Homily (2) Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year A: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-31; Ps 128:1-5; 1 Thess 5:1-6 and Matt 25:14-15,19-21.
Blessed Are Those Who Fear the Lord (Ps 128:1a)Today we celebrate the 33rd Sunday of Year A. The liturgical season, you would notice, is gradually coming to an end. Next weekend will be Thanksgiving (here in the United States). Soon after that Christmas! Recently, when we turn on our TVs and our Radios, or pick up the Newspapers, so much is going on in the world, in the church and in our nations. Think of the Pope Francis’ effect in the church, the threats of wars, terrorism, ISIS, Boko Haram, Ebola and the ongoing G20 in Australia, our studies, weddings,sports, exams, politics, grieving the lost of our loved ones, works and other personal matters, and anxieties to take care of!
In the midst of all these anxieties, the church invites and exhorts us in the readings of today that “blessed are those, or happy are those, who fear the Lord and walk in his ways. This is as well captured in today’s responsorial (Ps 128:1a).
What is the “fear the Lord,? How do we fear the Lord in the midst of all our daily activities? We can find answers to these questions at a closer reading of today’s Bible lessons. In the first reading of today (Proverbs 31), a classic Wisdom Literature, the listed qualities of the ideal wife, or a Lady Wisdom are all facets of the ‘fear of the Lord.’ The woman in this text, like Ruth, is a trust worthy, holy, perfect, and faithful. Therefore, the Fear of the Lord is fidelity to God, to our vows and to the teachings of the Church. We fear the Lord by honoring God, and by striving to showcase his attributes. The woman is merciful, kind, prudent, understanding and just. Her husband and her family depend on her, who is very hard working! As Pope Francis would recommend, she reaches out to the poor, and extends her hands to the needy!
Saint Paul in the Second reading (1Thess 5:1-6) also reminds the anxious Thessalonian church of another facet of the “fear of the Lord,” namely; preparedness and staying very sober for the day of the Lord. In our daily works, we must not lose hope of God’ judgment and his promise of blessings and reward to those who are faithful him. We are called to be conscious of the hiddenness of God in our midst, his holiness, his transcendence and his immanence, his divine surprises and his mysterious ways of dealing with us!
The fear of the Lord is further defined in Jesus’ gospel parable today (Matt 25:14-30). The fear of the Lord if faithfulness, and fidelity to the Lord the giver of all our gifts, who expects us to make good and responsible use of our talents!
In the gospel, the travelling master, Jesus, distributed gifts to three of his servants, 5, 2 and 1 respectively. The first two servants feared the Lord, traded and multiplied their gifts.
What did the third servant do with his talent? He left his given gift hidden in the ground, unproductive. He went about complaining, blaming others, and criticizing even the master, the distributor of the talent, calling him names- horrible, a hard man!
He lacks the fear of the Lord! He fails to grasp the nature of his responsibility. His action represents not only laziness, arrogance, but also lack of love for the master. It represents a disciple who is trying to play safe, a disciple not ready to bear witness to the gospel at all times, not ready to keep watch for the return of the master. His excuse, ironically, is that he was “afraid”, which is equivalent to faithlessness, lack of readiness and lack of trust in the master, the Lord. He completely, misunderstood the true meaning of the fear of the Lord.
As we go about our daily activities, heading towards, thanksgiving, and Christmas, or the end of the liturgical season, may we continue to pray, for increase in our genuine awareness of the “fear of the Lord,” which consist in trusting him always, hoping in him always; humbly and wisely walking in his ways of love, hope, faith, obedience to his precepts, forgiveness, responsible use of our talents, and charity to our neighbors