THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY

 

Prov 31,10-13.19-20.30-31

1Thes 5,1-6

Mt 25,14-30

 

            The theme of the Liturgy of the Word today is vigilance in waiting for the Lord. A vigilance that is expressed in making the “talents” that we have received from God bear fruit: the gift of the Kingdom, the word of the Gospel, the experience of salvation, the call to follow Jesus in the Church.

 

            The first reading (Prov 31) is a perfect acrostic poem in which, to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet corresponds a positive quality of the feminine figure that is exalted in the text. It deals with the ideal portrait of somebody who has dedicated herself responsibly and effectively to her own duties. It is significant that the wisdom author has chosen a woman as model of wisdom and commitment. Three qualities stand out in her: a faithful wife, from the perspective of the conjugal relationship; a lady of the house, industrious and provident, support for the whole family; a generous woman, attentive to the needy who knock at her door. All is summarised in v. 10: “Her value is far beyond pearls”, and in v. 30: “The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” A woman with some extraordinary human talents, with a marvellous practical wisdom and with a profound religious sense that orients her daily life.

 

            The second reading (1Thes 5,1-6) speaks of the Jesus’ return with a familiar expression in the biblical prophetic literature: the “day of the Lord”. In consonance with the ancient prophets Paul teaches that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, “like a thief in the night” (v. 4) for those who live in darkness. On the other hand, for the faithful disciples, for “the children of light”, it should be the contrary: they “are not asleep”, that is, they do not live in an unconscious and irresponsible way, but “they are awake and sober”. For Paul the final moment is imminent, but at the same time unforeseeable. Therefore, the authentic Christian life should be marked by an attitude of preparation and vigilance, responsibility and active fidelity to the word of the Lord.

 

            The Gospel (Mt 25,14-30) is an invitation to vigilance while waiting for the Lord’s return. The first criteria in reading today’s Gospel should be that of respecting the literary genre of the text. It speaks of a “parable”. And as a parable should be interpreted in a global way, respecting the parabolic method of the Gospel that does not give emphasis to details but proposes a fundamental truth through a fictitious account considered in its totality and that possesses some characteristics of exaggeration.

            The “talents” are not simply the human qualities of each one, nor the goods that they possess, even if these could also be included in the category of talents received. However, the talents of the parable, in the context of the Gospel of Matthew, represent above all the grace of which the disciples have been the object, those who have received gratuitously the revelation of the mystery of the Kingdom and the mission of living and announcing it as a messianic community.

            The first two servants have been responsible and active with the grace of salvation received and they represent the ideal Christian disciple who actively waits for the Lord’s return. To watch waiting for the coming of the Son of Man, who will come in the end as judge and Lord, means to be faithful by means of a generous and constant commitment. The talent is not a seed that is buried in the ground and grows on its own. It is man who imprints in it his dynamism to make it grow. Human collaboration is important even if this undoubtedly always entails risk, an adventure, that nonetheless is necessary to take.

            The third servant, on the other hand, is described negatively as “worthless and lazy”. He is not even able to recognize the gratuitousness of the master, but who also projects on him his egoism and his incapacity to establish gratuitous relationships. His lack of commitment and irresponsibility before the gift received will bring him to a total condemnation in the end. The useless laziness and irresponsibility of this servant is equal to lack of faith and trust in the Lord. He is afraid. The dialogue with the third servant shows the other side of the dynamism of human work. As the talents entrusted in industrious hands tend to grow, laziness leaves them inert and the lazy person is left with empty hands. To whom is the money that is buried and hidden profitable?

            The ending gives us the keys to every one. The first two servants are called “good and faithful servants”. They have lived profoundly their experience of faith and have accepted in a responsible way the gift of the Kingdom. The third servant is called worthless and is destined to darkness, wailing and grinding of teeth.

            For Matthew, the experience of faith supposes primarily a personal relationship with the Lord, that is expressed and realized through the active and dynamic fidelity as response to the gratuitous initiative of God. To make the talents yield is not simply to develop one’s own gifts and qualities, even if this aspect is also included, but above all it is to accept responsibly the gifts of salvation in an effective and active way. The parable invites us to the effectiveness of faith, that is, to put in hand what we believe. To make the talents bear fruit means to be magnanimous in our self-giving through our evangelical attitudes and actions that make the Kingdom of God present in history.

 

 

“I should very much like to advise these souls to be careful not to hide the talent since it seems God desires to choose them to bring profit to many others, especially in these times when staunch friends of God are necessary to sustain the weak. And those who are aware of this favor within themselves may consider that they are such friends if they know how to respond according to the laws that even a good friendship in the world demands; otherwise, as I said, they should be fearful lest they bring evil upon themselves – and please God it would then fall only upon themselves.” (The Book of Her Life, 15,5)