiritual life, it’s one of two ways. We’re growing and increasing our faith, or we’re dying and barren in our faith.
I think it’s important to ask ourselves, “Am I an active Catholic, or am I a passive Catholic?” Think about the people investing their money. They were either actively investing their money over and over again, or they were passive, even burying their money, and it was taken from them. This is really a life and death thing because if we’re not growing in our faith we are dying. We’re dead. Am I an active Catholic or a passive Catholic?
We have a first communicant here today who is going to be receiving communion for the first time, and Zander will experience receiving the Lord Jesus. He’s a very active Catholic at this moment right now. All of us here today are participating in the Eucharist. We’re active Catholics. We’re receiving Christ. But it also means, do we take any opportunity that we can to grow in our faith. Any time anyone invites us to something to grow in our faith, do we say yes to it? Or are we passive? Maybe we’re here today and we’ll receive communion, but we don’t do anything during the week to invite anyone else into the faith. It’s not just about actively receiving the faith, but it’s about actively handing out the faith, actively evangelizing.
Hopefully by the end of my priesthood I’ve helped encourage other young men to choose the priesthood. I hope that by the time that I die there will be other young men who want to be priests because of my priesthood. I would think for all of you who have been baptized that hopefully in your life you are able to say you grabbed at least one or two or three or four people who didn’t have faith and brought them into the faith. That would be an active Catholic.
As we’re given this time of using our gifts and talents differently during this time of the pandemic, I would just like to reflect on that and think about that. What gifts has God given to you? What unique way can you take your faith and evangelize to this world and help this world be set on fire? If we’re not doing that, we’re passive Catholics. If we’re not doing that, we’re burying our talents. If we’re not doing that, we’re going to die.
We heard this passage today: “Everyone who has more will be given more and grow rich and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” This passage is in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. That’s how important of a message this is. This message should disturb us. “Gosh, I hope I’m not the one burying my talents. I don’t want to be sent out wailing and grinding my teeth in the darkness outside. In order for that not to happen, we’ve got to be active. In order for that not to happen, we’ve got to be constantly investing in our faith, constantly growing in our faith, and constantly evangelizing and inviting other people into our faith.
Let’s take a moment after this homily to reflect on that. Am I an active Catholic? Am I actively receiving, actively taking every opportunity, actively passing on the faith, or am I a passive Catholic? Because it is a matter of life and death.