Readings show us the importance of serving God and others with what we have been given
by Sister Ann Rehrauer
I spent this past week on retreat. Any time of the year is good for a longer period to reflect upon the blessings and challenges of the past year and to ponder where God is calling us on the next steps of our journey. But I have always appreciated a November retreat. The weather is colder and the winds more raucous – reminding me of how small I am in the midst of this giant cosmos we call creation. The assigned Scripture readings these days speak of the end time (personal and global), highlighting the purpose of everything and the fidelity of God who is ever with us. And as darkness continues to grow – it is a good time to rest in the Lord.
On this thirty-third Sunday, we stand in the week before the Church year ends with the solemnity of Christ the King and with reminders of how blessed we are, as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day.
Sunday's Scriptures are an interesting combination of reminders of gifts received and calls to accountability. The writer of Proverbs describes the blessing of a good wife who brings joy to her husband and security to her family. While some of the examples clearly extol what some consider feminine activities (not just spinning and cooking) – those same virtues are also present in single women and in men who love and care for others – selflessness, industriousness, reaching out to care for the poor. Despite personality and appearances – any person who fears the Lord who is to be praised.
The letter to the Thessalonians and the Gospel account in Matthew contain a different tone – highlighting the sense of responsibility for us to share what we have been given. St. Paul reminds us that we need not fear the “final accounting” when we live in the awareness of God’s call and respond to God’s loving presence.
I struggle a bit with the seeming harsh task master in the Gospel as an image of God. While the owner has a right to a just return on his investment, when he doesn’t receive it from the fearful servant, there seems to be no second chance for the man. Even the little he has is taken away. And yet, my experience is of a God of second chances - a merciful parent who loves equally the prodigal and the obedient child. Maybe the message is about “tough love” – but it seems pretty final.
I also find it hard to reconcile the sense of “reward” based on only our labor - since we know that salvation is not “earned” but rather is grace freely given by the One who loves us. Then I remember what Father Richard VerBust taught us so many years ago – that parables are like metaphors. There is one main message but no one-to-one correspondence in the details – so look for the lesson to be learned.
Perhaps for me (and for you) this week, the task is to further ponder the attributes of justice and mercy, both present in the God whom Jesus revealed to us. And in the midst of growing darkness of days – to continue to live in the light and give thanks for our many blessings.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving and end of the Church year.