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God's Word on Sunday: Spiritual growth requires taking risks

  • November 8, 2020

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov. 15 (Year A) Proverbs 31:10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31; Psalm 128; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30

Who can ever live up to their job description or Internet profile perfectly?

We can be captive to the images of what others expect us to be. Many people break themselves trying to live up to an impossible ideal.

They expect too much from themselves and from others. But beneath all that, there is cold, hard reality. And that is not necessarily bad — it is our humanity.

The description of the perfect wife in Proverbs describes a machine rather than a person. This wife is a multitasking workhorse of a manager without needs of her own and she works non-stop from morning until night. Some of the omitted verses are even more insistent — she gets up in the middle of the night to make sure everything is prepared for the rest of the household.

One can only wonder what the rest of her family does. It would also be interesting to see a description of the perfect husband. Probably the most disturbing aspect of the description is that it says nothing of the person, her human qualities or what return she receives from her family.

It reads like a performance review for good reason — her worth, as well as the approval of her husband, is based solely on how well she runs the household. It has little or nothing to say to the many women working outside the house to support their families or to single mothers. Marriage or any relationship involves tolerance, mutuality, supportive love and patience — that alone is a full-time undertaking.

Paul had reassured the Thessalonian community that no one would be left behind. At the sound of the trumpet, believers — both living and dead — would be swept up into the air to meet the Lord and be with Him forever.

He anticipated the question that most of them would likely ask: When? Paul wisely refrained from locking himself into a date and time. The day will come suddenly and like a thief in the night. And it will be when earthly powers are being the most reassuring and optimistic about the future.

The motto “peace and security” was the boast of Roman rule, as well of every dictatorship and repressive regime in history. All is well; everything is firmly under control. Just hand over your freedom and ask no questions. But that is when the labour pains will come upon the world and it will be too late.

Paul stresses the importance of correct living in the “in-between times.” Be alert; be sober; act as children of the light. Do not model your lives on worldly examples or be lulled into complacency.

The Gospel parable is about living in those “in-between times” before the Lord’s return. A man went on a journey and entrusted his three slaves with varying amounts of money, parcelled out according to their capabilities and skills. When the master returned, he wanted to see what they had done with his property.

The first two had invested the money and doubled the amount that each had been given. The third man, however, was a nervous, fearful wreck. He was deathly afraid of making a mistake or losing money, so he buried the money in secret. He did not make any money and gave back to the master only the amount that he had been given.

The first two had a good blend of courage, self-confidence, trust and willingness to take some calculated risks in engaging life. They were both rewarded well for their efforts. The third man probably lacked all of these qualities. He was one of those individuals that wants to preserve the status quo at all costs.

Risks are not for him; mistakes are a disaster and unforgivable. He wanted to clutch on to what he had, but he ended up with nothing. Even the little he thought he had was taken away.

The paralysis that stems from fear, sloth, indecision or lack of trust in God will bring one down. Soul development comes through moving resolutely ahead, being willing to take some risks and trusting in God’s guidance and mercy.

Rather than being overly eager to present a spotlessly clean copy book to God, we might focus a bit more on a faith-filled engagement with life’s many challenging experiences and opportunities for spiritual growth.

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