33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Proverbs is the source of this weekend’s first reading. A major figure in the development of Western civilization was Alexander the Great, the young Greek king whose conquest of the eastern Mediterranean world left effects still visible.
Among these effects was the insertion of Greek thinking into Judaism and then into Christianity. This insertion largely was accomplished either by reacting to Greek philosophy or by using Greek philosophy to understand and explain Christian thought.
The Book of Proverbs came as a result of the need perceived by pious Jews to react to Greek philosophy and culture. In the Greek culture, human logic was supreme. In the Greek culture also the prevailing religion saw many gods and goddesses, and a structure of values and assumptions that very often was quite opposite the Revelation of the one God of Israel to the chosen people.
Proverbs then, along with other books in the Bible, was an attempt to say that the ancient ideals of Judaism were not contrary to, but in fact expressive of, the greatest human wisdom.
In hearing this weekend’s reading from Proverbs, it helps to remember that marriages under the Greek arrangement usually were contrived. Wives were not much better than servants or even slaves. The concept of love, freely and gladly exchanged between spouses, hardly characterized Greek marriages.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians supplies the second reading. In the early days of the Church, the general presumption was that Jesus momentarily would return to earth to vanquish the evil and vindicate the good. Paul had to remind the Christians of Thessalonica that following the Gospel might be a long, tiring and difficult process, as Christ might not appear as quickly as they would wish.
For its third and last reading, the Church this weekend presents St. Matthew’s Gospel. The story in essence also appears in Mark.
The story builds on the same theme as that given in First Thessalonians. The present order will end one day. Life changes for individual persons as well as for societies. Change well may be sudden and often unwelcome.
This parable refers to talents not to cash. Most commentators see in this a reference to personal, positive traits. God endows us all with good. Each person is different, but all are gifted with something, and all can be constructive in their lives.
God has entrusted to us all the task of protecting the true wealth, namely a knowledge of God’s Revelation and a yearning to uplift all others.
How well does each of us succeed in this task? God has revealed to them the way to live. He has sent us Jesus as Redeemer. Do we waste time? Are we hesitant and insecure? Do we ignore our gifts? Being good disciples is up to us.
In just two weeks, the Church will conclude its year of 2011. Its great celebration, and final message, will be the feast of Christ the King. Jesus is the only answer, the answer to every question, worry and need.
One day, at a time none of us can predict, life will change for us individually. It will change for our societies.
Jesus has promised one day to return in glory. How and when this return will occur is not known. But, the Lord will return.
As we approach the end of the year, the Church impresses upon us the reality that life is impermanent. Everything can, and will, change. We will die.
In the meantime, we possess God’s gifts. In Jesus we have the lesson of how to live. In Jesus, we are redeemed, heirs to heaven. We must respond by Christian living. We must trust in the Lord. We must yearn for the salvation of all.
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