This Sunday we read from the Book of Proverbs which is really a collection of sayings put together around various themes. At first glance it would seem that the author is focused on what a good wife is like – how she lives, her relationship with her husband and the work that she does. And that is ok…but the text is really about what a faithful believer is all about – how they live, the way they nurture relationships and the way they care about others.
The author concludes by saying that all of the things we do must be seen in the context of our relationship with God – Fear of the Lord is the crowning jewel of a good wife. In other words, the reader must recognize that our relationship with God is more important than anything else. A woman may be skilled, courageous, generous, wise and kind but she, like all of us, must recognize that God is Lord of all.
I read the shorter version of the Gospel today. In it we get a clear indication from Jesus of how important it is to try. The servants who take what the master has given and try to do something with it are rewarded. God gives us gifts and they are to be used!
In our second reading, we listen as Paul encourages the Thessalonians to remember who they are and what they have been taught. Many of these early Christians were anxious because Jesus had not returned as they had expected him to. They were worried about what was going to happen and Paul comforts them, encourages them and challenges them to have faith. Whenever Christ comes they need to be ready and they can be, because they are children of the light. They have everything they need to be ready – they need not be anxious.
Last week in my homily I talked about the opening rites of the mass and how we are preparing ourselves to hear the Word and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. I closed my homily with the invitation to listen to the Holy Spirit and to be prepared to hear God not in the loud noises of life but in the quiet whispers that tease us in the middle of our work.
I want to continue to reflect on the mass with you. After the Opening Prayer which always helps us to be still and focus, we listen to the readings. The readings reveal to us the mind and heart of God, how God sees us, who we are, they give us light and they mark out pathways that will enable us to live life fully.
In the Vatican II documents the bishops dedicate one document to Sacred Scripture. It is entitled “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” or for those of you who like Latin “Dei Verbum” which means “Word of God”. The bishops suggest that we listen to the Word of God “so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love.” Paragraph 1
As we read the document we are told that when we read Sacred Scripture, God is revealed – God is speaking to us. My Scripture professor said to us, “When you proclaim Sacred Scripture on Sunday you are speaking for God and when you listen you are listening to God.” The point he was trying to make is that the scripture which is proclaimed is in fact God speaking to us. As the Bishops say, “For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her children, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.” Paragraph 21
Outside of the Easter Season the first reading is always from the Hebrew Testament or the Old Testament. Throughout the Church year we listen to various psalms. The second reading is always taken from the New Testament or the Greek Testament. The gospel readings are taken from one of the four gospels.
We often hear Catholics do not read the bible – we don’t read scripture. On Sundays we have a three-year cycle and during the course of the cycle we read the gospels and we read generous portions of the Old Testament and the New Testament letters. On weekdays we have a two-year cycle. Between the weekdays and the Sundays there is not a whole lot of the bible that we don’t read.
Our challenge is listening. We often don’t pay attention to the readings that we hear. The lector proclaims the scriptures and unless we are well prepared the readings go over our heads. Often times we cannot remember where the reading was from. We rely on the priest to tell us about the readings or to speak about something interesting. If he is interesting we pay attention – if we are distracted or if the priest is not interesting we shut down and wait for the final blessing.
As you know I like to ask questions; questions like – what did you hear? What did Jesus say or do? I like to engage people’s minds and hearts. When we take part in the Sunday mass we have a responsibility to read God’s Word – to let it touch our lives. When we listen to the Word we are changed, transformed; our life with God, our life in God is deepened. We may hear a scripture passage when we are 20 years old and it might draw forth from us a certain behavior. When I hear that same passage when I am 30, 50 or 70 it will ask something else of me. The Word of God meets us where we are at and at different moments we should hear it differently. We need to take the time to hear it and let it question our life.
In the gospel the master gave each servant a gift. Some of the servants invested their gifts and some did not. As Catholics we have been given the mass and whether we take part in the mass physically or virtually we are invited to invest ourselves. If we invest we get a return; no investment, no return.
The wife who nurtures her relationship with the Lord is considered a good wife. A Catholic who nurtures his or her relationship with the Lord is considered a good Catholic. How do I invest in God’s Word? By reading the Word of God I am reminded of who I am, I am reminded of God’s promises and I am reminded of how God sees me. This week what will I invest in?
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Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI