• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

“Since you were faithful in small matters, come, share your master's joy.”

Entrance Antiphon: Jer 29:11, 12, 14 – “The Lord said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. You will call upon me, and I will answer you, and I will lead your captives from every place.”

First Reading: Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 – “She works with loving hands.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 – “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.”

Second Reading: 1 Thes 5:1-6 – “Let the day of the Lord not overtake you like a thief.”

Alleluia: Jn 15:4a, 5b “Alleluia, alleluia. Remain in Me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in Me bears much fruit. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 25:14-30 – “Since you were faithful in small matters, come, share your master’s joy.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 73(72):28 – “To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord.”

Can you imagine that women are pieces of property? And before you judge me for asking that question, consider this ... The First Reading from the Book of Proverbs in this weekend’s Mass emerges from a time when this was a sad reality. Marrying someone was another way of “growing” a family’s power and influence. The Book of Proverbs acknowledges that “charm is deceitful” and “beauty is vain” when choosing a wife, but the goal is to ensure that a man does not make the wrong investment: A wife can do great things for him (at least as today’s passage says … he “should give her the fruit of her hands” … in other words, he should share some of the profits she makes for him!). The reading will go over well in cultures that regard marriage as a man taking on a wife as “his own,” but the reading may be a grand distraction for those who actually think we’re talking about women and marriage in today’s First Reading! That’s not it at all! Far from it!

Given the Gospel’s parable, we’re talking about investments, and marriage is still a huge investment. It carries risks that the author of Proverbs could never imagine. With two members who are equal “partners in love,” as our Church envisions them ... having family promotion and profit as the primary motive of a marriage is deplorable. Love, however, is much more risky an investment and does not guarantee as easy a “payoff.” Many women and men decide not to marry today because they cannot predict what will happen to them or their spouses ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now. Why risk going all the way in such an uncertain future?

So consider this … Do you hide God’s gifts and do nothing with them? As we gather at Eucharist today, we can appear to be spending time for ourselves … time for quiet or time to set aside to be with the Lord. But today, as in every time we come to Mass, we will receive gifts here! First and foremost is God’s sacrificing love. How sad it is if we have come here today with the same gifts in our hands that we received last week. Has nothing been done with the insights or the decisions for conversion that last week inspired? Does how we treat our wife or husband … our teenage son or daughter … or how we deal with our in-laws, our co-workers, or our neighbors remain exactly as it was last week? What did we do with the treasure and example of our good and gracious God? If you think about it and you’re honest with yourself, might find you have often done no better than the final servant in the Gospel whom the master of the story called a “wicked, lazy lout."

And so, having just said that … and considering how the parable challenges us today … Guess what? … The Lord calls us to take risks and invest! While many know the risks of betting on the horses … spending vacations in Las Vegas or Atlantic City … buying that ticket for a raffle or PowerBall jackpot ... and the risks in the volatile world of Wall Street … there are many who are a whole lot more than willing to spend money that they may never see again because the payoff is something they believe to be worth the risk. Whatever happens, win or lose, playing the game is almost demanded for the sheer possibility of the fruits of winning. But on the other hand, risking our love and our charity doesn’t hold so great or immediate a payoff. There are tremendous risks to our investment … the risk of someone staring at us if we sing too joyfully at Mass or if we cough or don’t social distance ... or if our children are a bit too exuberant … the risk of volunteering for service as an ambassador, or an usher, or a lector or Eucharistic minister because of self-consciousness … the risk of entering into conversation with the senior who is alone or with the recent widower who could use a kind word … the risk of convincing our children of the importance of going to Mass out of fear that our own past inconsistency could be thrown in our face. Married couples often turn down the risk of dialogue because they are quite “sure” that they know what their spouse will say. Our workplaces remain untouched by God’s love when everyone stays in his or her own cubicle or when less-than-kind conversations (in plain words … gossip or worse … slander) go unchecked by a gentle correction or a kind word about the person upon whom everyone else is heaping their wrath.

In the Eucharist today and every Sunday … and for that matter each and every day … Christ risks giving Himself to us. Guess what? With His help, we can do the same and risk giving ourselves to others. The question remains ... will we?

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