Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
The kingdom of God, the reign of the Spirit aspiring for harmony and balance in creation, is a goal we are all tasked to accomplish. Christ through his life and death, showed us the way how to achieve it.
The kingdom will indeed come only by the grace of its King, but must also be mediated through the efforts we must exert to make it happen. It is indeed a gift that we do not deserve, and it is only upon his holy volition will it be given; but neither is it a gift that will simply be bestowed without the price of sacrifice.
A kingdom of love and service, of justice and peace is like a plant: we must endure the pains to till the soil and to gently bury the seed, to care for it and to watch over it, though fully knowing that in spite of all these pains, its growth is much more dependent on the favorable conditions God presents for its sustenance.
The kingdom is thus the project of two spirits: the enigmatic Master who provides the means that is intended to bear fruit, and the responsible servant who will use such means and do whatever is necessary to bear as much fruit as possible.
In this day’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us about two basic principles in serving the kingdom of God: We are all called to be responsible servants, to do our best in producing as much fruit as possible; yet we are all also forewarned that no one can or should claim to have “no talents or means” with which to bear such fruit.
What does it mean to be a responsible servant, and to “bear fruit”? The answers lie in our two duties: our first duty is to try to become a perfect citizen of God’s kingdom; and our second duty is to try to inspire and lead others to become perfect citizens as well.
The first reading gives us the model of this perfect citizen: the “perfect wife”. She is an authentic human person who thinks and acts responsibly for herself as well as for her neighbors. Always alert, hard-working, responsible, conscientious, charitable, unpretentious. Like the Christ. If only a critical mass of people were like this “perfect wife”, then the coming of God’s kingdom would have long been fulfilled.
What then does it mean to “have talents”? God, without exception, gave all of us the means with which we can help ourselves individually grow and be sustained. He blessed us with the abundance of our earthly home as well as with the abilities to harvest and maintain it for our benefit. But he also expects us to use the same means with which to help others grow and be sustained like us.
To say therefore that we have “no talent”, is to insult his providence by declaring that he is not a good provider, more likely an excuse to mask our own sloth. And to say that we have “no talent for bearing fruit”, is to insult his love by refusing to be responsible for others, in spite of the fact that he is actually commanding us to do so. However, by keeping our talents to ourselves – using what we know and can do only for our gain, or at the expense of another – is a blasphemy worse than any inaction, an insult against everything that God is and what he stands for. Hence, both indifference and greed are truly deserving of exclusion from the kingdom, and eternal punishment.
Any talent is useful. A talent that has been given by God, is a talent that is necessary for his kingdom. It is a power that comes with a responsibility and a commitment to a single goal: to actualize harmony and balance in creation, the same purpose for which Christ gave his life.
Do you see yourself as skilled in leadership, or in money matters? Or do you see yourself more as a faithful follower, better in the execution of instructions and decisions made by your superiors? Or do you see yourself as a free thinker or as a professional in the sciences or in the arts, having specialized knowledge that will help guide or influence decision-makers in making more effective choices? Or do you work well with your hands, having specialized skills and actions that will help accomplish higher-level objectives?
There is no secular ability that does not have a role in the sacred purpose of bringing about social justice and peace. But the more fundamental question is if such abilities will be used for such a purpose – our crucial answer is what God is now challenging us to make.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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