Still on the theme of wisdom, on this penultimate Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church urges us to plough through life with faith and hope in the Lord. Goodness and faithfulness pay dividends.

The First Reading (Prov. 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31) sings a paean to the feminine gender. It provides a model of a worthy wife far more precious than jewels! She does all she can for her husband and family. Her worth goes beyond mere beauty and charm, for she is strong, skilful, hardworking, trustworthy, and above all, charitable and God-fearing. A wife, mother and homemaker like that is wisdom personified. She deserves to receive her hard-earned reward and to be praised in public for what she has accomplished.

In a male dominated Israel, women must have welcomed those verses as a breath of fresh air. In our day and age, however, they may be dismissed as a load of hot air. But that is a flawed reading, for the same degree of virtue is expected of man as well. And perhaps the best earthly reward a woman can hope for is a like-minded husband, whose responsibilities the Evangelists and St Paul have carefully delineated. Man and woman thus qualify to work hand in hand to instal the values of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

Even though Psalm 128: 1-5 dwells upon the blessings in store for the God-fearing, we hasten to point out that fear of the Lord is not a negative feeling but one of reverential respect. It is a life-giving, not a paralysing, awe, which helps us stay on track and not depart from the Lord’s precepts. Such a benevolent fear is a far cry from the useless servant’s neurotic fear, as seen from the Parable of the Talents that makes up today’s Gospel text.

In the said Parable (Mt 25: 14-30), a man going on a journey for an unspecified period of time (symbolic of Jesus, whose Second Coming we await) entrusts his talents to his three servants. Interestingly, a talent was then a denomination of weight (of any precious metal), not a natural aptitude or skill, as we know it now.[1] And how did the threesome look after the traveller’s estate? The two to whom he had assigned five and two talents, respectively, traded intelligently and doubled their number, whereas the servant to whom only one had been delegated miserably failed to even make a start…. Truly, from those who have received much, much is asked for in return, both on earth and in Heaven: a good reason not to quibble about uneven distribution!

When we look at those talents as material wealth, we at once understand that it is natural that we grow them. But then, when we regard them as abilities, be they physical, social or intellectual, with which God has endowed His children: how many cultivate them, let alone be grateful for them? How many are used for the common or greater good, be it in church or civil society, to help usher in the kingdom of God?

To judge whether or not some activity is worthwhile, the Gospel values should be our benchmark. Such an attitude would emphasise sharply the precepts of God’s kingdom. It would also embolden us to share our light and not hide it under a bushel…. Are we, then, good stewards of the spiritual software that God has provided us with? Do we value the Sacraments, cherish the Word of God, follow the Commandments? In other words, are we committed Christians?

We can’t afford to take it easy. Hence, in the Second Reading (1 Thess 5: 1-6), St Paul stresses the importance of vigilance, stating that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” The Day of the Lord is a concept that comes down from the prophetic and apocalyptic visions of the Old Testament. The Apostle proceeds in opposites, letting us see that the more we think there is “peace and security”, the more we are surprised by disasters. Which makes of Jesus our one and only spiritual insurance. So, even if a situation looks bleak, the children of the light will see the thief coming, as long as they remain “alert and sober”.

Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of liberty. When there is no vigilance, individuals, families and associations, press, education and the war against forces of evil stand compromised and the Kingdom jeopardised. And considering that the roll will be called up at the Final Judgement (cf. next Sunday’s Gospel at Mt 25: 31-46), happy are those who, like Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, can say:

E entre visões de paz, de luz, de glória,

sereno aguardarei no meu jazigo

a justiça de Deus na voz da história!

 (And amidst visions of peace, of light and of glory,

Serenely will I await in my tomb

the justice of God in the voice of history!)



[1] For the etymology of the word ‘talent’, see