Sunday, November 15, 2020

Seize the Day!

(Thirty-third Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on November 14, 2020 at St. Mary’s Church, Carolina, R.I., and St. James Chapel, Charlestown, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirty-third Sunday 2020]

It's an interesting combination of readings that we have at Mass this weekend.  After hearing them, a person might legitimately ask, “What’s the connection?  How are these three passages related to one another?  Are they related in any way?”  The first text from Proverbs 31 concerns a wife, while the second from 1 Thessalonians 5 is clearly about the end of the world.  How are they connected?  Now some of the husbands in the congregation might have an opinion about that; but fear not, ladies, I promise I won’t go there.  And then we have this gospel text from Matthew 25 about used gifts and squandered gifts.  How does that passage relate to the other two?  Is it possible to find a common thread—a common theme—which unites them all?  Such was the problem I faced as I prepared this homily.  Thankfully the answer finally came to me.   It came to me in the form of an old saying and an old song.  The old saying is: “Carpe diem,” which, as many of us know, is Latin for “Seize the day.”  The song I thought of was popular back in the late 1980s (I’m dating myself now!).  It’s called, “The Living Years,” and it was sung by a group known as Mike and the Mechanics.  The song expresses the sadness and regret of a young man who had a less-than-perfect relationship with his father, and who missed his opportunity to make peace.  Listen to some of the words:


Every generation

 Blames the one before

And all of their frustrations

Come beating on your door.


I know that I’m a prisoner

To all my father held so dear

I know that I’m a hostage

To all his hopes and fears

I just wish I could have told him in the living years


Crumpled bits of paper

Filled with imperfect thought

Stilted conversations

I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got


You say you just don’t see it,

He says it’s perfect sense.

You just can’t get agreement

In this present tense.

We all talk a different language,

Talking in defense.


So we open up a quarrel,

Between the present and the past.

We only sacrifice the future,

It’s the bitterness that lasts.


So don’t yield to the fortunes

You sometimes see as fate,

It may have a new perspective

On a different day.


Say it loud,

Say it clear,

You can listen as well as you hear.

It’s too late when we die,

To admit we don’t see eye to eye.


And then this final, terribly sad verse:


I wasn’t there that morning

When my father passed away.

I didn’t get to tell him

All the things I had to say.

I think I caught his spirit later that same year;

I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s newborn tears,

I just wish I could have told him in the living years.


That’s young man failed to “seize the day.”  He didn’t appreciate the gift his father was, until his father was gone and it was too late.  “When one finds a worthy wife,” the author of Proverbs tells us today, “her value is far beyond pearls.  Her husband . . . has an unfailing prize.  She brings him good, and not evil all the days of her life. . . . She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.”  Sadly, I have heard some husbands extol their wives in glowing terms like these—but only AFTER their wives had died!  When their wives were alive, you never would have known this was how they felt—and neither would their wives have known!  Of course, in all fairness, the same can be said of some wives with respect to their deceased husbands.  My mom always told my sister and me, “Do for others when they’re alive.  Don’t make the mistake of waiting until they’re gone.” 

She was right. 


·         We are to “seize the day” and express our love, and thanks, and kindness to one another NOW (meaning as soon as possible!). 

·         We’re to be mindful of the poor and needy NOW!

·         We’re to seek reconciliation with our enemies NOW!

·         We’re to seek reconciliation with God by making a good confession NOW!

·         We’re to visit our sick relatives and friends NOW!


Because (as our second reading reminds us) there may not be a tomorrow for us or for anyone else!  “You yourselves know,’ St. Paul says, ‘that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.”  The official Day of the Lord will occur at the end of time; but for those of us who don’t survive until then, our own personal “Day of the Lord” will occur on the day we take our last breath.

The Lord has given us many gifts (including the gift of time), as the man in today’s gospel parable gave sums of money to his three servants.  (Here, at last, is the connection with the gospel.)  The Lord expects us to “seize the day” and use these gifts for his honor and glory, for the good of our neighbor, and to achieve reconciliation with him and with others.  In the parable, the difference between the first two servants and the third was this: the third thought it was enough to have the gift.  He didn’t think it was necessary to use it.  But it was!

If the young man in that song, “The Living Years,” had opened his mouth and used his talents and gifts to achieve reconciliation with his father, his song would have had a very different ending—a happy ending.  It would have concluded something like this:


I wasn’t there that morning when my father passed away,

But I had already told him all the things I had to say.

Saying I was sorry wasn’t easy through the tears,

But I’m so grateful that I told him in the living years.

By the grace of God which we receive today in the Holy Eucharist, may all of us “seize the day.”