Respect for the Lord Makes Us Want to Bear Fruit for Him

Nov 19, 2017: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
First Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

A recurring theme in all of today’s readings is the importance of a healthy respect for the Lord. In Biblical language this is usually referred to as “the fear of the Lord,” but today’s Gospel parable reminds us that fear can rattle us into making bad decisions as well as encourage us to make good ones.

Today’s First Reading presents an abbreviated wish list of everything a man should expect from a good wife, but also what is her due. A man entrusts his whole heart to a woman he considers “worthy.” She brings good things into his life, not grief. She is industrious and productive with her talents. She is not selfish but helps the poor and needy. She is not focused on vanity, but what the Lord expects of her. Note that it says she “fears the Lord”: everything she does is out of respect for the Lord, not just her husband or society. In addition, as justice demands, she should be rewarded for her praiseworthy works. A good wife has all the characteristics of the fruitful servants in today’s Gospel, and this wish list could describe any person we consider good.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul teaches the Thessalonians that if they truly respect the Lord and put that respect into practice, they should have no fear about the day He comes. The Thessalonians are worried about when the Second Coming will occur. Paul tells them it is entirely pointless to worry if they live a holy life. What does the thought of Christ returning in glory today do to you? The only fear it should bring is for the unrepentant sinners who’d face Judgment. It is the guilty who fear discovery and judgment. The guilty hide in a life unillumined by the light of Christ, thinking it provides them cover. The fear of the Lord’s judgment can rattle us in the same way, making us scramble for a cover that does not exist, trying to avoid a judgment we know we deserve, all in vain. It’s an awareness of the Lord’s love and mercy that makes us always respect Him and live, without fear, in the light of a holy life pleasing to Him.

Today’s Gospel is a parable about life. The master in today’s parable gives his servants all the capital they need, but he also expects them to use that capital in a way that benefits not only him, but also them. Two servants use it wisely, and one, so rattled by a fear of his master, doesn’t benefit the master or himself at all and pays the price.

We have been given talents, some more, some less, and we’re expected to do something with them. We cannot boast about coming up with any of them on our own. It doesn’t matter how talented we are; what matters is how we use our talents in the service of God and for the good of others.

The successful servants doubled what they’d received; if through our efforts even one more believer stands before Our Lord on Judgment Day, prepared to enter into his master’s joy, we’ll have accomplished our mission. In the Last Supper, the Lord reminded His disciples that they were to bear fruit as the best way of glorifying the Father (see John 15:2, 4, 5, 8, 16).

How do we give the Lord a return on His investment in us? We mustn’t let fear be an obstacle to truly serving Our Lord. As the unfortunate servant found out today, he was so rattled about what he thought was his master’s expectations that he made the wrong move. He was so culpably foolish that the simple steps he could have taken were far from his thoughts. Who knows how things would have turned out if he had simply asked his master for suggestions in the first place.

We too must ask the Lord to help us unearth our talents and teach us the best way to use them. As of today, the interest rate for a basic savings account in the U.S. is less than 1.5%. We have no way of knowing what the interest rate was for the rattled servant in today’s Gospel, but if the master was the one suggesting it then even that “1.5%” would have been enough. If you factor in the Lord’s mercy his expectations for use are surprisingly reasonable if we make a sincere effort. He doesn’t even need the “interest”; He just wants to give us an opportunity to work with Him for not only society’s profit but ours. If your accounting is in order, no audit can make you worry.

The master departed for a long time: we have a lifetime to make our talents bear fruit. The only thing we need to fear is not using our talents in the Lord’s service at all. If the master is so upset in today’s parable, it is because it is so easy to use your talents to bear even a little fruit that not doing so is negligence. Take stock of the talents you’ve received from Our Lord and ask Him to show you how to invest them best.

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