Preach the Gospel in Word and Deed
User’s Guide to Sunday, Nov. 15
Sunday, Nov. 15, is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 6:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30.
Today’s readings start with praise for a good wife: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.” This wife “works with loving hands,” and she “extends her arms to the needy.” The rewards for her hard and righteous work should be made public, for “the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
The Psalm picks up on this theme with the response, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.” And fear of the Lord is precisely the message that connects today’s readings. St. Paul, continuing from last Sunday’s reading, tells us that this fear should keep us “alert and sober.” After all, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.”
So it is that we come to the Gospel for today, where a master who is leaving for a time gives to one servant five talents, to the second two talents, and to the last servant only one talent. It is impossible for us to know the actual value of these talents, since a “talent” is a weight, but, whatever the case, the value would have been significant. And, though it is not explicit in the reading, the master clearly wanted his servants to do something with the money from the start. He would not have entrusted the amounts to his servants while he was away if he did not want them to use the funds to make more money.
While the first two servants double their master’s treasure, the third buries it in the ground. This is an odd choice since, as the master points out later, it could have at least been placed in a bank. Thus, the master’s response — “You wicked, lazy servant!” So what are we to make of this today?
In these last few chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord is teaching his disciples what will be expected of them at the end of time when he, like today’s master, returns. About the talents given to us, we can think of them as natural talents that we might have. Or we can think of them in terms of charisms, gifts of the Spirit given to us, as St. Paul says, for “different forms of service” to the same Lord (1 Corinthians 12:5). However, within the Gospel of St. Matthew, they more likely refer to the greatest gift Jesus left his disciples, i.e., the Good News.
We have been given the Good News of salvation, and we have an obligation to spread it. The fear of the Lord, which leads to good works, should cause us to preach the Good News to our neighbors, expanding the treasure of our Master by winning souls for him. If instead we bury the Good News, as the wicked servant did, then we shall be judged deficient and will not share in “the master’s joy.”
Among the final words of Jesus in St. Matthew’s Gospel we find, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations” (28:19). Motivated, then, by a holy fear of the Lord, we must always preach the Gospel in word and deed, so that we might hear at our own judgment not condemnation but those blessed words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”