Brothers Andrew Opsahl, OP, Cody Jorgensen, OP, Andrew Dominic Yang, OP, and Thomas Aquinas Pickett, OP (left to right)
On September 1, four brothers of the Western Dominican Province finished their novitiate and professed simple vows, thus beginning their years of formation as student brothers at St. Albert's Priory. During the Mass, Fr. Mark Padrez, OP, Prior Provinical of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, focused his remarks on the Parable of the Talents, found in the Gospel of Matthew (25:14-30). His homily is included here...
Brothers Thomas, Cody, Andy and Andrew:
Last year before you received the habit I asked you if you were afraid. Some of you nodded yes. In return I said "good." I want to go back to that theme of fear as you prepare to make profession, because it is good to be fearful, but perhaps not as you or others may think.
We must begin today with the parable of the talents in the Gospel. At the time of Jesus a talent was a very valuable unit of money. Today’s equivalent in value would be somewhere around $100,000. You see now that in today’s Gospel Christ was talking about considerable investments. The third servant, out of fear, was unwilling to invest what his master had put into his charge.
Fear is a significant force in our lives. Many of us make decisions on the basis of fear, most of which turn out to be bad decisions, bringing bad results; but we must realize that there are different kinds of fear. In the Church we speak of “fear of the Lord” and in the Old Testament we find that, "The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord" (Proverbs 9:10).
So what is the difference between the fear found in the third servant, and “the fear of the Lord” found in the Book of Proverbs? The difference, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, is that fear of the Lord is reverential. The phrase “fear of the Lord” speaks of the awe and reverence that we should have when we think of ourselves in relationship to God the Father. Awe and reverence lead us to make decisions that are courageous, filled with goodness, and that are life enhancing. Awe and reverence of God encourages us to be risk takers, to make risk investments by sharing what we have with others.
God gives us talents and has invested Himself in us, in order that we, along with Him, can build up and enhance the lives of those around us. This is a major theme that runs throughout the Old Testament, which over and over again calls on God’s people to care for the widow, the orphan, the alien, the oppressed, the poor, and to tell the good news of God's holy presence among and with His people.
Christ repeatedly brings that call from God to us, putting His very own life on the line, calling on us to be likewise: self-sacrificing, self-giving, and to employ our gifts and talents to benefit others; even to sacrifice our lives for the sake of others. God our Father, He reminds us, has given us what we have, not just for our own sakes but also for the sake of other.
The phrase “fear of the Lord” brings us to the realization that God has expectations of us, and to acknowledge and respect those expectations. That is healthy fear, and this fear is essential as you begin your professed life with us.
Doesn’t it strike you that the parables of Jesus, which center on farming, fishing and business activities, all involve risk–taking? Remember the man who found the pearl of great price and then risked all of his net worth to acquire it? Remember the fishing episodes when Jesus asked Peter to throw out his nets yet again, even though he had gone through the whole night without catching a single fish?
The problem we face is that our hearts and souls are too often filled with an emotional fear, a negative fear that causes us not to act, that leads us into a selfish gathering of things that we keep only for ourselves. It is a paralyzing fear that leads us to be like turtles hiding inside a thick outer shell that prevents us from loving others, that keeps others at a distance, and that isolates in a self-imposed hell of loneliness.
Do we want to find love in our lives? Then we must take risks and make risk capital investments in others. As Dominicans we do this by preaching. Do we want to find happiness in our lives? Then we must take risks and make risk capital investments in others. As Dominicans we do this by teaching. Do we want to find meaning in our lives? Then we must take risks and make risk capital investments in others. As Dominicans we do this by living out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience in community.
The profession you make today is to be made with “fear of the Lord." Through your profession you are placing yourselves in the hands of the Lord, and He will use your talents to make known not only His love for you, but also His love for others through your preaching and teaching. Thus you are taking a risk today, but not a risk in which you measure the probability of gain, something that becomes an end in itself. No, by your profession you are taking a risk in allowing the Lord to lead and guide you to a place you do not know, where you will use your gifts to bring His love, His Mercy, His wisdom, and His compassion to those most in need.
Through Jesus Christ, God our Father has given you enormous treasures and talents.
Brother Thomas, the good Lord has blessed you with an intellectual curiosity. Take the risk and bring the truth of God’s love to those who desire to learn of His love, but do not know where to begin.
Brother Cody, you have the gift in which you easily engage others. Use that gift and welcome into the Church those who may feel unwelcomed. Show them God’s mercy.
Brother Andy, you have been blessed with an artistic eye. Take a risk by sharing the presence and beauty of the Father’s love reflected in the visual arts, music, and yes, even in the dramatic arts.
Brother Andrew, you have the gift of practical wisdom. Take the risk to lead in building up the Kingdom of God, with those who despair and wonder if God is present in our world.
All four of you have powerful currency, the powers that God has given you. We need to understand that Christ is interested in your productivity, in doing God’s will and risking what He has given you, to love as He loves. He isn’t looking for passive, dependent persons to follow Him as His stewards here on earth. He wants, rather, risk-takers who are willing to be His followers, people of courage and daring -- who will enliven His Church.
Christianity without courage is Christianity without blood and spirit. God encourages us to jump into life and to run the risk of growing, by relating to and caring for others. It doesn't take courage to hide out in fear, but it does take courage to risk something new, and today you embark on taking that risk.