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Select Exegesis
November, 19 2017

33 Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Rev Timothy P. Schehr

      Like a thief in the night. That is how St. Paul describes the coming of the day of the Lord. It sounds a little strange associating theft with something as wonderful as the Lord’s coming. Paul’s obvious meaning for his faithful in Thessalonica is that the Lord will come when least expected. The wise thing for them to do is to be ready for the Lord at any moment in life.

             On second thought there may be something to be gained from the image of the thief in the night.  Jesus did take away our sins and he did take away the sting of death. Those are the very things all of us would love to have taken away from us.

             But let’s get back to the main theme of the readings for this Sunday. We need to be ready for the Lord. How can we do this? By being busy with the Lord’s work.

              The first reading gives us the famous portrait of the worthy wife. She works tirelessly for her family. The reading mentions specifically the fabrics she works with in her home. She also finds time to take care of the poor and the needy in her community. What does she get for all her labors? Praise at the city gates.

             All of this might seem a little odd to modern ears. We may wonder what the rest of the family was doing to help. But before we get distracted by such concerns it is good to remember that the woman in this reading probably represents the Wisdom that comes from God. Like the perfect spouse, Wisdom brings countless benefits to those in her household. In seeking this kind of wisdom will keep us focused on the things of God. If we have this kind of wisdom we have nothing to fear when the Lord comes in glory.

             Enlightened with this Proverbs passage we are ready for the Lord’s parable about the talents. Originally the term talent referred to a large sum of money. Some estimate a talent of silver is the equivalent of thousands of dollars today. But this parable gives the word “talent” new meaning. Now we think of talents as the personal gifts each of us has from God. We should be using those gifts to serve the kingdom of heaven.

             The master in this parable seems extremely fair. Before he leaves on his journey he entrusts his possessions to the servants and gives each of them talents to work with. This positive view of the master becomes important at the end of the parable when we hear one of the  servants speaking negatively about him.

             The other servants use what they receive to produce double. This is the ideal. They use their talents and earn the admiration of their master. In spiritual terms this is like using the gifts God gives each of us to do something more for the kingdom of God. By doing so, we grow even richer in spiritual gifts. As the master explains at the end of the parable, everyone who works this way will receive more and grow even richer.

             The last servant just buries the talent in the ground. Why? No reason is given. We are left to wonder about motive. Was this servant afraid to be held accountable for the gift? Does this servant choose not to serve the master? As an excuse for doing nothing, this last servant describes the master as a very harsh and demanding person who harvests where he did not plant. But that is not true since the master in fact “planted” talents on each of the servants to begin with. For whatever reason, this servant chose to do nothing. Imagine what this servant could have done with just that one talent. Then imagine what we can do for God with our talents.

©Rev. Tim Schehr

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