The Thirty – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
2017 – Cycle A
Proverbs 32: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew: 25:14-30
What have you not done in life because of fear?
Have you maybe not traveled due to the fear of flying? Have you not taken a major step in your life due to the fear of failure? Not going back to school, for example? Not taking a better job because of the fear of more responsibility? A move to another city or cross country because of the fear of being unable to make new friends? Consider the fear that has kept women (and men?) from speaking out about sexual harassment due to the fear of losing a job or future advancement.
How many wonderful experiences have you and I missed in life because fear has held us back? Experiences of enjoyment, of personal growth, of broadening our horizons, of meeting new people. We all have our excuses. They sound reasonable but they are just expressions of fear which have hindered us from maturing or trying something new.
There is good reason we hear throughout the Bible, from angels to Jesus speaking to us the words, “Do not be afraid!” Fear is a terrible thing. Ask the third servant of today’s Gospel: “Master, I knew you were a demanding person…so out of fear…I did nothing”. Fear can paralyze us, cause us to be inactive, powerless. And the reason is that when we go beyond fear we are taking a risk. It is risky to introduce yourself to a stranger. To get on a plane. To speak the truth. To accept a new position. To try anything we haven’t attempted (and succeeded in?) before. We forget that the activities we are comfortable with were all once new to us.
Have you considered how the master would have reacted if the risk the first and second servants took did not pan out, if they lost the monies on bad investments? Might the master have given them credit for at least trying? Somehow I don’t think the master would be nearly as angry as he was with the servant who out of fear risked nothing.
I would like to invite you to join me in taking a spiritual risk and see what pans out. The offer is to live differently this Advent – Christmas.
In two weeks we enter into the mystery of Advent, one of the shortest of our liturgical seasons in a good year and this year even shorter, a mere three weeks which will be infringed upon by the Rededication of our Church on Advent I and Advent IV which is also Christmas Eve…so maybe two weeks. Not a lot of time for preparing for much of anything, particularly the presence of God.
In considering to take up my proposal we need to remember two aspects that impact us this time of year. First, the realization that there are now two Christmases, the ancient Christian holy days of the Nativity of God in Jesus Christ and the cultural Christmas holiday reflecting very different values. Secondly, the very high expectations we have of ourselves, our families and of the season from Thanksgiving thru New Year’s Day for that perfect Hallmark holiday.
We each first need to decide which Christmas will we invest our time and energy. In other words, on which Christmas will we get back the most on our investment? That decision will be made by reflecting on our expectations for these upcoming weeks? Not only what are our expectations but are they our expectations or some else’s? Will fulfilling these expectations be an investment in our spiritual life or will they cause us to spiritually and emotionally perish like burying something in the ground?
To assist you in your decision whether to take up my invitation, consider the following:
This year for various reasons the Rosary Society will not have its Christmas Sale nor will the Saint Nicholas Shop for children be held. Creating space in our personal lives, in the life of our families to be family, in our parish so as to breathe in the Holy Spirit is beneficial for the spiritual life. Taking a hiatus even from good activities is itself a good. A time to reflect and reconsider.
What might you do with this created space? Talk and play games as a family. Thoughtfully and slowly read and meditate on the Christmas stories of Matthew and Luke. Read poetry of any kind. As a family make a commitment to prayer with the Advent wreath. The only events that we will offer in our parish is Taize Prayer and the opportunity for Confession on the three Tuesdays of Advent.
Where will prayer fit into this brief time of waiting? We will bless The Little Blue Books today, daily meditations for Advent – Christmas. The late Bishop Untener challenged Catholics to 6 minutes of prayer a day. Prayer takes time, maybe more than 6 minutes. Like music, prayer arises out of silence. How comfortable are you with silence?
Consider our dependency on having to always be able to be available through technology. How healthy is that do you think? How might you address this?
Whether you realize it or not, all of these suggestions involve a risk; risk because when we step out of our usual habits, other people lives are affected in what they may not perceive as positive. They are forced in turn to make other decisions for their life.
My proposal is to invest. Invest and take the risk of doing less, slowing down, praying more, praying as a family and being more attentive to the people right around you for five weeks. That is all the Advent – Christmas Season is this year: 3 December thru 13 January. Not a very long investment time. Consider that being extremely active with even doing virtuous deeds is not necessarily a sign of a solid spiritual and holy life. It can be a running away from ourselves and God. Remember the shepherds and magi ran toward God, searching out Jesus.
These are simply suggestions but fear can keep us from acting in a spiritual manner.
Remember the useless servant ended up being thrown into an outside darkness. I want to invite you to enter into a chosen interior silence and darkness where the Spirit dwells and speaks to us.