Last Sunday, my wife and I watch the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. The movie is based on a true story about a man named Christopher Gardner. Gardner, played by Will Smith, is smart salesman and family man who invested the family’s savings in a business opportunity. The business opportunity proves to be not a success and he loses everything - his house, his bank account, credit cards, and his wife – and he is left to raise his son alone. Forced to live out in the streets with his son, Gardner is now desperate to find a steady job; he takes on a job as a stockbroker, but before he can receive his first paycheck, he needs to go through 6 months of unpaid training. In the meantime, they are homeless, living off pennies. I won’t tell you how it ends, because it is a good movie for your family and you to watch, which I hope you do.
This movie had me thinking all week about two things: 1) what do I fear; and 2) what am I willing to sacrifice or risk for what I believe. For the father in the movie, he feared losing his son and was willing to risk everything to provide for him day-to-day and into the future. Like him, and I suspect like each of you, I fear losing a job or my house, not having money to provide for my family, a broken marriage or the loss of a loved one, or loss of the respect, trust or love from another. And, I suspect, that you like me, fear also the pain, hurt, failure and embarrassment that results when things like this happen.
This movie also challenged me to ask myself what am I willing to sacrifice or risk for what I believe. Am I willing to sacrifice my ego, pride, possessions to gain or protect something I value even more – such as my family or my faith. I would like to think that like the father in the movie, that I have the discipline and focus to persevere even under the most difficult situations – I pray that you and I do if ever faced with such a challenge.
Coincidentally, this is exactly what we have been talking about in our That Man Is You initiative on Saturday mornings. In fact, just this morning we were ask if we are willing to “pay the price” for what we believe.
We need to ask the same questions not just in our families and places of work but also in our faith life: 1) what do I fear; and 2) what am I willing to sacrifice or risk for what I believe. For us as Christians, our ultimate fear is being separated from God’s love eternally – “thrown into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth,” which was the fate of the third servant in the Gospel.
Although I don’t always understand or appreciate God’s love, I do know the great joy and peace I experience in God’s presence as I interact with each of you, assist at this liturgy, hear and proclaim Sacred Scripture, receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, receive God’s mercy in Reconciliation, and serve those in need. And I am motivated to never lose this joy and peace - to not be separated from this great love.
And it is in our faith, that we hold that through the grace of God, that we are willing to make great sacrifices and take great risks so that we will know and experience God’s great love now and eternally – and that we share this great love with others.
(Pause) We are at that point in the liturgical year in which we are called to reflect on the end of time, final judgment, and Christ’s second coming. We are reminded that we are called by God to risk everything for His kingdom and not to play it safe or rest in the security of the status quo.
We are challenged by Jesus in today’s Gospel to not hid or shrink from our responsibilities, but to abandon fear and be industrious, reliable and creative in doing God’s will! We have work to do as Christians – to do God’s will in this world, which is to share God’s love with others. And so we must act out of love, not fear. As we await what is to come, we can see our family life and places of work as opportunities to risk, to grow, in our faith and love in God and to in turn love and serve others.
For me this week, I have asked these questions of myself in my place of work (my day job) and as a result I have challenged myself to change some bad habits that I have found myself doing in order that I am focused on what I need to do at work, and that I can say that I am doing God’s will in all that I do.
As many of you know, my wife is pregnant and due any day/week. The pain of labor, which Paul refers to in today’s second reading, will soon be upon her “suddenly” – but not soon enough she is ready!
I don’t wish for any of you to be caught off-guard when our Lord does come. So do not rest – stay alert and ready! Fear being separated from God’s love and be willing to take any risk, make any sacrifice so that you can stand before God, and for Him to say to you “well done, my good and faithful servant…come and share your master’s joy.”