Living Flame

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ARTICLE: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A

Prov 31.10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31; 1 Thes 5.1-6; Mt 24.36, 25.14-30

Freeing the Angel

One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, "What are you making?" He replied, "There is an angel in there and I must set it free."

The Last Good Morning

A talented young man by came in and wished all of us “good morning” and went to sea shore for spending time with his friends on a Sunday. Evening we received a shocking news that he got drowned in the sea and we could not digest this fact. We were all thrown in the dark. The young man had to join a new job after having finished his study just the following Monday. All this changed the entire life of the family. This incident has been the talk of the town for at least year now (2008). Life is precious and can never be substituted with anything else.

She has Cancer

The man came in tears. I had never seen him weeping ever. He was a jovial parishioner. He told me that his wife has been diagnosed with cancer. He wept saying that she has to undergo chemotherapy and he was uncertain about her life. Yes, it is true what Jesus said. 'About the day and hour of the coming of the Son of Man, no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Hence I invite you to reflect your present state of your life, and deeply be thankful to God. Every moment you live be deeply grateful to God that he has been good to you. Your attitude is to add flavour to your life, so that God be praised through you.

Parable of the Talents

St. Matthew's Parable of the Talents, which is the name given by most Christians to the story we have just read, St. Matthew's Parable of the Talents is actually only one of a collection of three stories which our Lord taught on the subject of shrewd stewardship. The third is the tale recorded by St. Luke in chapter 16 of his Gospel that is known as the Parable of the Crafty Steward or the Parable of the Dishonest Manager or some similar wording of the same theme. While we do not have time today to address this third parable itself, anything we do say about the other two needs to be heard in the context of all three stories, and for that reason, I urge upon you the reading later, but not too long from now of the Parable of the Crafty Steward.

Do your Business

The two stories of our dynamic duo, the second one of which is also recorded by St. Luke in the 19th chapter of his Gospel, are quite enough to keep us occupied. This morning's reading is known as the Parable of Talents. The story recorded by St. Luke in chapter 19 is known as the Parable of the Ten Talents. In St. Luke's story, if you will remember, Jesus suggests not so much a landowner as a lord or crown prince who has to leave his kingdom and travel to a far country in order to be made king. Before he leaves for his coronation, the lord calls 10 of his slaves to him and gives each a mina, small fortune with which each is told to "do business" for the crown prince until he can himself return to them as king. Each of the selected slaves takes his mina and begins to deal with it. Meanwhile, however, many of the other citizens and slaves of that land become restive and begin to speak of rebellion against their absent lord. They go so far, in fact, as to in the end, actually plot out an insurrection.

When the King Returns

Well, of course, as we know, the lord does return and he does return as king, fully empowered and totally in command at last. Shortly thereafter, he calls the 10 slaves and asks of each of them a financial report about their success in using his trusts. We are, interestingly enough, only told about three of the reporting slaves. The other seven simply disappear in the ensuing action. We are told thus that the first slave reports to his master, rather proudly in fact, that he has made 10 additional minas out of the one entrusted to him. The king is deeply pleased, and as a reward, gives the profitable slave lordship over 10 cities, one city for each of the minas he has earned. The second slave reports, with equal pride and identical wording, that he had made five minas out of his one. He, too, is praised by the king and given the oversight of five cities, one for each of his earned minas.

He buried the Talent

The third slave is the last from whom we hear, for his story we are led to understand, is very sad indeed. Like the fearful slave of today's Gospel, this slave has also chosen to hide his mina away where it will be safe from theft and from corrupt usage until his master's return. He explains this decision, as does our fearful servant in St. Matthew, by saying, to quote one translation, "I was afraid of you, for you're a tough man; you collect what you didn't deposit and reap what you didn't sow." So far, our two stories are, in other words, pretty parallel, having only minor differences but the same point.

Lost Chance

But now the king of our second rendition responds to the overly fastidious and fearful slave rather differently and far more clearly and emphatically than does the landowner in St. Matthew's telling of the story. The king says, "I will judge you by what you have said, you evil slave! If you knew I was a tough man, collecting what I didn't deposit and reaping what I had not sown, why didn't you put my money in the bank? And when I returned, I would have collected it with interest." And then the king said to those standing nearby, "Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has 10 minas."

Unjust Treatment

Understandably, here, as in the story of the talents itself, those who are standing there and hearing this judgment are outraged. Being moral subjects, they protest that giving another mina to a man who already had 10 is unfair - pretty much the same accusation against the king that the fearful slave had already made to his own undoing, but moral insurrectionists apparently learn very slowly. So the king turns to the protesters and delivers one of the most frequently quoted lines of Christian scripture. He says, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even that which he does have will be taken away." After that, the king summarily orders the slaughtering in his presence of those who had plotted his overthrow and the story is ended.

The End

If we never know what happened to the other slaves in St. Luke's story, we also never know what exactly happened to the fearful one beyond his being stripped of his one mina. In St. Matthew's story, as we have read, we find that the fastidious or anxious servant, and not a group of insurrectionists, is the one exiled to the outer darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Either way, however, the question - the central, the overriding, the compelling question still remains.

Reaping Without Sowing

If we are to understand, as obviously we are, that the Messiah is the king or lord or master in both stories, and if Jesus who is telling the tale, is Messiah, then what are we to make of these pictures of himself and of his nature that he has left us? What are we to make of a lord who rewards one of our own kind for using the ways of the world to enrich the king upon his return? More to the point, what are we to make of a lord who condemns, exiles, strips bare one of our own kind, for electing to not use the ways of the world to enrich the king upon his return? Usury, which is the word to translate what our more cautious, more socially correct contemporary translations refer to as "bearing interest," usury was and is a sin in Judaism, and in a lot of other places as well. And nowhere do nice people ever go around reaping crops they didn't sow? What's happening here?

Breaking Traditions

Well, for one thing, if we are honest with our texts, we have to say that the nature of sin and spiritual error is being defined in a very uncomfortable, unconventional, and un-codified way. If we are honest, we would also have to say that it is being defined in much the same way that Jesus was given to defining it during his teaching life. To the ongoing consternation of the religious, we know he ate on the Sabbath from the grain he and his disciples gathered along the roadside as they walked. He refused to stone an adulteress, as the law required, and then made it impossible for others to do so. He talked in depth and publicly to a Samaritan who, even more damning, was a Samaritan woman. He sat at table with flagrant sinners including tax collectors. Over and over again, by act as well as word, he pushed against the moralist and the derivative codes of religion, but never more clearly and incontrovertibly than here in our three parables.

The Total Fulfilment

Lest there might be any mistake in the minds of those around him about the difference between Torah - the law - and moralist and derivative codes, Jesus very explicitly tells his students and through them, us, that not one jot or little of the law as given by God at Sinai will pass into inefficacy until the kingdom itself comes. He says as well that anyone who teaches or empowers another to break Torah would be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his or her neck than to do such a thing. But he just as clearly defines Torah by saying that all the Law and the prophets are summed up in this. "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and your neighbor as yourself...for in this all the law and the prophets are indeed fulfilled."

We hear a great deal very frequently about Jesus' summary of the law and the prophets, but almost without exception, what we hear about is that second part, the part about loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is a good principle, a good summary of the divine imperative, a good compass for determining direction, but it is also only half of the Messiah's whole summary. It is, to be precise, the second half, the subordinate or secondary position. Love your neighbor, in other words, while it may be of great social good, is of no spiritual or religious use without its other and primary companion piece of "Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul."

To know God, as the moral slave knew, is to be afraid. To know God, really know God to the limits of human observation, is to concede that he does indeed make his rain to fall upon the just and the unjust alike. To know God as far as observation will take us is to acknowledge, as the fearful slave acknowledged, that he's a tough man, playing by rules we can easily question and often find deplorable. Such knowledge would make almost any thinking person afraid, and thus it was that the unprofitable slave took up the shield of playing it safe in order to hold his fear at bay.

But what of the profitable servants in both our tales? Were they not also afraid? Of course they were! Common sense alone teaches us that no slave is without fear of the master. Moreover, the profitable servants were clearly thinking and observant folk who knew as surely as did the fearful one what was the nature of the king. Why then did they not likewise fall into heaps of terror, or at the very least, into heaps of paralyzing anxiety?

It would seem from both our stories, that they loved the master, the landowner, the king. Or if love be too weak and abused a word nowadays to be applicable here, and I suspect that the profitable servants yearned toward the master. They positively glowed in the light of him and his approval. They also yearned so completely that they gambled with his goods in pure blind faith that that was really what he meant for them to do. They yearned so completely, in other words, that they believed his intentions his spirit, if you will - as they understood it, and they gambled themselves on fulfilling it. They, in short, loved the master with all their hearts and souls and minds, for this is the first and great commandment, and all the others are secondary unto it.

And the only proper response to such stories as these, it seems to me, is to pray that God may give each of us such grace and faithfulness in our times as he gave to those faithful servants in their storied ones.

Practical Conclusion

  • There is no point in brooding over lost opportunities
  • Cash in on the present occasion and try to develop your talents
  • Try to offer the fruit of your wok to God, and God alone
  • This is the way you can pray and sanctify everything you do
  • Such attitude will lead you to be thankful and you will be just before God.
  • Try your best not to waste time and talents.
  • Lost time will never be ours. 

 

www.LivingFlame.ca

 

Friday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:26-37

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Friday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:26-37

Thursday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:20-25

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Thursday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:20-25

Wednesday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:11-19

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Wednesday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:11-19

Tuesday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:7-10

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Tuesday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:7-10

Monday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:1-6

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Monday - 32nd Week - Year A - Luke 17:1-6

32nd Sunday - Year A - Matthew 25:1-13

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32nd Sunday - Year A - Matthew 25:1-13

Saturday - 31st Week - Year A - Luke 16:9-15

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Saturday - 31st Week - Year A - Luke 16:9-15

ARTICLE: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A

Wis 6.12-16; 1 Thes 4.13-18; Mt 25.1-13

I Never Lived

A woman in the hospital was weeping after being told she was terminally ill with cancer. When a friend sought to console her she replied, "I'm not weeping because I'm dying. I'm weeping because I never lived." The awareness of limits and wasted time means we can take up a conscious stance with regard to our own inevitable mortality. It is this mature insight that will protect us from slavishly following what the culture wants us to do and squandering our time in seeking the approval of others by conforming to their rules and values.

The Second Coming

In Warren Wiersbe's Meet Yourself in the Psalms, he tells about a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon. The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before had saved his life; so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience. But the words from the bench silenced his plea: "Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged." One day Jesus Christ will say to rebellious sinners, "During that long day of grace, I was the Savior, and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your Judge. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!"  

Intelligent Wood Chopper

One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. "I don't get it," he said. "Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did." "But you didn't notice," said the winning woodsman, "that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest."

The Bridegrooms Arrival

There are a number of obscure aspects about Matthew's story. The setting is the awaited arrival of the bridegroom, but it is not certain whether he is coming to meet his betrothed at her father's house or, as is more likely, he is returning to his own home with his bride (it is there the "wedding banquet" will take place, 25.10). The bride is not mentioned at all in the story (although a later scribe added a reference to the bride in v. 1). From what is known of first-century Palestinian marriage customs, after the period of betrothal was completed the groom would go to his bride's family home to conclude the dowry arrangements and bring her to his own house or that of his family where a celebration would take place. Also uncertain is the role of the ten "virgins" (the Greek refers to parthenoi; translation "bridesmaids" is not literal and assumes they are part of the bride's party). If the setting is the groom's house, they may be associated with his household or family. In any case, they are part of the wedding celebration and are to meet the groom with lighted lamps when he returns.

Different Attitudes

The parable wastes little time in illustrating the different attitudes among the ten virgins-five are "foolish" and five are "wise" (25.2). Matthew used these identical labels to contrast the wise man who built his home on rock and the foolish one who built on sand at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (7.24-27). In the parable of the virgins, the contrasting reactions are the preparations each group makes for the awaited return of the groom. The foolish take no oil for their lamps while the wise take flasks of oil with them. When the bridegroom is delayed, all of the virgins become drowsy and fall asleep. Suddenly at midnight the signal is given that the groom is arriving and the procession is to meet him. When the virgins begin to trim their oil lamps (replacing the burned wicks and adding new oil?), the foolish realize they have no more oil. They ask the wise virgins for some, but they in turn calculate that there is not enough for everyone. Improbable as it may seem at midnight, the foolish virgins must go off to try to purchase more oil for their lamps.

The Final Arrival

Meanwhile the groom arrives and "those who were ready" (see the same word used in 24:44, "you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour") entered into the wedding feast (25.10). Then the door was "shut" so that no one else could enter. The foolish virgins finally arrive but they are too late. They cry out, "Lord, lord, open to us" but the groom rebuffs their last-minute pleas-"Truly . . . I do not know you" (25.11-12). This exchange is nearly identical to the warnings of Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Those who cry out "Lord, Lord" but fail to do the will of God are rejected by Jesus ("I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers") and therefore cannot "enter the kingdom of heaven" (see 7.21-23).

Keep Awake

Matthew drives home the lesson of the parable in its concluding verse: "Keep awake [gregoreite; see the same verb in 24.42, 43] therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (25.13). "Staying awake" is used metaphorically for a stance of thoughtful readiness in view of the certain but unknown hour of the parousia. All of the virgins "slept" (see 25.5), but the wise virgins had made preparations to be ready no matter when the bridegroom would arrive.

 

Who is the Bridegroom?

How far to push the allegorical dimensions of this parable have been debated, we are not pretty sure. Matthew himself signals some key allegorical features. The bridegroom is surely intended to represent the Son of Man. The Hebrew Scriptures refer to God as the bridegroom who takes away Israel's barrenness and shame (see, e.g., Isa 54.1-8; Jer 31.32; Hos 2.1-20). In the New Testament, the image takes on eschatological tones, probably due to the motif of the end time as a wedding feast (see Mark 2:19-20; John 3:29-30; and the similar image of the community as the "bride" of Christ: 2 Cor 11.2; Eph 5.21-33; Rev 19.7; 21.2, 9; 22.17).

The Parousia

That Matthew refers to the parousia of the Son of Man is clear from the overall context of the apocalyptic discourse where the parable functions as one of several exhortations to readiness in view of the parousia. Also, Matthew had already identified Jesus as the "bridegroom" earlier in the Gospel in a passage with strong eschatological tones (see 9.15). In the parable of the wedding feast (22.1-10), Matthew had also introduced wedding imagery as a way of speaking of the judgment that would befall not only those who violently rejected the original invitation by the king, but even those invited later who do not wear a wedding garment (22.11-14). In the story of the virgins, the "delay" of the bridegroom (25.5; see 24.48), the dramatic shout announcing his sudden arrival (25.6; see 24.31), and the address "Lord, lord" (25.11; see 7.21-23) all point to Jesus as the triumphant Son of Man coming at the parousia.

Practical Conclusion

Wisdom is something we ‘choose’ like the five bridesmaids did. Having chosen it wisdom becomes second nature to us.

 

We can also reject it like the other five bridesmaids did. And then we remain condemned to a foolishness we ourselves cannot see.

 

I don't know if there really is a door but I do know there really will be such a moment, such a moment of truth; I pray that when it comes, we may all find ourselves together in the wedding hall - for all eternity.

Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort.  Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.

 

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Friday - 31st Week - Year A - Luke 16:1-8

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Friday - 31st Week - Year A - Luke 16:1-8