One talent you have
 received is your faith

Readings: Proverbs 31; Ps. 128; 1 Thess. 5.1-6; Mt. 25.14-30.

Today's gospel writes about talents. One talent you have received is your faith. Thank you for coming here Sunday after Sunday to grow in your faith.

This week in Washington, D.C., a $40,000 advertising campaign will begin will which run through the end of December. All the buses in DC will carry posters with this message in the Christmas season: A thin man dressed in a Santa Claus red hat and red jacket with arms upraised asks this question: "Why believe in a god. Just be good for goodness sake." Part of the lyrics is a take-off on the Christmas song: Santa Claus is coming to town. The customer who purchased the ad is the American Humanist Association. The group represents atheists and agnostics. The group defines humanism as "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."

People like this have been around since the time of Cain and Abel. They want the benefits without having to work for them. They want to achieve their goal without pursuing the proper means. They want values without the vision that gives rise to those values. We have all met people like this. I've taught lots of students who wanted A's, but who were unwilling to expend the effort to achieve that result.

How did we get to where we are now? During the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, and the Enlightenment of the 18th century, science and reason were exalted to the detriment of faith and religion. Experts educated in these disciplines failed to appreciate the discipline of faith and religion. The Church, however, taught long before the 17th and 18th centuries, and continues to teach, that truth is one. The church welcomes investigation and discussion among all disciplines. After the investigation and discussion, the Church will state clearly its position. Because truth is ultimately one, the Church welcomes discussions that lead to a greater truth.

Starting points, however, matter tremendously. Some people automatically begin with a disbelief in God. When there is no belief in God, what serves as the absolute principle in determining right and wrong? What determines or defines the ideal "good" when there is no God? In the case of the poster campaign in DC, what is meant by "good", as in the phrase "just be good for goodness sake"? Many times, the standards that are used today may be described as individualism or secularism. That standard is oftentimes reduced to "me" or "this moment" or "this situation". We might hear the response: "You have your opinion, and I have mine." The traditional standard of God is absolute, universal, and time-tested. The new standard is relative, individual, and valid only for this person and this moment.

My biggest concern is this: people will not achieve the good goals that they wish apart from Jesus Christ who underlies our good goals. We all want to be good, as the Santa Claus song warns us, and the poster advocates for us. But if we separate ourselves from God Who is Good, then what will be the common standard for goodness? If one answers, "I am the standard," then I would ask, what happens when your individual standard clashes with the next person's individual standard? Who decides whose goodness matters more, and in the larger population of society, whose standard of goodness matters most? Immediately and ultimately, a higher standard is required than the individual. Will that be government, or politicians, or lawyers, or God? Many times people don't really have a problem with God. They have a problem most fundamentally with any authority.

In a broader context, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have warned Western Civilization that if they continue to eliminate God from governmental Constitutions, from classrooms, from definitions of when life begins and the definition of marriage, then the civilization will be cutting itself off from its Christian roots. Our Western values are founded in the vision provided by Jesus Christ and the Church which he founded. To eliminate religious definitions from Western Civilization will lead to chaos and the collapse of our civilization. Western Civilization is on a slippery slope. History has witnessed 22 major civilizations; 16 of them have come and gone. Since cult gives rise to culture, culture cannot survive without its cult.

The message today is this. Be proud of your Catholic Christian roots. Stand up for God, and for God's role in establishing the nature of man, woman, humanity, society, happiness, and freedom. Challenge the humanists, the secularists, and the individualists that they are acting like Adam and Eve. They want to make themselves God. Challenge the humanists about the consequences of their actions. By what authority do they believe and act other than their own individual authority? These people seem to make themselves God, i.e., absolute, defining right and wrong, approving or condemning whatever they want. In any discussion on these topics, begin by asking someone what is his/her starting point: God or him/herself.

Friends, you have received the gift of faith. Be like the good servant in today's gospel: multiply the gift you have received. Learn more about your faith. Actively teach your faith by your words and example. When you meet someone without faith, invite them to come to God's house where they might meet him in his Word and sacraments. Invite questioners and doubters to experience and enjoy Jesus' light, Jesus' vision, and Jesus' values. Friends, by the grace of God, may we keep the faith, and may we spread the faith.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley