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Ordinary Time 33 (A)
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Readings for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1. Proverbs 31, 10-13, 19-20 and 30-31

  • The church in its wisdom selected a shorter version of this unusual poem in praise of virtuous women.  That makes it end before we fully appreciate what we are hearing.  How can I get traction on this in my rehearsals?
  • Am I surprised to notice that the last chapter of Proverbs, from which this passage is excerpted, consists of advice to a king from his mother!
  • When one finds a worthy wife… In other words, my son, you must be very selective and know what to look for.  The sages, males all, considered it a lifetime task.  I have known quite a number of strong women, beginning with my mother and my spouse.  
  • My women colleagues don’t need me to tell them to look beyond fleeting charm and deceptive beauty.  In that sense, I’m reading for my male listeners to keep them searching for the partner who fulfills the most significant qualities.  And my female listeners may be confirmed in their grasp of what really counts in life.
  • For some reason I’m reminded of the poor tailor in Fiddler on the Roof who wins over his future father-in-law with his sense of industry and thrift.  She makes cloth with skillful hands.  She puts her hands to the distaff.  The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 
  • Central theme: This worthy wife has it all, as a daughter of the Lord and the head of a household.  The selection for today only mentions her husband at the beginning, so I will make sure that the assembly hears this and is aware of their partnership in managing the household.
  • Message for our assembly: Let us honor all those strong women we know and know of. 
  • I will challenge myself: To praise the uncommon companion, to praise reverence and industriousness in both sexes.

 

2. I Thessalonians 5, 1-6

  • I write these reflections during an extended time when we and many others lack electric power.  When night falls it grows really dark!  I identify in my gut with the images of light and darkness I hear.  You have no need for anything to be written to you.  Indeed.
  • The day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.  We have heard this many times.  This year has had more than its share of sudden comings, when people are saying “Peace and security.”  I don’t have to tell my listeners anything, but merely remind them that we can find God at the heart of these disruptions.  Need we remind ourselves that Jesus was quite at home amid disruptions, that he acted as a disrupter-in-chief.  And that he continues to.
  • But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness.  I move to the second part of the apostle’s message: that we are used to this situation and should behave accordingly.  We can see where we are going, as children of the light and children of the day.  Though this message is directed to another church in another time and place, I think we can see ourselves in it.
  • Central theme: The need to stay alert and sober in difficult circumstances.  People are most disoriented when they are suddenly awakened.  We also recall that we can orient ourselves even in darkness once our eyes are accustomed to the dark.  We know when to expect the most severe weather in the region where we live.  Let us apply some worldly foresight to our spiritual lives.
  • The message for our assembly: Our life as church has a lot to do with the unexpected.   Out institutions and movements must be at the service of Christ, who keeps his own good times and seasons.
  • I will challenge myself: To read with intensity, to convince myself and the assembly that I am not crying wolf but repeating the message from the Lord.

 

Gospel. Matthew 25, 14-30

  • A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  At the beginning of this familiar story of the talents I hear the setting, and I want my listeners to hear it, too.  The servants (and not family members) are using valuable family property, just as we use the gifts God has entrusted to us.  Everyone is expected to produce some good result according to his ability.  I want to stress this level playing field that God has provided for us.
  • The words of any story are very important in leading us to the conclusion the storyteller wants us to reach.  We already know that Matthew takes every opportunity to praise the actions that reveal our faithfulness to the gospel.  In just the last month we have heard of workers hired for a vineyard, wedding guests and their clothing, and wise virgins and their well oiled lamps.  In today’s story actions are at the center. 
  • Two servants went and traded with the talents, another dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.  In my reading I begin to judge the servants as Jesus does, and my listeners will notice this.  The traders did what the master expected them to do.  The third servant did not.  Oh, he acted, but by denying or suppressing his abilities.
  • After a long time (and I will stretch out the words for better effect) the master came back.  He said to both traders: Well done and I will repeat this show of satisfaction and pleasure.  I will show the same level of generous response for both, for they used their abilities.  I will speak expansively, as someone does who is truly proud of others and who takes them into his confidence.
  • Notice that each servant speaks first and then the master answers.  From their own mouths, as it were, comes the judgment.  I will have the traders speak with pride, since they like what they are doing and have succeeded.  And I will have the third servant speak with relief, now that the long wait is over and he can get the burdensome task of holding this dangerous gift out of his life.
  • That is exactly why he is judged wicked and lazy, and why the master has no place for him: Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside.
  • The climax is the moral of the story.  For to everyone who has, more will be given.  Jesus takes a saying from every culture and turns it to his own purposes. 
  • Message for our assembly: Once again, our actions point us toward the kingdom.
  • I will challenge myself: To play up the control that each servant has over the talents entrusted to them, even to the point of evaluating their own performance!

Word to Eucharist: We process today to meet Christ, who is the final judge of our life and its worth.  Let us not hide our talent and be satisfied that we did not lose it!  Let us learn from him how to use it in his service.

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