Summary: If we can’t show the fruits of God’s investment at the end of our lives, just what good have we done ourselves, our God or our neighbor?
Thirty-third Sunday in Course 2020
“Suddenly, Like a Thief in the Night”
Most of us have probably noticed over the last two or three decades that TV comedies, and even some dramas, most often have a brilliant and comely female lead and a bumbling, even stupid male co-star. That’s not a new idea. Look at the first and last characters in today’s Scriptures. The first is the ideal wife, who does her man good not harm all the days of his life. She clothes her household with the work of her hands, and does good for the poor in her neighborhood. You see, back then gated communities were rare, only for the very wealthy. The writer of these proverbs actually praises her even more than we heard today: “She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong.” She sounds a lot like superwife, does she not? At the end of the longer reading, her husband and children rise up and praise her, because everything that is truly precious about her comes from inside her heart and soul. We can all learn from the words, “charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the one–man or woman–who fears the Lord is the one who deserves praise.” And remember, fear of the Lord is a good thing, not the fear of an avenging tyrant, but the fear of displeasing a loving Father.
Now look at the Gospel. It’s another be prepared parable from the lips of Our Lord. It comes right after last week’s story of the wise and foolish virgins and the Bridegroom. They weren’t all ready, so they didn’t experience the joys of the wedding banquet. Now this week we hear about the tough and unjust master and three of his servants. Probably as a test, he goes off but first entrusts to his servants some of his wealth, each–it says–according to his ability, five, three and one talent. A talent is roughly a million dollars. The first servant–and we aren’t told whether this is a man or a woman–doubles the master’s money and comes into the “joy of his master.” The second does the same with three and gets the same reward.
But then comes this stupid, fearful doofus straight out of a comedy skit. We can just picture him shuffling into the presence chamber and stumbling his way through his rehearsed script: “Uh, sir, you’re a really hard master” (that certainly put the man in a good mood) “and you cheat your way through life” (you can see the steam coming out of the big man’s ears now) “and you scare me, so I. . .uh. . .buried your money out back where anybody could dig it up and run off with it but they didn’t so here it is back.” His judgement doesn’t gloss over the offense. The servant was expected to earn something on the capital, at least the 2% available at the credit union, and he reports that he put the wealth at considerable risk with no reward whatever. Of course he gets thrown out into the garbage dump. What does he expect? A smile and a bonus?
Our Lord gives us as a Church, and each of us as a member of that Church, some simple but important tasks in our Christian life. They boil down to loving God and loving neighbor. We love God by keeping His commandments, learning His ways and worshiping rightly. We love neighbor certainly by sharing with the poor, but there’s also the requirement to spread the Gospel by the way we live. He said “go forth and preach to all nations, baptizing them.” We say at the end of each Mass, “go in peace, proclaiming the Gospel by your lives.” If we can’t show the fruits of God’s investment at the end of our lives, just what good have we done ourselves, our God or our neighbor?
And when will that be? Not all of us have ever been in labor after carrying a child for eight or nine months, but those who have done so deserve our thanks and praise. That first contraction or the bursting of the amniotic sac comes suddenly, even when it’s expected. But the rest of us can relate just by our experience this year. One day we’re coasting along thinking “O man, the stock market is setting new records and there’s peace in the Mideast coming and we’ve got security forever.” A week later we’re queuing up for empty shelves of drinking water and toilet paper and chlorine bleach. The Lord is delayed but He is coming, either one at a time when we die or all at once when the trumpet sounds for the whole world. So decide right now how you want Jesus to find you. If wicked and slothful is your choice, prepare for an eternity of gnashing teeth and wailing in twelve keys. If doubling the Lord’s investment in you is your plan, then prepare by getting down to work and cleaning up your act and sharing the message of Christ. You get to choose your destination, but you will prepare one way or another.