Scripture Readings: Book of Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; First Thessalonians 5:1-6; Gospel According to Saint Matthew 25:14-30
As we draw near to the end of the Liturgical Year 2022-23, the Scripture readings this Sunday revolve around the familiar basic virtues of service and work, courage and resourcefulness. The opposites of these virtues are laziness and idleness, fear and wastefulness. These, of course, are to be avoided and the virtues encouraged. Scripture is replete with such encouragement to us humans, who often lack the determination to do good and who prefer to do nothing or to do poorly what we do.
The reading from the Book of Proverbs today is about a resourceful and diligent wife, described as behaving in a praiseworthy manner of life and engaged in prudent activity. Such a positive description, though, should be applicable to all of us as well. It boils down to the question: how do we use our time and talents, for good or for ill?
The second reading for this Sunday is also about diligence in our daily activities, to be carried out, says Saint Paul, “awake and sober,” mindful of the relative shortness of life, mindful on the call that we have, to go about doing good. Jesus is described this way in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 10, verse 38. That is something we should all desire and strive to accomplish in the our ordinary daily lives.
Followers of Jesus are called to a willing surrender to reality. We may wish to live in the clouds, but as Saint Teresa of Avila reminded her sisters, God is to be found amidst the pots and pans; in other words, in whatever we are engaged in, day in and day out. There is nothing more precious than the present moment, the here and the now. How we use the time we are given on earth makes all the difference for living a fruitful life or its opposite.
In the Gospel passage this Sunday, Jesus tells a parable about an unequal distribution of funds. That may sound “unfair” at first sight, but isn’t that the reality of life as we know it? Not all are Einstein’s, for example; not all have the abilities of great basketball or football players; not all can sing like Maria Callas; not all can fly to the moon like noted astronauts; not all can swim the English Channel. In other words, we all possess talents, but not the same ones. Each person is unique, with gifts from God that are intended for us, to use to the best of our abilities. That is what the parable today is all about.
The parable tells us that silver pieces were given out “according to each one’s abilities.” This implies that each servant had enough of “what it takes” to make the best use of what has been distributed to him or her. In the process, no one should be overwhelmed by what has been given, nor should the gifts be squandered and buried in a hole, proving to be unproductive.
We are all given a fair chance, however long our lives might last, to cultivate and multiply the gifts God has given us. In so doing we demonstrate “what really makes us tick,” as we say. “By their fruits you shall know them,” Jesus taught (Matthew 7:20).
As followers of Jesus we believe that the Lord puts trust and confidence in us and readily accepts our honest efforts to love, forgive and share our gifts with others. This is what is being is asked of each of us. Our reward will be great in heaven, Jesus tells us, when we will be rewarded for doing what is expected of us throughout our lives.
The reading from the Book of Proverbs today points us to the path of wisdom. This is something that all men and women should strive for, in order to be profitable and worthy followers of the Lamb. The wise know how to accept reality, work with reality, and at the same time to believe that we “are not in the dark,” as Saint Paul expresses it. Rather, we “are children of the light and of the day.” God never abandons us, and so we walk in confidence and serenity, in hope and joy.
With such assurance in our hearts, others can profit from our “silver pieces,” that is, our time and talents, good example and love.
May our daily lives, through thick and thin, setbacks and accomplishments, sorrow and joy, enable us to be “at home” within ourselves, in our Church and in our community or family, and eventually in Heaven.
Putting to good use whatever we have been entrusted with should provide us and others an experience of the sweetness of God’s House, where we live now and where we hope to dwell forever.
A blessed week ahead.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB