Monday, November 10, 2014

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 16, 2014

First Reading Commentary
Generally the First Reading and the Gospel have somewhat identical themes.  Thus, when comparing the two, “trustworthiness” would be an appropriate word to sum them up.  Being someone that others can trust is valuable but trustworthiness in this case deals more with the willingness to be what God made us to be by making use of the gifts He entrusted to us.  And God had something special in mind when He created the vocation of wife. 

There’s a commercial on television in which children are playing in a room and they have completely demolished the room.  When the father walks in and sees what they did, he looks completely overwhelmed and all he can do is say: “Where is your mother?” as if she was to be his scapegoat.  It is doubtful that husbands would argue against the fact that wives are the glue which holds everything together. 

When a wife is faithful to her vocation then she is faithful to God and worthy of His trust.  And that worthiness and faithfulness will be rewarded at the eternal gates. 

When reflecting on this Reading one also cannot overlook the prophetic angle – the Bride of Christ - the Church, Who is always concerned for the poor and the needy.               

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul is dealing with the question: Is the Second Coming close at hand?  As Paul explains not only to the Thessalonians but to all of us, the exact time is unknown; and there is really no need to expound on that because we all know that the exact time of our Savior’s return is a mystery.  It goes without saying, however, that each second of our lives should be lived as if it could occur at any moment. 

How many of our dearly departed brothers and sisters got out of bed one morning without a clue that they would never return to the comfort of that bed?  Saint Paul explains that we shouldn’t be content with the “peace and security” that the world gives because it will perish with everything else. 

Consider the contrast of the thief that comes at night and the children of the light or day.  Most of us are literally children of the day - the day hours are when we are awake and conduct our daily duties.  During the night at rest, anything other than sleep occurring, especially something as extreme as thievery, is unexpected.  Living, breathing and walking in Christ’s marvelous Light could spare us from the shock value of a sudden disruption of the normalcy of life or the momentous event of the Parousia

One very important commonality among us is that regardless of what we believe or how we live our life, someday we will all meet God Face-to face; but by following the plan and example Jesus gave us, it doesn’t have to be an encounter wrapped in trepidation.         

Gospel Commentary
The parable in this Gospel delineates the faithfulness that is expected of Christians by using the gifts that God gives to each of us. 

God is the “Man going on a journey”.  We are the servants.  Faith is a gift from God and along with the gift of faith are various talents which our Lord gives us in order to exercise and share our gift of faith. 

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem has written much about faith and here are portions of what he taught: “You must as it were deposit this gift of faith in the bank for safe-keeping and God will demand of you an account of your investment.  You have been entrusted with an immortal treasure and the Lord will require an account of it from you at the time of His appearing.  Small are its roots, great the spread of its boughs.  In a flash faith can produce the most wonderful effects in the soul.  Illuminated by faith it gazes at the glory of God as far as human nature allows and ranging beyond the boundaries of the universe it has a vision, before the consummation of all things, of the judgment and of God making good the rewards He promised.  As far as it depends on you then, cherish the first gift of faith which leads you to God and you will then receive the higher gift which no effort of yours can reach, no powers of yours attain.  Pay attention, then brethren, to the truths of faith now being handed down to you and write them deep in your hearts.  Keep a careful watch and be on your guard against foes and heretics intent on perverting your faith and plundering it.” 

This great saint’s teachings, as they apply to this Gospel, begs the question: Am I driven to increase the knowledge of my faith or am I content with disregarding it and burying it?  Saint Cyril tells us that God will demand an account.  Is anyone on Judgment Day prepared to hear the words “You wicked, lazy servant!”? 

This Gospel also says something about effort.  It takes effort to share our talents and increase the knowledge of our faith; but it also takes effort to dig a hole.  Thus “lazy” in this parable doesn’t mean a couch potato but rather squelching what was entrusted. 

Fear is also another sprinkled ingredient in this parable.  The first two servants have a healthy fear of their master, that is, the truest sense of what it means to fear the Lord.  The third servant’s fear, however, is misguided.  Scripture tells us that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Proverbs 9:10).  The psalmist writes: “If You, O Lord, will mark iniquities, Lord, who shall stand it; for with You is merciful forgiveness” (Psalm [129] 130:3-4).  As the Lord entrusts us with the gift of faith, the faithful servant trusts in his Master’s kindness, gentleness and mercy.  This is the proper fear of the Lord because the servant is awestruck by the superiority of his Master, but the Master is not a dictator or an oppressor.  Instead, He loves His servants and wants what is best for them. 

The other kind of fear is rooted in either a willful disobedience to God or timidity about making a mistake with what has been entrusted.  The former is found in the Letter of Saint James: “You believe that God is One. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble” (James 2:19).  Who is more willfully disobedient to God than demons?  And yet, they tremble before Him.  The latter is the example of the third servant in this Gospel.  It basically says that I believe in God but it is better not to serve Him because if I make a mistake I will be judged with the same severity as a demon.  This servant hasn’t accepted God’s love.  Scripture teaches that perfect love casts out fear (cf. 1 John 4:18).  Why then, is the third servant thrown “into the darkness outside”?  He is “wicked” because of his preconceived notions that his master is a harsh employer; and this belief sentenced him to exactly what he believed.  The moral is pretty self-explanatory: Trust in what God has revealed about Himself through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, be a trustworthy, “good and faithful servant” and “share your Master’s joy”.