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Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for the 2011 Harvest Mass of Thanksgiving held Nov. 13 at St. Peter’s Church in Lowville:

God’s creation is in the process of development, of unfolding.  Certainly, farmers know all about development as the seasons change and you work the land from year to year.  The movement is continuous.  We can learn from the past, but we cannot live in the past.  Change is constant.  Inevitably, the world we leave will be a different world than the one we came into.

A married couple had just returned home from their 50th wedding anniversary party.  The wife was feeling very nostalgic.  “You used to kiss me very tenderly,” she said to her husband.  So he leaned over and tenderly kissed her. “You used to hold my hand,” she said.  So he reached over and took her hand in his.  “You used to gently bite my ear lobe,” she said.  The husband then immediately began to walk out of the room.  “Where are you going?” she asked impatiently.  “To get my teeth,” he replied.

We can cherish past events but we cannot re-live them.  We cannot freeze them.  We cannot wrap up life in a neat package and say, “This is the way it always was; this is the way it is; this is the way it always will be.” 
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks a parable about a rich man who entrusts three men to take care of some of his money.  The parable ends as the rich man praises the two who invested his money and doubled it, and strongly condemns the third man who played it safe.

We would be wrong to imagine that in the parable, Jesus is teaching us how to double our money.  It has nothing to do with our 401K’s or our stock portfolios, or even our piggy banks.  The lesson to be drawn is all about life.  The father has given each of us a life to be invested in the growth and development of His coming kingdom.

The Lord is calling us to something new.  We love our traditions.  We recognize the value of the past.  But there are many times when we are called to relinquish the pleasure, comfort and the security of the old, and to risk the emergence of something new.

Certainly farmers know about traditions: the way we used to do things.  Farmers know much about the emergence of things new.  Farmers have not been strangers to the new things that technology has brought to your livelihood.  For instance, first we milked by hand, then milking machine, then dumping station, then pipeline, then milking parlor.  Farmers could not stay comfortable with doing things the way we always did, however, nostalgic and comfortable that might be.  Horses have given way to extremely expensive, powerful and complicated tractors, balers to haybines, to name just a couple of changes.If farmers are to survive, they must risk something new.  It’s called growth.  We either grow or we die.  We simply die.

However, one thing must never change with our farmers: your work ethic and your trust in God reflected in your practice of the faith.  Farming is a noble occupation.  The farm home is a most suitable place for a Christian family.  Farmers work closely with God in producing the essential elements of life.  We pray that as things change on the farm, that you, our farmers hold fast to the spiritual value of the farming vocation and resist the materialism that blinds us to those values. 

Sadly, the family farm is becoming a rare phenomenon today.  The family farm was the place where values and respect were the norm.  God had His rightful place and meals were shared together.  In as much as the structure of the family farm may have disappeared for many, we must devise new creative ways to keep God in His rightful place in our homes.  Our homes must continue to be the place where families come together to share a common meal. 

We are called by Jesus to have a faith in the living God that is so deep and so sincere and so vibrant that we are willing to invest our lives in it.  We are being called to rid ourselves of the excess baggage, rid ourselves of excess lust for money and things, rid ourselves of our dog-eat-dog, win-at-any-cost attitude and approach to life.  The people of Jesus’ time found Him too much for them.  May that not be said of us.

Is Jesus’ new life worth the risk?  Are we willing to invest our entire lives in it?  A young man put his arm around his girl friend and said, “I love you, I adore you, I need you, I can’t live without you.”
The young woman pushed him aside and said, “Bob, I don’t want to get serious.”  Bob replied, “I’m not talking about us getting serious.”

In our personal relationships and in the area of our religion, we often use language carelessly.  But, in and through Jesus Christ, God is saying to us in the clearest possible language, “I love you and I want you for my own.  I’m serious about this and I want you to be serious about this.  I want you to respond to it.”  May we hear the voice of Jesus saying to us all:  “Be not afraid to change, to grow.   I am with you. Come, follow Me.”
Here in our beloved North Country, we pray that through God’s grace we may have wisdom and strength to grow constantly in the virtues necessary for holy rural living. 

We thank God for you who work by the sweat of your brow.  May your toil continue to provide sustenance for the bellies of many. May your toil bring you and your family closer to the God who sustains us as we all seek to grow in His love and grace.

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