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November 19 2017 (A) Thirty-third Sunday of the Year

  1. The bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
  2. Reflection & Dialogue: Watch. Keep awake. The End of the Liturgical Year; the End of Life and of the world. Prepared to render an account.

One must live with the mystery that is God.

  1. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings).

First Reading (Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31). A perfect wife – who can find her? This reading is part of an alphabetic poem in twenty-two verses, in which each of the verses begins with a consecutive letter of the twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet. The poem was composed as fitting ending for thr book of Proverbs, a very important book of the biblical Wisdom literature. Its subject matter is the praise of the competent and perfect wife, and may have been understood allegorically as personified Wisdom. The poem says that the perfect wife is far beyond the price of pearls, which recalls the praise of Wisdom in the Book of Job (Job 28:18) where we read that the price of Wisdom is above pearls. And like Wisdom, the perfect wife is connected with the fear of God. The rather central position given to the husband in this poem makes it less attractive to a number of women and feminists in our own day, as if the theme of the poem really is the value of the perfect wife to her husband. Such a judgment, however, could be misleading. If we compare this poem with the overall teaching of the Old Testament, the woman in this poem enjoys special status. She is a competent woman, in the home and outside of it. Verses not reproduced in the Sunday’s reading note that she is involved in business and trade; she brings her food from far away; she considers a field and buys it; she perceives that her merchandise is profitable. But she also holds out her hands to the poor, and opens her arms to the needy, and her works make known her praises. She makes use of the gifts, the talents, that God has given her, for which reason the text is chosen to accompany today’s Gospel reading with the parable of the talents.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 127[128]). O blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Second Reading (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6). Let not the Day of the Lord overtake you like a thief. This text refers to “times and seasons” relating to the end events and the return of Christ, matters on which Paul would have already informed the Thessalonians. The similar terms “the day and the hour” can be found in Matthew’s Gospel about the same events concerning the return of Christ and the end of the world. In his final discourse to his disciples Jesus tells them to be ready as the end, or Christ’s return, might be very near, at the very gates. They should keep awake, as they know neither the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:13). Jesus also said that that generation would not pass away until all these things had taken place (Matthew 25:34). Yet immediately after this he could say (Matthew 24:36) that about that day and that hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. The early Church, or at least some sections of it, were awaiting, even eagerly awaiting, the return of Jesus, but this did not interfere with their preaching of the good news, Paul shared the same belief and hope at the beginning ofhis missionary career, and so did the church at Thessalonica. But an essential part of this belief also was that the end, the Day of the Lord, would come like a thief in the night. Paul reminds the Church at Thessalonica of this, and takes advantage of the word “Day” to convey a very important message regarding their hope. They should be prepared for the event and live as children of the day, in the light brought by Christ, rather than in the darkness they had forsaken, and watch, remain wide awake, prepared for that Day.

The Gospel (Matthew 25:14-30). You have been faithful in small things; come and join in your master’s happiness. The parable of the talents, read in today’s Gospel, can be easily understood, and its message is clear: we should make good use of the gifts which the Lord, God, has given us, and be aware that we will have to render an account of their use to the Lord in due time. Fundamentally, a talent was a weight of 80 pounds, or 36 kilograms. We are then not surprised to see how in the parable one of the persons involved dug a hole in the ground and hid the single talent. A talent had also money value, and in this context it is reckoned to be equal to six thousand (6000) denarii, a single denarius being the ordinary daily wage of a workman. This would mean that a single talent would be equal to twenty years (some would say more that fifteen years) wages for an ordinary workman. The word talent is also used in the sense of gift, natural endowment. The message of the parable, as has been noted, is that people should use the gifts, the talents, whether great or small, which the Lord has given them. Although five talents, or even two, was a large amount, in his reply to those who used them with profit, the Lord calls them “small things”, and they are invited to join in the master’s happiness – which in the Christian context of the parable would mean eternal bliss.

As a parable in itself, this one could fit into any part of the Gospels. However, in its present context it forms part of Jesus’ final discourse on the Last Things, which has as its central theme: Watch, stay awake, be prepared for the day and the hour. Immediately before this parable we have that on the Ten Bridesmaids, with the same theme, and immediately after it Christ’s discourse on the Final Judgment, the Judgement of the Nations. It is thus a suitable reading for this Sunday, at the end of the liturgical year.

Reflection: Watch. Keep awake. The End of the Liturgical Year; the End of Life and of the World. Prepared to render an account.

Traditionally, at the end of the liturgical year and at the beginning of Advent the Church in the Sunday liturgy devoted its attention to. the Last Things, and to the importance of being prepared to meet the Lord at the particular judgment that follows earthly death. No great attention is paid today to death and to the importance of dying in God’s grace, or even to Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians to live as children of the light, according to the teaching of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. And even if these truths are forgotten, death can come suddenly, as a thief in the night.

There is further material for reflection in today’s Gospel reading that everyone should use their God-given talents, whether great or small., to the best of their ability for their own good, that of their neighbour and of the entire community.