33 Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 15, 2020
Every time I hear some “unprofessional” person play the piano, I feel a pang of regret for abandoning piano lessons as a youth. Just about the time I had moved beyond Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and was showing some promise, some real potential…I got tired of practicing and quit. The sense of not being able to recover something I purposefully and intentionally let go of is more painful than having it taken away from me.
It makes me think back to the look I saw on the face of a high school senior, sitting in the stands, watching his former teammates down on the football field, celebrating the victory that would send them onto the playoffs for the state championship. The fans surrounding him were jumping up and down and cheering hysterically. He alone remained seated, slumped over, clearly on the verge of tears…and not tears of joy. Obviously, he was thinking:
I should be down there and not up here.
One of the most valuable players on the team for three years, he simply did not appear for his final summer training. He had become involved in something else that, at the time, he felt was more important, more satisfying. So, he made a deliberate choice to drop out of sports and commit himself to this other interest. That Friday night, as he watched the joy of victory, he felt the pain of defeat brought about by his own conscious and deliberate decision.
Most everyone can identify with that feeling of regret that comes with the realization that a priority set in the past has resulted in missing an experience that would bring fulfillment and joy in the present. That feeling of loss becomes even more intense when there is nothing one can do in the future to recover what is lost. The heartbreak is close to unbearable when it was personal choice that accounts for the loss.
The Church has linked three Readings that serve to remind us that our time in this world is short. We are given certain gifts and talents when we come into this world, and our Creator’s expectation is that we put what has been entrusted to us to the best possible use. But the choice rests with each individual as to how much effort they will put into the work of developing their talents, not only for their own sense of accomplishment, but for the benefit of all.
In terms of discipleship, consider that, at Baptism, The Holy Spirit “invests” heavily in each of us. No one who enjoys rebirth in the Holy Spirit is left without something valuable that will enrich their lives, as well as the lives of everyone they encounter. Not everyone is called to play a musical instrument or to cantor at liturgy. Few are given the talent to stand before the community and proclaim God’s Word as a lector, or to preach a homily. But everyone has deposited within them the ability to be loving and forgiving, charitable and just, welcoming and hospitable, tolerant and accepting.
It is left to each of us to accept or reject the opportunities that come our way to put these gifts to use. It is encouraging to know that the more often we practice Christian discipleship, the more skilled we become. Moreover, the more skilled we are at discipleship, the greater the dividends that enrich our Church and our world.
On the other hand, it is quite sobering to consider that when we make a deliberate and conscious decision to bury our gifts, and, instead, pursue some other option that might seem to be more gratifying…well, then, we run the risk of someday thinking with regret:
I should be up there and not down here!