November 16th 2014
Thirty -- Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first thing that struck me about the scriptures for mass this Sunday was the fact that the Old Testament reading and the Psalm are both crafted around blissful portraits of domestic harmony. This piqued my interest, and made me reflect on how this could possibly relate to the "scared straight" gospel parable in which the servants are rewarded or punished according to how they invested the money entrusted to them.
If we dig a little deeper we find that there is a subtler meaning to these images of peaceful home life: to be sure, hard work, diligence, and responsibility are all praised here, but above all the "worthy wife" of Proverbs and the man whose family blessings are extolled in the Psalm are honored as people who "fear the Lord" and thus exhibit the key element of biblical wisdom. The responsorial verse for the Psalm itself affirms this for us: four times during the singing of this Psalm we pray as a congregation "Blessed are those who fear the Lord".
Those who fear the Lord are prepared for any situation; they are not thrown off guard when faced by hardship or tragedy, and they act as responsible stewards of all that has been entrusted to them. To be a good steward is to exercise responsibility over persons or property without owning them: the image of a steward is used several times in the gospels, including in this week's parable of the talents. Jesus does not simply comment on good business practices here, he is reminding us that we have all been given a treasure of inestimable worth -- our very lives -- for which we are accountable.
This is really the point of both of the earlier readings from Proverbs and the Psalm, and of the gospel parable -- through our faith we have been offered a precious opportunity to come to redemption and an ever closer relationship with God, in and through Jesus. To make the most of this priceless opportunity means to be a good steward of the grace given to us, knowing that while it is not of our own making, we are nonetheless responsible for nurturing it and helping it to develop. To neglect it is to take for granted our salvation, and to squander the gifts we have been given.
In the scriptures we hear today from the Old Testament this lesson in stewardship is expressed positively in terms of "fear of the Lord" and the blessings of family life; in the gospel, the message resounds more sharply as it is articulated in language which reminds us of judgment and the eternal consequences of our actions.
Were God to judge us like our contemporary society judges, in a quick, rash, ill -- informed, and often prejudicial way, we would be right to tremble at the words found near the end of our Lord's parable: "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matt 25:29). We stand firm in our faith, however, knowing that God's judgments are both just and merciful, and that while we truly "fear the Lord" in a respectful and reverent sense, we can also turn to him as a loving Father who desires that all his children should be rich in those graces we need to open our hearts to the salvation that is ours in Christ.
Stewarding wisely the gifts which we have been given, let it be our prayer that within each of our households and within the Church itself -- the "household of God" (Eph 2:19; 1 Tim 3:15) -- our reverence toward God and our good stewardship will bring us the blessings described in Proverbs, and the family unity and harmony spoken of by the Psalmist.
Fr. Edward Mazich, O.S.B.