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November 13, 2005: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
I Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

We can’t be conscious of everything that happens in our life. Anyone who actually tried to do so would quickly go insane. We must experience certain things without reflecting on them or even noticing that they’ve taken place. If, for instance, we tried to be conscious of every car we encounter on an interstate highway, we’d instantly have an accident.

The key to a successful, fulfilled life is to learn to be conscious of the things which make us fulfilled, to concentrate on what brings success.

Today’s three sacred authors encourage us to do precisely that. Paul sets the theme with his command: “. . . Let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and sober!”

Our Proverbs author ends his work by telling us on what the “worthy wife” should concentrate. Though it’s a rare woman today who “obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands,” the writer’s point is still valid: we’re most fulfilled in life when we’re habitually conscious of the needs of others, and do our best to take care of as many needs as possible.

Writing to the Thessalonians, a community anxiously expecting Jesus’ Second Coming, Paul points out how their preoccupation with that future event is causing them to break their concentration on the present. Though our liturgical passage ends abruptly with Paul’s command to stay alert and sober, he goes on to tell his readers to “live together with him (Jesus) . . . to encourage one another and build one another up . . . to be at peace among yourselves.” Paul believes his readers should be concentrating on forming community instead of worrying about the “times and seasons” which will precede Jesus’ triumphant arrival.

The same thought motivates Matthew. That’s why he reminds his church of the allegorical parable which comprises today’s gospel pericope. He shares Jesus’ belief that the more we act on our faith, the more our faith grows.

Scholars point out that Jesus is here encouraging his followers to go against Jewish law: to make money from lending money. Notice what the man asks the poor individual who returns the same amount of money he received. He wants to know why he didn’t “. . . deposit my money with the bankers, so that on my return I could have had it back with interest?” Following the course of the allegory, it’s obvious that, going against custom and tradition, faith isn’t a commodity to be preserved and hoarded, but a power and force which continually grows and increases the more we put it to use.

Biblical authors presume everyone has many of the same experiences in life. What distinguishes people of faith from those without faith is their knack of concentrating on persons, things, and events which others habitually ignore. We find ourselves reflecting on what others don’t even notice.

The older we get in the faith, the clearer it should become that religion offers us lots of “stuff.” Our Scripture writers tell us what part of this stuff we should push into the background of our lives, and what we should constantly be pulling into the foreground.

Theologically, all that the bishops did at Vatican II was to pull some things which the church had for centuries relegated to the perimeter of our faith into the center and focus of our faith. And in turn, they pushed some of the center things out to the perimeter. What many of us thought we couldn’t live without before 1962, gradually disappeared from our field of vision, to be replaced with ideas and concepts we had rarely noticed.

Should we ever again find ourselves in a pre-conciliar mindset, we need only open our Scriptures. It’s always there, ready to provide us with a God conducted eye exam.