I am not posting a homily today, because Deacon Dunn is preaching at my Masses in English. However, I wanted to share some ideas about today’s readings anyway. Basically, this is what I would have said, if I had given a homily today.
A recent study (funded by companies that make cosmetics) indicates that women who wear more makeup are perceived as being more competent. Despite the less-than-disinterested source of funding, and a possible slant in the sampling (according to the article I read, more women than men were involved in judging the photographs), our every-day experience tends to confirm the results. There is no doubt that we have a bias towards beauty, and that our culture’s standards of beauty have a lot to do with makeup. It is no real surprise to me that a person’s appearance even affects our judgment of their competence. I don’t doubt that the similar results would come from a study examining men’s appearance – “better groomed” men would probably be perceived as more competent. The fact is, we often judge books by their covers, as inaccurate as this criteria often is.
Today’s first reading reminds us that “charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting”. What matters is not so much which gifts we have received – attractive appearance, or artistic talent, or dexterity in sports, or whatever; what really matters is what we do to serve God and others with these gifts. If we take care of our external appearance, we should take much more care of the beauty of our soul. We have the duty to develop as many of our gifts as possible, as Jesus explains in the Gospel. Some people have more appreciable talents than others, but everyone has some gift to share. Whether we have many, like the man in the parable who received five talents, or few, like the man received one, we all have to recognize our gifts and use them in a positive way.
Ironically, it’s not always easy for us to recognize and develop our talents. We can be jealous of other people’s gifts, overlooking the great potential we ourselves have. If we spend our time wishing we had the same abilities as other people, we won’t ever develop our own abilities as well as we could. As a priest I know used to say in rather picturesque language, there’s no point in wishing to be a banana if you are a watermelon. Just be the best watermelon you can be.
As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, we do not know when we will find ourselves before God, having to give Him an account of how we have used the talents given to us. However, we do know for sure that the day of reckoning will come. May God help us to be aware of our responsibility for the gifts we have received. May acknowledge and develop our talents in the best way to serve Him and each other, so that we too may some day share in the joy of our Lord’s kingdom.