November 15, 2020 The Thirty third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: The Labors of Love
Today’s epistle, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, revisits Christ’s second coming. For most of mankind, it will be a sudden and unexpected intrusion that will disrupt all their well laid plans. The Apostle, Paul comforts us that this will not be our fate. We are not like the world: careless, clueless, and asleep in the dark. We are children of the light, awake, alert, and anticipating the very event that will take so many by surprise. In the meantime, God does not want us to be idle. There are missions to fund. There are churches in which to serve. There are duties to our families as well as the inward challenges to grow in Christ. St. Paul encourages us to, “Always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know that this work is never in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). God, the Holy Spirit, gives every believer gifts and talents to play their part, but always remember that it’s not about us. The Lord supplies our every need; however, whether it’s our interaction with the world outside or our responsibilities to our loved ones at home, our Father is profoundly interested in the way we handle what He gives us.
Our Gospel, in Matthew 25:14-30 is a case in point. A wealthy man entrusts His servants to invest some of His money while He’s gone away on a long journey. To one, He gave five talents, another received two, and the last got only one. Upon His return sometime later, He called them together for an accounting. The servants that received the five talents and the two talents both doubled their money. The man with the one talent…well, let’s listen in.
“It’s nice to see you in good health, Master. Time sure flies! If I knew you were coming, I’d baked a cake. Ha, Ha…about this one talent that you lent me. I know that you don’t suffer fools lightly and that your motto is, ‘What have you ever done for me lately and what took you so long?’ So…when you gave me this money, well I panicked. The stress became unbearable and I said to myself, ‘I need this like a need a hole in the head.’ Not knowing what to do, I buried it. And it worked. All my anxiety went away. Out of sight, out of mind, you know. Now, I’m not saying that when the cat’s away, but, while I was working my own ventures on the side, I forgot all about your money. So, here is that one little talent that you gave me…no harm, no foul. I hope that we can get past this and let bygones be bygones.”
The Master replied stern and disappointed, “Obviously, you don’t understand stewardship. I am a rich man. I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I don’t need the money! I am interested in relationships. These talents that I had given to all of you were tokens…opportunities, if you will, for us to get closer to each other. I had history with the other two servants. So, I entrusted them with more responsibly in order to mature their faithfulness and, yes, love toward me. But you’re new here. This talent was my first step toward you. And now I know what you think of me…not very much. You couldn’t even be bothered to go into town and open a bank account. YOU STUCK IT IN A HOLE! It’s apparent that you don’t know Me…you can’t honor Me…and you won’t love Me. So, I’m going to take back that talent that I gave you and bless the guy who has ten with one more. On top of that, they’re both invited to have dinner with me at the main house tonight, where we’ll swap stories of what we’ve all been doing while I was gone. As for you, since you like cliches so much, here’s a new one for you. When it comes to relationships with Me, ‘To everyone who has, more will be given, but to the one that does not have, even that little bit will be taken away.’ Now, throw this worthless servant off the estate and get him out of My sight!”
Being a servant is a labor of love. Consider the worthy wife in Proverbs 31:10-31, our Old Testament passage for today. You have a woman who is trustworthy and hardworking, with the foresight and an entrepreneurial spirit. She is a steel magnolia with a soft side, caring for her family and generous to others. This girl is the whole package! Who wouldn’t want her for a wife and what woman wouldn’t want to marry a man like that? Just saying. Why does she do it? Well, they love each other in the Lord. It is a beautiful thing when a marriage exists in that triangle of devotion between two people and God. Our reading in Psalm 128:1-5 lists the blessings of prosperity, health, and family for the couple that follows this path. It’s so nice when it happens, and loving is easy.
But the world is a vampire and all too often, love comes hard. A cynic can read Proverbs 31 and just as easily wonder if the wife is being exploited. Sadly, we see this all too often. Dysfunctional marriages abound. We can imagine scenarios of faithlessness, deceit, and worse that foster anger and bitterness. You may be going through this yourself. You may feel like the Smashing Pumpkins, that despite all your rage you’re still just a rat in a cage. You face a choice. It’s all too human to despair in troubles, break commitments, and get out. Don’t give up. Even here, God uses the circumstances to look for a greater intimacy with you. He knows your sorrows. He asks you to trust Him and do it His way as He guides you through your dark time. It’s hard and it’s not fair! Get the help you need whether it’s psychological or spiritual all the while believing that He loves you and is using your situation for better things. We all want the easy communion of a garden stroll with the Lord but grasping His hand on the stormy waves brings us into deeper things. If you cut and run, you may lose the little that you had. If you see it through…priceless.
Lastly, while love is the motivating factor in serving the Lord, there are rewards. One day, the Master will return. We will account for the talents that He gave us. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 says that all our work will be piled before Him. He will burn the worthless things in our lives. The precious will stand the flames and be our reward. It would be a shame to enter heaven empty handed with the smell of smoke on us. Stay focused on God’s work and in your labor of love for Him, you will receive much…good and faithful servant.