November 16, 2014

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 16, 2014, Year A

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH


If there is anybody here whose grandmother was (or is) a lousy cook, you may well be in a minority of one. Grandma’s (or Nana’s or Mémère’s or Nonna’s) cooking is the stuff of family memories and legends. No one cooks the way she did.

The “worthy wife” of the first reading is that kind of person. The text concludes, “Let her works praise her at the city gates.” The image here is a little foreign to us, so I’ll explain it briefly. In ancient times the city gates were the place where you were most likely to run into friends and catch up on the latest news and gossip. But when you spoke of “Mrs. Worthy,” you would be praising her, for her talents and her character, and everyone would think what a lucky man “Mr. Worthy” was.

In this context, you could reasonably take the “talents” of today’s parable to mean whatever you happen to be good at. That is not really so far off the mark, since that is the modern meaning of a word which in Jesus’ time meant an extremely large amount of money.

“Mrs. Worthy,” however, also helps us understand talents both as what you are good at, and as something that has significant value. I dare say many of you have talents that meet that criterion.

That said, the parable can’t really be just about developing our skills and using them well. That’s because the parable isn’t only about us. Yes, we can see ourselves as the “servants,” but there is also the “Master.” The parable is about both, about the relationship between them.

It’s especially the third servant, the one who hid his master’s money, that makes the point for us. His relationship toward the master was one of fear—not the abiding respect that is called “fear of the Lord,” one of the qualities we find in the worthy wife—but genuine craven fear. “I knew you were a demanding person,” he says, and so he chose not to take the risk of losing the one talent. The master had shown him, according to his abilities, equal trust with the other two servants; but he, the servant, apparently did not share his master’s trust in him.

The other two understood what was expected of them, and doubled their master’s money. Fear of the master did not paralyze them. On the contrary, they were highly motivated, perhaps because they anticipated some reward, or perhaps simply because they wished to please him.

Back to ourselves, we need to ask the same question. Not just, how can I best develop the talents have I been given, and use them? but, more importantly, why? St. Paul gives us one possible version of the answer: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief at night... Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do.”

The motivation is that we need to be ready when the Master returns, to give him an accounting of our stewardship. What we have received isn’t given to us only for ourselves. We are servants, after all, ideally eager to serve and anxious to show off how we have served.

Going back to Grandma’s cooking, what really made it so very special, after all? Secret spices? No. Fresh ingredients? No. Precise measurements? Certainly not!

It was the love, the same love that set the “worthy wife” apart, the same love that needs to set us apart as “good and faithful servants.”

The day came when Grandma wasn’t up to cooking any more. She minded that terribly, not because of the food, but because she could no longer demonstrate her love in that particular way.

When and if the time comes that we can no longer exercise the skills we have used in the Master’s service, we will lay down our various tools of the trade, and all that will be left is love. And the Master will still be well served, and well pleased.

1 comment :

marie said...

Great ending Father! Truth is being told.