Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


November 13, 2011
Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

          Jesus prepares his friends for the end times by telling them another parable about one's disposition to enter into the kingdom. Last week, the ten virgins were exhorted to remain vigilant for the bridegroom. This week, we hear a story of a man who is about to leave for a journey of unexpected duration. Before he leaves, he entrusts his talents to three servants with an expectation that they will prudently invest these talents for greater profit.

          The most responsible servant is given five talents. Without haste, he trades them and is able to earn another five talents. The second does likewise with the two talents, but the third servant decides to be very responsible. He hides the single talent entrusted to him and returns it to his master who is angry with his course of action. The master wanted him to invest and use the talent wisely - earning even a small degree of interest. Making use of what was given to him is more important than hoarding it for safe keeping.

          The damaging aspect of the non-risk servant is that he operated out of fear. He did not see the excitement in the possibilities of seeing the talent's value grow. His fear stunted his freedom. It is likely that he worried day and night about the buried talent. He thought he would not have to worry about his master's return because he would have been able to present the talent intact. Think about the gladness of the other two servants who proudly presented their good investment to the master. Surely, even in the non-risk servant failed and lost the talent, his master would not have treated him harshly because he took a chance. To do nothing means to fall behind.

          It gives me pause when I consider how well I have used the talents invested to me by God. Sure, I have used some and I'm grateful for those that I have been given, but have I invested in them to the degree expected? I often take the safe route and have a conservative approach to matters concerning myself. I tend not to speak up for myself in words or actions. I may give 10 percent to my talents, and maybe I'm expected to give 60 percent more. Perhaps I was not formed to nurture my talents. I guess I am a lot like the non-risk servant.

          However, the master has not yet returned and it is still my responsibility to double the effect of my talents. Fear may still hold me back because I do not boldly ask for what I want and need. I try to consider what others want first. I will be called on to give an accounting for my use of the talents plus interest. I wonder where I will stand when I am called into account. I know that I do not have much time left to reform my actions. I know that I have to be open to opportunities and to listen to friends' counsel. I still have to figure out with God which talents are to be explored and which ones to leave behind.

          The value of friends cannot be underestimated on this journey. The Book of Proverbs tells us this friend or spouse only brings us that which is good. Friends' investments in us will help us live fulfilled lives. Friends believe in us, which encourages us to try with greater confidence. We need one another.

          Our friendships on earth mirror the friendship we can have with God. When we learn to relate to God as friend, he can note the ways God encourages us to develop parts of ourselves that are still in potency. God will also work with us to transform our wounds into glory. We have to learn to accept the sincere praise from others so we can more fully actualize ourselves. We have to learn to accept sincere praise from God, who is always laboring for us. God's praise will take away our fears and give us confident, grounded courage. God will bring us from a non-risk servant to one who invests generously to make the best yield for ourselves and for God. God will help us have fun while doing it. There's really nothing to lose.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: A dispute between the progressive Jews and the hard-line, conservative Maccabeans broke out during the brutal occupation of Antiochus Epiphanes. Some Jews tried to make peace with their Gentile occupiers to make life easier for the people; while others held fast to their religious convictions - an event that ushered in harsh persecution. Eleazar, a leading scribe, was ridiculed and force to eat pork, but he chose a glorious death to a life of defilement. His friends tried to reason with him to spare his life; he was promised a life of kind treatment if he would just eat the pork. Eleazar refused and was summarily executed.

At the same time, seven brothers and their mother were arrested and tortured with whips for the same reason, but they refused to eat pork in violation of God's laws. The mother watched her seven sons perish in a single day. She could have stopped the murder of each of her sons, but would not give in. Mattathias, a leading, honorable, wealthy man with a large family, also chose to keep the covenant of their fathers; another Jew came forward to offer a sacrifice on the altar of Modein in accord with the King's wishes. Matthathias became enraged and killed the man. He and his sons left everything behind and fled to the mountainside and desert in isolation.

An army of Alexander, son of Philip of Macedonia, developed a fierce, formidable army that was victorious against many nations. King Antiochus knew he could not win against Alexander. On his deathbed, he became remorseful for all the evil he wrought against Jerusalem and its people.

Eventually, the enemies of the Jews were crushed and Judas Maccabee and his brothers went to the sanctuary to purify and rededicate it. It was the anniversary of the day the Gentiles defiled it. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar with sacrifices of praise and deliverance.

Gospel: As Jesus approaches Jericho on his way to Jerusalem, he encounters a blind man sitting by the road. He was waiting for Jesus to pass by. Jesus asks, "What do you want me to do for you?" The man asks for sight and is given both vision and faith. On his way, Jesus met Zacchaeus, a short tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Jesus announces that salvation has come to his house today; Zacchaeus repays all he has defrauded his neighbors. Jesus then tells a parable about a nobleman who entrusts his servants with ten gold coins. Some traded and invested wisely; others with moderate success; and one was too timid to do anything so he wrapped them in a handkerchief and stored them away. The nobleman was furious with his poor choices. Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus makes straight away for the Temple where he drives out vendors for defiling the house of prayer. The chief priests, scribes, and leaders decide to put him to death. Sadducees, who deny the resurrection, ask Jesus about successive marriage of seven brothers to the same wife at the end of the age. Jesus concludes by telling them that God is the god of the living, not the dead.  

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Albert the Great, bishop and doctor (1200-1280), joined the Dominicans to teach theology in Germany and Paris. Thomas Aquinas was his student. With his reluctance, he was made bishop of Ratisbon. He resigned after four years so he could teach again. His intellectual pursuits included philosophy, natural science, theology, and Arabic language and culture. He applied Aristotle's philosophy to theology.

Wednesday: Margaret of Scotland (1046-1093) was raised in Hungary because the Danes invaded England. She returned after the Norman Conquest in 1066 and sought refuge in Scotland. She married the king and bore him eight children. She corrected many wayward abuses within the church and clarified church practices.  

Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) was placed for childrearing into a Benedictine monastery at age 5 in Saxony. She lived with two mystics named Mechthild and as she developed her intellectual and spiritual gifts, she too became a mystic. Her spiritual instructions are collected into five volumes. She wrote prayers as a first advocate of the Sacred Heart.

Thursday: Elizabeth of Hungary, (1207-1231) was the daughter of Andrew II, king of Hungary. She married Ludwig IV of Thuringia and as queen supported many charities. When her husband died in a crusade in 1227, she entered the Third Order of Franciscans.  

Friday: The Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul celebrates churches in honor of the two great church founders. St. Peter's basilica was begun in 323 by Emperor Constantine - directly over Peter's tomb. A new basilica was begun in 1506 and it was completed in 1626. Many great artists and architects had a hand in building it. St. Paul Outside the Walls was built in the 4th century over Paul's tomb. It was destroyed by fire in 1823 and subsequently rebuilt.

Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852) joined the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and at age 49, traveled to Missouri to set up a missionary center and the first free school west of the Mississippi. She then founded six more missions. She worked to better the lives of the Native Americans.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Nov 13, 1865. The death of James Oliver Van de Velde, second bishop of the city of Chicago from 1848 to 1853.
·         Nov 14, 1854. In Spain, the community left Loyola for the Balearic Isles, in conformity with a government order.
·         Nov 15, 1628. The deaths of St Roch Gonzalez and Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez. They were some of the architects of the Jesuit missions in Uruguay and Paraguay.
·         Nov 16, 1989. In El Salvador, the murder of six Jesuits connected with the University of Central America together with two of their lay colleagues.
·         Nov 17, 1579. Rudolph Acquaviva and two other Jesuits set out from Goa for Surat and Fattiphur, the Court of Akbar, the Great Mogul.
·         Nov 18, 1538. Pope Paul III caused the governor of Rome to publish the verdict proclaiming the complete innocence of Ignatius and his companions of all heresy.
·         Nov 19, 1526. Ignatius was examined by the Inquisition in Alcala, Spain. They were concerned with the novelty of his way of life and his teaching.