Sunday Sermon for November 15, 2020, the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Prov 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30
In the second reading today St. Paul tells us we are not to sleep like others do; rather, we are to stay alert and sober. Obviously, he is not saying we should not get some sleep. Instead, St. Paul is advising us to remain vigilant and not rest in the spiritual life.
The context of St. Paul’s advice has to do with the second coming of our Lord and the end of the world. However, as our Lord makes clear in the parable of the talents presented to us in the Gospel reading, the master of the servants was going on a journey. The length of the journey was not specified, but He did say the master returned after a long time.
St. Paul may have thought the second coming would take place in his lifetime, so he wanted his converts to live as children of the light so when the Lord returned He would find them living good, faithful, moral lives. For us, it does not matter when our Lord will return; all that matters is that we are living as children of the light and striving to do His will at all times.
As our Lord makes clear in the Gospel, He has entrusted each of us with some of His treasure and He expects us to practice good stewardship with whatever treasure He has entrusted to us. It would be relatively easy to give an accounting if He entrusted money to us. However, as we see in the first reading, the Lord has entrusted us, especially married people, with a treasure far greater than anything material in the universe. He has entrusted us with persons.
In a special way, priests and bishops are entrusted with the care of souls, but the souls of spouses are placed in one another’s heart to love and cherish for life. Of course, children, the fruit of marriage, are also entrusted by God to the spouses to care for them, love them, and raise them. Souls are of infinitely greater value that any precious metal or gemstone.
When a soul has been entrusted to someone, what is one supposed to do? I think the marriage vows sum that up perfectly: to love and honor that person. The Book of Proverbs describes this as a husband entrusting his heart to his wife. On the day of marriage, each person gave his or her heart and being to the other as a gift. This entrustment of one’s self to the other means you are no longer your own. You have given yourself as a gift to your spouse and received your spouse as a gift to yourself.
How a spouse cares for the person entrusted to himself or herself is the very point of judgment. Certainly, we will need to answer for many other things from our lives, but in the parable of the talents, the judgment was based solely on the stewardship each person exercised with the talents entrusted by the master. With this in mind, a married person will be judged by how he or she loved his or her spouse. This does not imply being judged on gushy feelings, but on the service rendered to the other.
In the Gospel, the master was looking for his money to be doubled. In marriage, God is looking for the holiness of the persons to be doubled (at least). For clergy, entrusted with the Sacraments and the care of souls, God is looking for the holiness of the priest or bishop to be augmented exponentially due to his close proximity to our Lord in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. God is also going to be looking to see how holy the souls entrusted to the priest’s care have become. In other words, the priest has to become truly holy and then bring those entrusted to him to holiness.
In both marriage and priesthood, this striving for holiness has become rare. For some reason, most people do not seem to want to become holy. In our humanness, we are content to remain just as we are and bury the talents God has entrusted to us in the ground. It requires a risk to love and an even bigger risk to allow one’s self to be loved.
Falling into the trap of not growing in holiness is the sleep of which St. Paul warns us. We must remain vigilant and keep moving forward. Married couples are called to make one another Saints and to raise Saints for God. Priests are called to holiness and to teach others to be holy. This is the task about which we must stay alert and it is the only way we will hear those coveted words: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. . . . Come, share your Master’s joy.”
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.