Daily Reflection
November 13th, 2005

Larry Gillick, S.J.

Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30 or 25:14-15, 19-21

We have these last two Sundays in Ordinary time and the prayer flowing from the Readings add up to a pre-exam review. What have we learned these past weeks of the liturgical year? We have watched and listened to the Master. His words are simple and direct, yet his actions have spoken louder than His words.

We pray in preparation for the weekends liturgy by reviewing how our actions, our choices reveal what our values are. What our investments reveal is what is important to us. We pray to be more free in living outwardly, what inwardly we have received through the gift of faith. We can pray with our fears, those are wonderfully natural to an aware human. We can pray with the supernatural gift of faith that doesn’t take away all our fears, but allows us to know where to place the energies of those fears.

The First Reading and the Gospel usually go together quite easily. A good question is who put these two together this time so that only the great homily-givers can bring forth a single theme? What does having a good wife, (good, because she works hard all day), have to do with investing money or burying it? Maybe there is some liturgical mistake, banish even the thought!

It is really too bad that our First Reading is but a few verses of the long poem which ends the Book of Proverbs. Elsewhere in the Wisdom writings in the Hebrew Scriptures, wisdom is personified as a “she”. This reading is not about a wife and all her duties being her beauties. This whole chapter is a mother’s prayerful instruction to her son, Lemuel, king of Massa. Earlier in the chapter his mother warned him about de-energizing relations with women and the dangers of wine.

What we hear in today’s reading pictures Wisdom as a worthy, wife-like companion. All the wonderful features of a loving wife are figured as the profile of true wisdom. The possessor of wisdom takes Her to his or her heart as a woman or man takes her or his spouse to their loving centers.

True wisdom leads a man or woman to reach out beyond themselves and embraces the poor and needy who in turn will increase their lives with sensitivity and grace. The works of this cherished gift are to be praised, because true wisdom comes from and leads to a worshiping relationship with God. Please read these verses and hear these words, not about a view of what a good wife is, but what a good life is.

The Gospel is the middle parable of this three-parable chapter concluding the discourse concerning the last days of Jerusalem and the end of the world. Next Sunday, the celebration of Christ the King will present us with the final parable which will sum up all Christ’s teachings. The parable of investing or “subvesting” money needs some help to enjoy. This image is not the investing our abilities and burying them, but the image is about money and its value. It seems at first reading the investing money and gaining from the investment is all about which Jesus is interested. Ah, obviously not so!

Parables are meant to get our attention and then confront us with something deeper than the obvious or apparent. They are meant to be remembered, as we remember a good joke or heart-touching story. So we have to “un-figure” the image. The fellow who buried his little money, because he knew his master was a bit of a miser, a ruthless, money-grabber and unmerciful, seems to us to be prudent, practical and not to be punished. He is, so the rich get richer and this poor frightened fellow gets thrown out one talent poorer for his effort of burying.

In the other parables of ownership, God takes center position, so too here. God has given something valuable to three different persons. For the sake of the story we will say that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob received the first and the larger amount of this valuable “thing”. The Prophets received the second amount. The resident Pharisees received the least and the last. The Patriarchs and the Prophets did something with their valuables. The Pharisees, living their relationship with the Master more out of fear, tied it up and sat securely on top of it.

Last-week’s parable as well as next week’s combine with this parable, because there is a coming of the judge, or master or bridegroom, but there is a reckoning of some kind for sure. Those who were not vigilant were left out when the bridegroom arrived in last-week’s parable. Those who feared God rather than have faith will be left out. This parable is about faith as a precious valuable. What one does with faith is a personal relationship experience. Faith does away with the security of absolute assurance. Faith, like love itself, is a growing-in-trust affair. The Pharisees twisted the love relationship to a fear relationship and in doing so they relied on their execution of laws and rituals for their security. To those who have faith and who live it through there investments of hope and love, more will accrue.

To those who fearfully hide their lives behind coverings of pretense will have even that taken away and that will be given to the more faithful. This faith is a relational reality and so is not measured by standards of pounds and inches. God offers the gift of faith and the grace to live it as we will see next Sunday. Trusting relationships take time, patience, and a leap. Patience and trust are concepts, leaping is the problem.

As we move toward the end of the liturgical course, the challenge is presented to us. Jesus is calling for lives of faith in Him and what He has said about us as the beloved. This belief is more than conceptual, but is to take flesh in our life-giving investments which are risky and insecure. These investments are to be made in the actions which involve those in need, in trouble, and or in hope of our arrivals. Being given-to is a delight. Being asked to do something with that which has been given, well that’s a different story. Jesus has been coming to us during these past weeks of the Liturgical course to give us our identities, our mission and the promise of a bountiful payoff, but that is around the eschatological corner. This is the wisdom then of Jesus. This beloved quality of faith which reaches out, does good things and is to be praised as it is lived.

“It is good for me to be with the Lord and to put my hope in Him.” Ps. 73

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