Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

OPENING PRAYER

Bless Me, Heavenly Father

Bless me, Heavenly Father,

forgive my erring ways.

Grant me strength to serve Thee,

put purpose in my days.

Give me understanding,

enough to make me kind,

so I may judge all people

with my heart and not my mind.

Teach me to be patient

in everything I do,

Content to trust Your wisdom

and to follow after You.

Help me when I falter

and hear me when I pray,

And receive me in Thy kingdom

to dwell with Thee someday.

Amen.

COLLECT

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God,

the constant gladness of being devoted to you,

for it is full and lasting happiness

to serve with constancy

the author of all that is good.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with youn in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

APPLICATION

While it is possible that it is “wisdom” (the theme of his book) that the author of Proverbs is personifying here in his praise of the ideal wife, the fact remains that what is said is eminently true of a faithful wife. Such a woman, faithful to God, to her husband and children, is more valuable to a man than all the gold, silver and pearls he could ever collect. With an ideal wife of this kind and thank God for it, the vast majority of wives are of this kind, a man can safely leave his home and his possessions in her care. He is free to devote all his energies to providing the necessities of life. In this provision the ideal wife can and will lend a helping hand, as Proverbs and history tell us. Even within the walls of her home a faithful, zealous wife will find time to do work that will supplement the weekly income.

A wise old saying tells us that: “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” that is, the mothers of families are those who regulate and stabilize this world’s affairs. If this is true of all good mothers, it is doubly true of Christian and religiously-minded mothers, for these not only rule this world but play a very big part in arranging and deciding men’s fate in the world-to-come. Read the lives of most of our greatest canonized saints and see the important and even decisive role their mothers played in their sanctification. St. Monica comes to mind. She spent years in prayer and self-mortification beseeching God to give the grace of conversion to her heretical and morally lax son, Augustine.

She followed him all the way from Carthage in North Africa to Milan in Italy to try to move him, as she was trying to move God, by her tears and entreaties. She succeeded, and the result: St. Augustine. the great doctor of the Church.

What is true of so many of our canonized saints is surely true of the millions of non-canonized saints who are today enjoying the bliss of heaven because of the influence their mothers had an their lives.

Christian mothers, try never to forget the absolutely necessary role you have been given by God in his plan for populating heaven. He has made you necessary for producing citizens of this world but that was only the preliminary step to making them citizens of heaven. In this task the mother must play the essential role. It is at your knees that your children will learn about their Father in heaven. It is in your home from your example and advice that they will learn to serve that heavenly Father during their lives and so reach their eternal home where you will be joyfully awaiting them.

Charm and beauty are trivial and passing possessions but the woman who fears, that is faithfully serves, the Lord is a precious treasurer which will last forever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

READING II

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1 Thes 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters,
you have no need for anything to be written to you.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief at night.
When people are saying, “Peace and security, ”
then sudden disaster comes upon them,
like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness,
for that day to overtake you like a thief.
For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,1 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”2. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.3

CCC 675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.4 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth5 will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.6

CCC 1216 “This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this [catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding. ..”7 Having received in Baptism the Word, “the true light that enlightens every man,” the person baptized has been “enlightened,” he becomes a “son of light,” indeed, he becomes “light” himself:8

Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. .. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.9

CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.10 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”11 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.12 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”13

1 Cf. Rev 22:20.

2 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.

3 Cf. Mt 24:44; I Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:3-12.

4 Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.

5 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.

6 Cf. 2 Th 2:4-12; I Th 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; I Jn 2:1 8, 22.

7 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 61, 12: PG 6, 421.

8 Jn 1:9; 1 Thess 5:5; Heb 10:32; Eph 5:8.

9 St. Gregory Of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 3-4: PG 36, 361C.

10 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.

11 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.

12 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.

13 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

The parousia or second coming of Christ has not yet taken place and we still have no idea as to when it will be. But what has taken place, ever since the days of the Thessalonians, is that Christ has come to billions of men and women at the moment of their death to decide their eternal fate, This is what concerns each one of us today; the moment when we will meet Christ as our judge. In God’s wise providence this most important moment of our earthly lives is hidden from us.

Many of us will say: “why does God not tell us when our death will take place so that we properly could prepare ourselves?” Would we in fact, or could we do so? God knows our weak nature infinitely better than we do. How many of us would postpone our conversion and continue to enjoy the illicit joys of life until the last week before our appointed moment of death? And granted the infinite mercy of God who has accepted death-bed conversions, how many of us would be able to turn to God sincerely and honestly after such a life?

Furthermore God has allotted a life’s work to each one of us. He has given a certain number of talents to each and expects us to produce spiritual fruits with these talents. What of the years wasted if we left our conversion to the last week? The inspector who finds a factory-worker laboring diligently each time he comes to the workshop, but finds no end product during the remaining hours of the day, could hardly be expected to keep that worker in his employment and reward him handsomely! Our service of God is a labor of love and gratitude for all he has done for us. It is not slave labor controlled by the taskmasters whip. We serve God, we keep his commandments because we love him and we are trying to repay a little the infinite kindness he has showered upon us.

The fact. therefore, that the moment of our death is hidden from us is a blessing for even the best of us–it keeps us on our toes–and a necessity for the lazy and luke-warm among us. Our own self-interest in the future life, and the uncertainty of the moment of final decision, will spur us on to love and thank God and to endeavor to remain ever in his friendship.

This is what St. Paul urges his converts to do; it’s his message for us today. We have the light of the gospel; the illumination of the true faith. If we continue to live in that light, to lead our lives under that illumination, death’s advent cannot be in the darkness. We shall be spiritually prepared for it.

GOSPEL

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Mt 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.1 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.2 Words are not enough, deeds are required.3 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?4 What use has he made of the talents he has received?5 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.6 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.7

CCC 1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him “they shall reign for ever and ever.”8

CCC 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”9
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”
10

CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:
– the coming of the Kingdom of God;
11 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”12
– entering into the joy of the Lord;
13
– entering into God’s rest:
14
There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?
15

CCC 1936 On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth.16 The “talents” are not distributed equally.17

CCC 2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,18 especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.”19 Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.

1 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.
2 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.
3 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.
4 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.
5 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.
6 Mt 13:11.
7 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.
8 Rev 22:5; cf. Mt 25:21, 23.
9 Mt 7:13-14.
10 LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46.
11 Cf. Mt 4:17.
12 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.
13 Mt 25:21-23.
14 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.
15 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.
16 Cf. GS 29 # 2.
17 Cf. Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:27.
18 Cf. Heb 12:1.
19 Cf. Mt 25:21.

APPLICATION

The lesson of this parable, like all the teaching of the gospel, is as applicable to us today as it was to the first generation of Christians. In its relation to Christ and to his divine Father our world today is very similar to first century Palestine. Christ and God have opponents and followers. Their opponents today have the very same reasons that moved the Pharisees and leaders of the people in Christ’s day. They want their messianic kingdom here on earth, a kingdom of pleasure and plenty; they want no limits set to their freedom to follow their own earthly inclinations. Their pride in their own self-exalted dignity will not let them bow the head to any deity or divine authority which does not conform to their standards. Like the Pharisees they keep on trying to convince themselves that Christianity is not true, that Christ will not reign, that there will be no day of reckoning.

Yet with all their efforts to get rid of Christ and God, the small inner voice of conscience is not completely silenced. It has the nasty habit of reminding them of their folly. They have their troubled moments when the epicurean motto “eat, drink, sleep and be merry” does not somehow ring true.

For the followers of Christ who are sincere in their efforts, the parable has a message of encouragement and consolation. At times the road we have to travel seems strewn with obstacles, our battles seem never-ending, yet God has provided each one of us with the necessary helps to ensure the final victory. These helps are given according to each one’s need. Those servants in the parable who received five and two talents used them faithfully and successfully. He who received one talent needed only one, and could have succeeded with it had he been a faithful servant.

Eternal happiness is the divine reward for an earthly service faithfully rendered. The false excuse of the third servant is repeated in many forms among us still: “God is too austere, he could not expect me to make such sacrifices. I have to provide for myself, his promises and threats may be only empty words. He may never return to demand a reckoning, to settle accounts with us.” These and all other such excuses are proved false in this parable.

God is a kind Father who has our eternal interests at heart. He does expect us to make the necessary sacrifices. He showed us the way on Calvary. When working for God we are really providing for our own future; his external glory and our eternal salvation are the fruits of the same labor. He will certainly return to settle accounts—it will then be too late to make any changes. Let us be wise and make the changes now while we have time and then our books will be in order on the day of reckoning.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

God Comes to People Through People

Part of the essence of Christianity – and this is included in the concept of the Church – is that our relationship to God is not just an inner one, one made up of my “I” and his “Thou,” but is also a matter of being spoken to, of being led. A meeting is part of every path to conversion. The Church is there so that people who have searched for the door and found it can be in her. Among all the variety of temperaments, there will always be someone who suits me and who has the right word to say to me. As human beings we are there so that God can come to people by way of other people. He always comes to people through people. So we, too, always come to him through other people who are being led by him, in whom he himself meets us and opens us up to him. If we could lift ourselves up to the ultimate degree simply by reading Holy Scripture, then this would be just another philosophical movement, without this element of community that is such a vital element in faith.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for those who do not know Jesus

Lord Jesus! You,
Who in the most bitter moments of Your passion
showed an ardent thirst for souls,
grant that we may share in this thirst.
Give us the light to grow
in the knowledge of Your word
and grant us strength so that,
by collaborating in preaching this word
at every moment of our lives,
we may bring to You,
through Your holy Church,
and the intercession of Your holy Mother,
innumerable souls who live far from the truth.
Grant this so that with You,
through You and in You,
they may be reconciled to the Eternal Father,
in union with whom,
together with the Holy Spirit,
You live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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