There are many gadgets and devices to remind us of appointments and things we have scheduled to do. Before we had these, we tied strings around our fingers as reminders and then would forget why we did that. Alarm clocks, beeping watches, computer signals are just a few of the things that remind us of other things and recall us from one time period to another.
In our part of the world, the trees have divested themselves of their leafy dressings and we then dress up in colorful sweaters to de-drab the surroundings. Nature itself is alarming with its gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, reminders of time’s passing and comings. We look around and get awakened to the beyond of time and space. As with morning alarm clocks, we do not always enjoy the wake-ups to the brevity and fragility of time and space.
As we prepare for the Eucharist these days, we would profit from the opportunities to be reminded. The Eucharist Itself is both a reminder of a past event and a presentation in time of something on-going in our now. We can look at a tree and imagine and pray with the tree looking back at us. We can pray with the little gifts in our houses and rooms as reminders also of the past-made-present by the recalling of the givers and the love they still re-present in the now. Staying awake, alert to the giftedness of time, of the past, and present is as difficult as staying wide-eyed all the time. We do need to wake up and maybe that is our way of preparing for the reception of His best Gift once and for all times.
We hear in our First Reading for this liturgy a few verses from an alphabetical poem which concludes the Book of Proverbs. This last chapter is composed of poetic lines, each of which begins with consecutive letters of the Hebrew language. The whole poem begins with an announcement that these all are sayings which the wise king, Lamuel, learned from his mother.
There is first an admonition about drinking wine. It should be given only to those who need to be distanced from their personal miseries. As for the king, who needs to be available for wise advice, wine is to be avoided.
What we hear are but a few verses of a longer section about a good wife. ? No! No! This is to misuse scripture, though it is tempting to do so at times.
These are verses of a poem which is meant to summarize the wisdom contained in all the sayings in the book. This “wife” lives with a proper relationship with God. She, (that is a person of wisdom) does the work of the relationship with God. The deeds of charity, care, duty, and responsibility are not womanly or wifely, but humanly and faith-centered.
Wisdom is shared and meant to be lived by those who reverence God and their own participation in the works of God creating this world. These are not sexist lines promoting any kind of image of wives or women. This whole chapter presents an image of any one person who buys into the Wisdom of the Jewish tradition and lives faithfully all they have received.
This liturgy is the second-to-last of the liturgical year. This Gospel reading and the one for next week are likewise summaries of the wisdom or sayings or teachings of Jesus within Matthew’s Gospel. Three persons are given money with which to invest or do something profitable. As with the parable of the wedding feast, the one who did nothing with the money gets thrown out. It is, again, very simple to read that we must do something good with the talents or personal gifts we have been given by God. This is very true, but not exactly what centers this teaching.
The liturgical year begins with the First Sunday of Advent. It is similar to a year-long course of studies and we are in Exam Week. The professor, (the parable has the professor gone on a long journey) returns and examines his three students. Faith in Jesus was entrusted to these three. The Professor asks, what have you been doing with all that I have given you during these past three years of walking with Me?
Two invested heavily in the works of faith, that is, reaching out, self-sacrificing, caring, living the Beatitudes. What happened to result in the one person’s flunking? As with the person who did not have a “wedding garment” this person buried his/her faith for fear. Right here is the Catholic-crunch. If we believe, in a loving God, how good do we have to be? What is the place of fear in our relationship with God? Does faith demand perfection? Does God?
The two who did something in faith, received even more faith and the one who fearfully held faith, even what that person had, was taken away. This can seem cruel. Faith dies when not lived.
The faith-life is certainly an adventure. We believe that Jesus is returning from His journey, but we are on our own still. I have learned that when I walk in trust of God’s care, I grow deeper in trusting. With others we do the same. Trusting is not merely notional, it is a way of living. Trusting does not mean that all will go well; that’s the adventure of it. The adventure is inner and outer as well.
Forgiving another person can increase faith. Being meek, a peacemaker, suffering insults are forms of the inner adventures of faith. Next Sunday’s Gospel is the second half of the Matthewan final exam and deals more directly with the outerness of faith. Not one of us gets a perfect “A” for the course, of course. Faith, as with love, is shown in deeds and in sharing what one has received. We can look at our deeds, but with faith and hope we will receive and share even more with the next course of the Christ-Professor’s instructions and examples.
“It is good for me to be with the Lord and to put my trust in Him.” Ps. 73, 28
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