Be bold enough to take risks

  • November 2, 2011

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Nov. 13 (Proverbs 31:10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31; Psalm 128; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30)

A capable husband, who can find him? Perhaps this would have been the wording of a proverb penned by a woman. Its silence on the matter almost implies that the excellence of the husband is a given.

As far as we know, the books of the Bible were written by men and therefore are not free from that bias. The capable wife model is fine — wouldn’t we all like to have such qualities. It portrays someone who is wise, spiritual, hardworking, conscientious and competent. This wife is someone very self-possessed and focused. And it rightly warns against giving undue weight to charm and good looks. But the problem with the description of the perfect wife in the proverb is that it is a bit too perfect, indicating that the writer is engaging in a bit of fantasy. A comparable description of the perfect husband would suffer the same defect.

That is the problem with such idealization — there is no perfect wife or husband, friend or lover. Everyone is blessed with virtues and good qualities, but also is wounded by faults and weaknesses. It is important for people to learn patience and acceptance in their relationships rather than fantasizing on the perfect whatever. There is a curious and often overlooked line near the end of the passage: Give her a share in the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the city gates. Giving her a share means (or should mean) making her a partner rather than a model worker and competent estate manager, and the due praise is proper recognition of her contributions. This is a challenge not only for families and societies but for the Church too.

When is it going to happen — the return of the Lord? There are many places in the New Testament where people are anxious about the “times and seasons” — God’s calendar. The response is always the same — never mind, and really it’s none of your business. That is God’s concern and only God knows when. There is a hint: When they say “peace and security.” This was the slogan of Roman oppression and domination and is the slogan of all regimes dedicated to controlling the lives of others. Order, peace and security mean no dissent, independence or disorder. It is then that God will expose this sort of peace and security for the sham that it is. In the meantime believers are urged to stay awake mentally and spiritually and not to be lulled asleep by the passage of time or the smooth assurances of earthly power structures.

Sometimes people are anxious about times and seasons because they are playing a game with God and want to know exactly when they need to be at their best. Through this stark and rather disturbing parable Jesus makes it clear that what we do while we are waiting is the “stuff” of spirituality. The three servants are left amounts of money by their master according to their abilities. The first two are rather daring types and they invest the money — play the stock market, so to speak. And they are successful — able to lay more money at their master’s feet than the amount entrusted to them. He is mightily pleased and rewards them handsomely. The third fellow, however, was timid and afraid. He just buried the money and gave the master back the same amount he had been given. The master was angry and the hapless servant was stripped of all he had and cast out.

Giving more to those who have and taking away from those who have nothing makes little sense at first glance. And we wonder if the master would have been so delighted if the investment schemes of the first two had lost money. We should not seek to play it safe out of fear of loss but be bold enough to take risks. When we have the courage and determination to explore and grow much more will be given to us. But if we fearfully hoard and protect what we think we have, we lose everything. The waiting period is the sacred time in which we form our souls. Boldness rather than fear should guide us.