Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Dr. Italy) July 8, 2018 (Cycle B)


Reading I: Ezekiel 2:2-5  Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. 
Responsorial Psalm: 123:1-2, 2, 3-4  Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Reading II: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10  “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6   He was amazed at their lack of faith.

The story about Jesus’ disappointing reception in his hometown of Nazareth addresses a question asked by many – if God is omnipotent, can it be said that there are some miracles that he cannot perform?  The surprising answer tells us a lot about unbelief, faith, and the nature of God.
In the first five chapters of his gospel, the evangelist Mark makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is indeed God Almighty, ruler of the world and lord over life and death.

HOMETOWN RECEPTION IN NAZARETH

But now we come to a story that leaves us scratching our heads. Jesus goes to Nazareth, his own hometown, and receives less than a jubilant reception. “They found him too much for them.”
That may not be so surprising to those of us accustomed to family life. But what does come as a shock are these words: “He could work no miracle there . . . so much did their lack of faith distress him.”

FAITH AS AN INVITATION

Wait a minute. I thought that Jesus was God and therefore omnipotent. Wouldn’t it be admitting that he is not God to say that he was unable to work miracles in a given place?
Hardly. God’s exercises his power only in a way befitting his nature. God is a lover, not a rapist.
He seeks to give his love to those who freely accept it and open their hearts to him. He refuses to violate the wishes of those whom he has created in his image and likeness, who possess intellect and free will.  True, he directly controls the wind and the waves through a word of simple command.  That’s because wind and waves are inanimate forces. But with regards to human beings, Jesus makes himself available and waits for an invitation.
That invitation whereby we ask him to come into our lives and calm our interior storms is called faith.

FAITH AS DECISION, NOT EMOTION

Faith is not, therefore, an emotion. It is not about an inner assurance, a feeling of confidence that is free of all shadow of doubt or fear. It is rather a decision, sometimes made with knees knocking. It is a yes that gives God permission to work in our lives and rearrange the furniture if he so chooses.
That means blessing, healing, salvation and miracles. But it also means yielding to his will, his plan, his timetable. And of course, that is the part we don’t like. What will others think of me? Will I still be able to spend Saturday nights the way I’ve always spent them? I work hard for a living and deserve to be able to blow off some steam! Will I still be able to hang out with Tom, to live with Ashley?

HANDING OVER CONTROL

Sometimes we are not really happy with the way things are, but at least they are familiar. We know what to expect. We are in control, or at least we think we are. Faith means handing over control, and that scares us. We are free to say no, and quite frankly we often do. Sometimes we say no in small ways–we only let God take us so far. Sometimes it’s a very firm “no”, that shuts God completely out of our lives.
This is the sort of “no” that Jesus encountered during his visit to Nazareth, and which the prophets before him often encountered from their fellow countrymen, the people of Israel.

UNBELIEF CLOSES THE DOOR

So if Jesus was divine and therefore all-knowing, why did he bother to go to Nazareth at all?
For the same reason that God sent Ezekiel to the Israelites and told him in advance that they’d resist. The Lord wanted to take away all excuses. God loved his people enough to offer them every opportunity for the healing and deliverance that they prayed for. He called their bluff, so to speak. Jerusalem pleaded for deliverance from the Babylonians and the people of Nazareth probably prayed for healing for Uncle Jacob or food for the town orphans. But in both cases when God showed up, ready to pour out his gifts, they didn’t like the packaging and rejected the terms.
At the last judgment, when our lives flash before our eyes, we’ll be reminded of the times that God made a house call and we slammed the door in his face. I say it’s time to apologize and unbolt the door.
This post focuses on faith, unbelief, and the miracles that Jesus could and would not do in his hometown of Nazareth.  It reflects on the readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle B (Ez 2:2-5; Ps 123; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6).
____________________________________________________________
Red bolding is my addition. My take-away? The moral of the story for me? I think it is: We are free to say no, and quite frankly we often do . . . . .  Apologize and unbolt the door!
____________________________________________________________
Sources:
The Center for Liturgy Sunday:  http://liturgy.slu.edu/14OrdB070818/theword.html

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King - November 26, 2017 (Cycle A) Servant of the Word


Catechism Links[1]
CCC 678-679, 1001, 1038-1041: Christ as Judge
CCC 2816-2821: “Thy Kingdom Come”

“Jesus Christ King of the Universe,”
Artist and Date are UNKNOWN



Readings and Commentary:[4]


For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.
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Commentary on Ez 34:11-12, 15-17

The prophet presents the allegory of God, the shepherd. In this oracle the vision is that God the Father, like a shepherd, will gather the people of Israel from the foreign lands to which they have been driven, and bring them back to “the mountains of Israel.”

"This beautiful oracle resounds in our Lord's parable of the Good Shepherd who takes care of his sheep (cf. John 10:1-21), in what he says about the Father's joy on finding the lost sheep (cf. Matthew 18: 12-14Luke 15:4-7), and in things he has to say about the Last Judgment as reported by St Matthew (Matthew 25:31-46)."[5]

The tenderness shown by the good shepherd toward the sheep is especially comforting on a feast day where we celebrate the intense love of Christ for the people of the world. However, we are reminded in v. 17 that the each person will be held accountable for their actions.

CCC: Ez 34:11-31 754
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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
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Commentary on Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar songs in the entire psalter. “God's loving care for the psalmist is portrayed under the figures of a shepherd for the flock (Psalm 23:1-4) and a host's generosity toward a guest (Psalm 23:5-6). The imagery of both sections is drawn from traditions of the exodus (Isaiah 40:1149:10Jeremiah 31:10).”[6] While the theme of shepherd is mentioned in the first strophe, the psalm really speaks to the peace given to those who follow the Lord and place their trust in Him, even into the “dark valley.

The reference in the third strophe above: “'You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes' occurs in an exodus context in Psalm 78:19. As my enemies watch: my enemies see that I am God's friend and guest. Oil: a perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at banquets (Psalm 104:15Matthew 26:7Luke 7:3746John 12:2).”[7]

CCC: Ps 23:5 1293
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But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through a human being,
the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will (also) be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.
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Commentary on 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28

St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the King in heaven and on earth, and that all things are subject to him. An important theological element contained in v. 28 is the unity between God and Christ which is implicit in St. Paul’s argument about Christ as King of Heaven (“…so that God may be all in all”).

In his continuing apologetic discourse, he states that Christ has been raised from the dead. It is imperative that this truth be at the heart of all Christian belief, for if he had not been raised, the Christian faith is fruitless. Death through sin came to human kind through the sin of Adam; life comes through the defeat of death in Christ’s resurrection. He must first rise, defeating death, so that all who sleep in death may come to the Heavenly Father who first sent him.

“In the liturgy of ancient Israel the first portion of a crop was offered to God in the Temple as a means of consecrating the whole of the expected harvest (Exodus 23:19Leviticus 23:10-14). So too, Christ is not only the first to be raised in glory, but his resurrected humanity is an offering that insures the entire harvest of believers will be raised as he was (Acts 26:23Romans 11:15-16).”[8]

The evangelist says: “’ he subjected everything under his feet,’" quoting Psalm 8:7. It is placed in parenthesis because St. Paul notes that God is excluded from the Son’s subjugation. The Son, once victorious, returns all things to the Father. Just as Christ dies and rises, completing the circle of re-creation, so in returning the fruits of his victory to the Father, he completes the creative will of the Father who made man in his own image free from sin.

CCC: 1 Cor 15:20-22 655; 1 Cor 15:20 632, 991; 1 Cor 15:21-22 411; 1 Cor 15:24-28 2855; 1 Cor 15:24 668; 1 Cor 15:26 1008; 1 Cor 15:27-28 668
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"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."
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Commentary on Mt 25:31-46

Jesus, in this reading, is telling his disciples and us what will be judged at the end times, the Eschaton. The reading gives us a vision of what will be asked and how judgment will be passed. This image is used as a teaching tool, to focus those who wish to follow Jesus on loving those who are in need of help: the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the ill, the imprisoned.

This reading provides yet one more example of how Christ intends the Great Commandment to be lived. Loving God and loving neighbor would be judged by: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” We note that while the general theme is broadly applied to all people, there is special emphasis placed upon the poor and marginalized. The concluding answer expands upon the Hebrew definition in Leviticus (Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18) as St. Matthew defines "neighbor" in a more inclusive sense.

CCC: Mt 25:31-46 544, 1033, 1373, 2447, 2831; Mt 25:31-36 2443; Mt 25:31 331, 671, 679, 1038; Mt 25:32 1038; Mt 25:36 1503; Mt 25:40 678, 1397, 1825, 1932, 2449; Mt 25:41 1034; Mt 25:45 598, 1825, 2463; Mt 25:46 1038
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Reflection:

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The authors of the Roman Missal who prayerfully assembled the liturgy and readings for our common worship ended the year’s Sunday celebrations on this particular note, suggesting that we have been building towards it for a full year. We have recalled the Lord’s nativity in our Advent and Christmas celebrations. We have remembered Christ’s struggle as our own in our Lenten observances. We have rejoiced in the Easter of our year, celebrating once more as Christ’s own resurrection brought us hope and joy. And in these past months we have looked at the life and teaching of Jesus, building our interior faith in him to this point.

Today we celebrate Christ as King, King of Heaven and King in our lives on earth.  As people living in a democratic society, the idea of having a monarch in our lives does not have the visceral impact it did in centuries past when there were active monarchs and it was the standard form of governance.  We consider for a moment the impact of naming a king would have, using that ancient vision of kingship.

The first thing we would understand would be that we owe the king our allegiance.  If there were outside threats to the kingdom, we would be eligible for conscription into the king’s army to defend the kingdom against its enemies.  Next, we would owe the king fealty, the dictionary defines this word as “the obligation or the engagement to be faithful to a lord, usually sworn to by a vassal.”  Another word sometimes used in its place is fidelity.  We owe that constant loyalty to our king.  Betrayal is treason!

We understand that a kingship is a totalitarian form of governance.  We cannot ourselves make new laws because we don’t like the old ones.  The word of the king is law and we are expected to follow that law if we are to be in his kingdom.  Part of what we swear in allegiance and fealty is to accept the king’s authority over us and commit ourselves to follow his word, to defend it as law, to die for it if asked.

Now that we understand what subjecting ourselves to the rule of a king, as those in Jesus' time understood that subjugation to mean, we must ask ourselves, are we ready?  Will we be the faithful nobility in the kingdom of God who chivalrously pledge our honor and life to our Liege Lord, ready to defend the Kingdom of God (on earth)?  Or are we the surly peasant, who stands in the crowd because it is a social requirement; who would not lift a finger in the cause of the king unless compelled to do so or if it was in their own interests?  We see both ends of the spectrum and know that at times we have been in each place.

Today we pray, as we pledge our allegiance to Christ the King in the creed, that our faith will always be strong and our hearts will be full of zeal for the Kingdom of God whose citizens we hope to become.

Pax


[1] Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[2] The Picture is “Jesus Christ King of the Universe,” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN
[4] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[5] The Navarre Bible: “Major Prophets”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp.733
[6] See NAB footnote on Psalm 23
[7] ibid
[8] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. pp. 307

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King - November 26, 2017 (Cycle A) Dr. Scott Hahn

Christ Handing the Keys to St. PeterWhen the End Comes: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of Christ the King

 
Many saints and Church leaders have seen a connection between Christ’s words in the Gospel for the Solemnity of Christ the King (see Matthew 25:31-43) and His promise to be present in the Eucharist (see Matthew 26:26-29Mark 14:22-25Luke 22:15-20).
For instance, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say of her work with the destitute: “In Holy Communion we have Christ under the appearance of bread. In our work we find Him under the appearance of flesh and blood. It is the same Christ. ‘I was hungry, I was naked, I was sick, I was homeless.'”
St. John Chrysostom, the great patriarch of Eastern Catholicism, said the same thing in the fourth century: “Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore Him when He is naked. Do not pay Him homage in the temple clad in silk only then to neglect Him outside where He suffers cold and nakedness. He who said: ‘This is my body’ is the same One who said: ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food’, and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me’ . . . What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices, when He is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying His hunger, and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.”
The Church year ends today with a vision of the end of time. The scene in the Gospel is stark and resounds with Old Testament echoes.
The Son of Man is enthroned over all nations and peoples of every language (see Daniel 7:13-14). The nations have been gathered to see His glory and receive His judgment (see Isaiah 66:18Zephaniah 3:8). The King is the divine shepherd Ezekiel foresees in today’s First Reading, judging as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.
Each of us will be judged upon our performance of the simple works of mercy we hear in the Gospel today.
These works, as Jesus explains today, are reflections or measures of our love for Him, our faithfulness to His commandment that we love God with all our might and our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:36-40).
Our faith is dead, lifeless, unless it be expressed in works of love (see James 2:20Galatians 5:6). And we cannot say we truly love God, whom we cannot see, if we don’t love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20).
The Lord is our shepherd, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And we are to follow His lead, to imitate His example (see 1 Corinthians 1:11Ephesians 5:1).
He healed our sickness (see Luke 6:19), freed us from the prison of sin and death (see Romans 8:2,21), welcomed us who were once strangers to His covenant (see Ephesians 2:12,19). He clothed us in baptism (see Revelation 3:52 Corinthians 5:3-4), and feeds us with the food and drink of His own body and blood.
At “the end,” He will come again to hand over His kingdom to His Father, as Paul says in today’s Epistle.
Let us strive to be following Him in right paths, that this kingdom might be our inheritance, that we might enter into the eternal rest promised for the people of God (see Hebrews 4:1,9-11).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Servant of the Word) Cycle A



Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catechism Links[1]
CCC 2006-2011: Our merits for good works come from God’s goodness
CCC 1038-1041: Our works manifested at the Last Judgment
CCC 1048-1050: Keeping busy as we await the Lord’s return
CCC 1936-1937: Diversity of talents
CCC 2331, 2334: Dignity of woman
CCC 1603-1605: Marriage in the order of creation

“The Parable of the Unfaithful Servant”
by an UNKNOWN German Master, c. 1580



Readings and Commentary:[4]


When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
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Commentary on  Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

This entire section (Proverbs 31:10-31) is an acrostic poem (each strophe starting with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet). It is sincere praise for the virtuous wife (unlike Ecclesiastes 7:28 in which the author finds guile) and is intended to be a model for the good Hebrew wife to follow. The strophes selected emphasize first the esteem in which she is to be held by all (not just her family), and next the example of diligence in the tasks she performs. The concluding strophe is praise for the woman who “fears the Lord,” as indicated earlier in Proverbs 9:10 and 1:7. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (cf. 1a) Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
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Commentary on Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Psalm 128 is a song of thanksgiving. It begins here with the typical blessings given to those following and having faith in the Lord. This selection uses the analogy of the family and the blessing it brings to the faithful, using the symbolism of vines and olives, imagery commonly used in sacred scripture.

It also supports the creation of woman and the marriage theme in Genesis 2:18-25. It is the logical extension of the two becoming one flesh and the children flowing from that union.

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Reading II: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers,
you have no need for anything to be written to you.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief at night.
When people are saying, "Peace and security, "
then sudden disaster comes upon them,
like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness,
for that day to overtake you like a thief.
For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.
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Commentary on 1 Thes 5:1-6

St. Paul takes up the theme of vigilance and preparedness with the Thessalonians in this selection. He reminds them that the hour and the day of the Lord’s coming are not known, and that, unlike those who live in darkness (the pagans), they are children of the light. His tone makes it clear that his expectation is that the Parousia (the second coming of Christ) is coming soon.

CCC: 1 Thes 5:2-3 675; 1 Thes 5:2 673; 1 Thes 5:5 1216; 1 Thes 5:6 2849
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"It will be as when a man who was going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master's money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
'Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'
His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"
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Commentary on Mt 25:14-30

The Parable of the Talents comes to us as part of Jesus’ dialogue about being prepared and vigilant. It combines two different but connected logions or morals/teaching points. The first is to use the gifts God has given for the benefit of God, who is represented by the “Master” in the parable. The second is vigilance. This parable, directed at the disciples, exhorts his servants to use the gifts God has given them to the fullest, for the benefit of others (as well as God). It is an exclamation point to Jesus' earlier statement: “those to whom much is given, even more will be expected” (see also Luke 12:48).

CCC: Mt 25:14-30 546, 1936; Mt 25:21 1029, 1720, 2683; Mt 25:23 1029, 1720
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"It will be as when a man
who was going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'"
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Commentary on Mt 25:14-15, 19-21

This shorter form of the Gospel focuses narrowly on the need for the faithful to use the gifts God has given them to the fullest for the benefit of others (as well as God). It is an exclamation point to Jesus' earlier statement “those to whom much is given, even more will be expected.

CCC: Mt 25:14-30 546, 1936; Mt 25:21 1029, 1720, 2683; Mt 25:23 1029, 1720
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Reflection:

In the modern day and age the first scripture passages we are given today will be considered to be “stereo-typical and sexist,” since the picture painted of the “worthy wife” is one who is industrious in what might be called “homey” things.  We would point out, however, that the image painted is no more guilty of stereotyping women – wives as home-bodies – than other scripture is about painting the role of men in strictly decision-making roles.  We accept the literary form offered as it was intended, to provide guidance and wisdom to the faithful, and to be appreciated, taking into account the social structures and conventions of the time, and audience for which they were originally intended.

Does that mean that all people who disregard and discredit the conservative attitudes expressed in these poems are correct?  No; it also does not mean that those who take these images literally and attempt to enforce them today are correct, especially if they use these passages as excuses to exercise dominance or control over another.  Where then does the truth lie?  For according to Church teaching (Dei Verbum, 11.), we believe as St. Timothy said: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

We look to the underlying principle that stimulated this praise of virtue.  The values extolled in this passage are those we should value in all persons, regardless of gender or station in life.  Beyond the first part of the poem in which praise is expressed for the worthy person, the principal virtues are twofold. First is industriousness.  The person is not slothful, they do not sit around doing no work, taking no part in the effort of providing for the comfort of the family.  The worthy wife in this example exercises her skill in clothing and feeding the family (in past ages this was done directly, in the modern era it is frequently done by all adult members of a family by doing a job that provides financial support for the family).

The second virtue mentioned in the selection from the poem in Proverbs is faith in God: “fear of the Lord.”  The person without faith has not learned the important lessons of the wise.  Most specifically the lessons include mutual love and respect.  With love of God comes humility before God.  With humility before God comes respect for like-minded followers of the Lord, including one’s spouse.  With respect and love comes a sacramental union, indestructible by the vicissitudes of this world.

Not surprisingly, the themes of diligence and faith are the two lessons taught by St. Matthew’s telling of the Parable of the Talents.  This story of course seems to apply to men rather than women. Hopefully the point made above was not lost when moving from Old to New Testaments.  Jesus' great lesson in this parable is that diligence in using the gifts God gives each of us is expected.  The servants who used what the master had left in their charge most effectively were rewarded.  The servant who did not use what was left in his charge out of “fear” was punished.

We can now come to a reasonable understanding of the main message today.  Regardless of station or gender, we are all expected to use the gifts God has given us – to his greater glory.  This last part is critical, and that point is made in both the Old and New Testaments.  When we start to think that we can use those gifts for our own benefit, forgetting who our master is (using the terms of the parable), we find ourselves the butt of another parable – see the parable of the unfaithful steward, Luke 12:45-48.

Today as we reflect in thanks upon the gifts God has given us, we rededicate ourselves to working diligently to please God and to bring about His Kingdom on earth.

Pax


[1] Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[2] The picture used today is “The Parable of the Unfaithful Servant” by an UNKNOWN German Master, c. 1580
[4] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.