33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 (1a)
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
November 15, 2020
Proverbs speaks of the “worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.” She is praised for the good she does as a God-fearing woman. What we hear today is the short version. If you read the whole passage, there is far more praise.
Proverbs says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting.” There is nothing wrong with being beautiful on the outside. However, what the worthy wife is praised for is based on her inner beauty, the goodness she shows in using what God has given her to care for others with love.
What do you do with what God has given you?
Jesus tells a parable where the master “entrusted his possessions” to three servants, giving them different number of talents (coins), “each according to his ability.”
What do they do with the talents they have been given?
The first one received five talents. He took what he had given and put them to work, making five more talents. He did good.
The second received two talents. He too put them to good use and made two more.
The third…the third buried his. He received one talent and made no more (more on why later).
What was the master’s response to what each servant had done?
He is pleased with what the first two did. They did what they were supposed to. They put the talents to good use. Do we put what God has given us to good use?
While the master was pleased with the first two, he was not pleased with the third, even calling him a “wicked, lazy servant!” The master tells the third servant he should have at least put the money in the bank to make interest.
Why didn’t the third servant do something with the talent?
Because he was afraid.
Here is his explanation, “Master, I knew you were a demanding person…so out of fear, I went off and buried your talent in the ground.”
Fear can be a powerful thing. It could be good and it can be bad. When it is good, it may motivate us to do something good or it may keep us from doing something stupid and dangerous.
When fear is bad, it can be crippling. It can keep us from acting. In this case, the third servant’s fear kept him from taking any risk with the master’s money. He was afraid of losing the money. He was afraid of disappointing his master when, in fact, his lack of action was the very thing that disappointed the master.
God is powerful. That might cause us to fear. If our fear keeps us from sinning, it can be a good fear. If our fear of God keeps us from doing good works, that is not good.
Our psalm response today is “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.” The notion of fearing God is a challenging one for me. When I think of God, I think of love. God loves us so much that He sends Jesus to die for us on the Cross. How can we fear God when He shows us that much love?
On the other hand, what I do fear is the consequences of sin. I know if I sin, Hell is real. So, I repent, confessing my sins (yes, I a priest go to confession). I thank God for his forgiveness.
When I think of “fearing” God, I think in terms of “awe.” God is all-powerful. God is all-knowing. God is all-loving. God is magnificent. This motivates me to do good. This is good fear.
Bad fear, as I said before, can be crippling. Bad fear can leave us feeling powerless and without hope, living in darkness.
Disappointing news can also leave us in darkness. You may have heard about the report issued this week following the investigation of Theodore McCarrick. It was disappointing to hear the prior failures to deal with it. Sexual abuse should never happen. I pray for all victims of abuse. If you, or someone you know, has been the victim of abuse by clergy, I am deeply sorry.
Do we give up?
Why? Because God is with us. There has been scandals before in the church because of human weakness. God has always rescued his people. Last year, Bishop Robert Barron published a short book called, A Letter to a Suffering Church where he talks about the abuse scandal. He also does an excellent job talking about how God has gotten the church through past scandals. There is hope.
The Holy Spirit will lead us through this. The Bible is full of numerous stories of God rescuing his people. Praise be to God.
With faith, we will get through this. This is what Jesus means when He says, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.”
Our faith may seem small but when we embrace that faith, God will be with us, we will be given more faith, we will become rich in the graces of God.