33rd SUNDAY A
GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT
My dear friends in Christ, on this penultimate Sunday to the end of the Liturgical Season, the Church invites us to reflect on how we wait for the return of the Lord. The example of the perfect woman is placed before us in the way her fingers are quick, to use her talent to support her husband, home and the needy. Paul encourages that Christians must wait for the coming of the Lord with hope, living in the light. The parable of the talent demands that we be profitable with the gifts and talents we have received rather than lazy around with no positive result.
Today is also the 4th World Day of the Poor. Pope Francis established this commemoration in 2017 to spur Christian communities to imitate Jesus’ preferential love for the poor and to encourage people of all faiths and no faith to reject a culture of waste and embrace one of solidarity, fraternity, and concrete care, stretching forth their hands to those in need.
FIRST READING (Proverbs 31:10-13.19-20.30-31)
This passage comes in the very last chapter of the book of Proverbs, as an appendix to the main work and it is often used at wedding ceremonies. It emphasises the role of the woman in the home and her marriage. This is particularly about the woman’s enterprise and activity. The writer sets out to talk about the role of a perfect wife— the ideal role of a married woman in the house. Though this is not purely a religious instruction, we find a similar writing in Sirach, “Happy is the husband of a really good wife, the number of his days will be doubled.”(cf. Sir. 26:1-4) Sirach sees such a woman as a gift from the Lord, as no one comes to perfection just of his/her making.
The woman in today’s passage is very industrious and capable of being the manager of the home. To that effect she wins the confidence of the husband and brings him profit. A good wife is to the advantage of the husband. A perfect woman, the writer says, is actively and profitably engaged at her work and she does it with eager hands, she enjoys her work. The perfect woman does not think about herself and her home alone, she is also generous to the poor and the needy.
The next sentence gives an indication of another type of woman when the writer says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is empty; the woman who is wise is the one to praise.” The author in these simple words opens our mind to the fact that there are others who concern themselves primarily on showcasing their beauty and charm. It is most likely that such are the very opposite of the description he has given of a hard working woman who is able to support her home and others from her work. Such women may engage themselves more in useless chatter and gossips; instead of working, they disturb those who are willing to work. There must be a way to balance work with home life.
The bride of Christ is the Church. To her the Lord has entrusted everything including His life. Is the Church living up to the expectation of Jesus? Is she enterprising enough and Industrious to bring joy to the Lord? Are we actively and profitably engage for Christ? Have you buried your gifts and talents?
SECOND READING (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6)
In this passage, Paul had instructs his listeners not to worry about the dates and times of the second coming of the Lord. In the previous chapter he had assured them of the resurrection of their loved ones who had died before the coming of the Lord, inviting them not to grieve like those who have no hope. This assurance he says is based on the word of the Lord. “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”(cf. 1 Thess. 4:16-17)
As a follow up, Paul admonishes them, that it is not the time and the season that is important, but being in a constant state of readiness as it will happen ‘like a thief in the night’ or the way the pangs of birth descends on a pregnant woman. Christians are to shun the works of darkness and live as children of the light at all times. A Christian must be alive to his responsibilities at all times. This is the best way to wait for the coming of the Lord.
GOSPEL (Matthew 25:14-30)
Two parables in this same chapter are dedicated to how we should await the coming of the Lord. The first is the parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13), in that parable, the Lord told his disciples how the wise virgins took their lamps and also took extra oil but the foolish ones had their lamps without extra oil. The lateness in the arrival of the bridegroom meant that five had their lamps trimmed to welcome him, because they had extra oil and five had to go in search of more oil which led to their being locked out of the banquet. To “Be prepared or ready” is the key.
This second parable which is today’s gospel, is very close in meaning to that of the ten virgins. It tells of a man who was going on a journey and entrusted talents to the care of his servants. To one he gave five, to another he gave two and to the third he gave one, each according to their abilities. What the servants did with the talents is the subject of the parable. While the first two worked with their talents thereby justifying their ability, the third simply buried his own in the ground, and then accused his master of trying to reap where he has not sown. The first two servants who worked with their talents were actively waiting for their master’s return. The third engaged himself in a fearful and idle wait. The third servant was punished not because he lost the talent given to him, but that he did not even put it to use. He waited in fear and failed to do anything profitable with his talent.
We have a loving God who expects and enables us to use our gifts not because of what HE will get back from it, but for our own salvation. Like the perfect woman in the first reading of today, when we do our work well, the fruits of our labour also enable us to reach out to the poor and the needy and to contribute to bettering the society.
Like the servants, we have all been given talents by God that we need to identify, treasure and put to profitable use. These talents may come in terms of natural qualities given to us by the Lord for which fruits will be demanded of us, for by their fruits you shall know them. They come in form of the Word—the Gospel message entrusted to us by the Lord; in form of the Sacraments given to us as lubricants of our faith; in form of the prayer to which the Lord calls us to maintain a constant touch with our maker; in form of forgiveness which we must share with others; and in the love that forgives and that cares for the poor and those on the margins of society and history.
Our whole lives are talents given to us by God for which we must render account on the day of judgement. The talents do not belong to us, we are custodians, and we must give account to the true owner. The woman in the first reading is a great asset to her husband, for “from her, he will derive no little profit.” Just like this woman we are called to live our lives not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of the Lord who is the head of his church, which is his body and spouse. The church in the same way has been endowed by the Lord with talents—the word of God and the sacraments, with which she must continue to trade for the good of the kingdom. She must account for them before the Lord. On the day of judgement, we must aim at a good report, “Lord, you gave me…and it has yielded…” That will receive commendation from the Lord, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Take heed how you use your gifts. “To those who have will more be given and they will grow rich, but to those who have not, even what they have will be taken from them.”
Consider the season of Advent “coming”or “arrival” or even Christmas as that time when the Lord will ask for an account of what you have done with your talents, what sort of account are you going to render?
May the Lord bless your week and grant you the grace to use your gifts and talents to the glory of God and the good of the society. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Have a blessed week.