Sunday Scripture Readings

thirty-third sunday

in ordinary time,

november 17

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128;

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30

OUR GOOD NEWS: Fidelity to duty and to our work involves daily effort and prudent risk-taking. With insightful impartiality the authors of the Old Testament Book of Proverbs included both sexes in the two extremes, fools and gossips, wise and provident. The author's concluding description of the ideal woman is not, therefore, pro-feminist advocacy but model intended for men as well. "Lady Wisdom" traditionally personified the integrated human being in secular as well as religious dimensions, prized precisely because difficult to come by. Virtues here held up for reflection and emulation include maturity, competence and success, instead of our modern emphasis on "charm and beauty." By energetically fulfilling her responsibilities with distinction, this ideal wife made of herself a marvelous treasure for her husband and blessing to many others. Such eminently practical life-style concretized her "fear (reverence and service) of the Lord." Love shown in "labors and works" surely deserves acknowledgment and imitation. Today's Gospel parable situates this description of life in the Final-Age. Wholehearted dedication to the responsibilities of Christian living now will earn the Lord's praise at Final Judgment. Our first reading assures us that the ideal Old Testament woman is no empty-headed sex object but model held for imitation by both women and men. Faithful to daily duties, she cared for those entrusted to her with quiet efficiency. No repressed and degraded slave is she, but an Old Testament steward displaying a wide range of interests and talents which she obviously enjoyed employing. Her practical concern for the poor and needy stands alongside her skillful hard work of making cloth. Cheers for this very modern Israelite who enjoyed her role as hardworking achiever. "Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates!" Without a word of advice or instructions, the tycoon in Jesus' Gospel parable handed over surplus capital to subordinates and left town. A "talent" represented payment for 20 years' work. But the third employee found himself in an apparent bind. Least gifted of the trio (assignment of money had been made "according to each one's abilities"), his was the least amount of venture capital ($300,000). It wasn't fair! He decided to avoid risk-taking and show commendable caution with money not his own. After all, explicit orders were never given, and the master would hold him accountable for any loss. His "fear" however masked laziness and inexcusable timidity, earning him his master's rejection and condemnation. In this parable, instead of advocating cutthroat business practices Jesus taught that there is no "safe" position in life. Christian living is strenuous business involving occasional bold but prudent risk-taking. God expects us to use our every talent for personal growth, community service and religious witness. Paradoxically, the reward for hard work is increased opportunity to serve. "Since you were dependable in a small matter I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come share your master's joy!"

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