Musings on the Readings for the Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year – 15th November 2020
When I am working with parish groups exploring how the readings for each Sunday are put together, I have fun explaining how the First Reading is usually from the Old Testament, it’s purpose being to point towards the Gospel. However, this Sunday’s offering seems to be, at first glance, far removed from doing that. What does a tribute to a good wife have to do with the Parable of the Three Talents? And how to weave into it the message from the Second Reading that focuses on the day of Judgement, coming like a thief in the night and the admonition to be ready?
A literal reading of the Proverbs extract makes me grit my teeth. I am not a wife, as a single woman being told that a perfect wife is the most wonderful thing to be, busy with wool and flax, working with eager hands makes me want to snatch her distaff and throw it as far as I can. However, calming down and looking at this reading metaphorically allows me to begin to make some sense of it. What this woman does is a wonderful form of multi-tasking, quietly getting on with the work of her hands that provides food, clothes people, offers help. It is her works that tell her praises. It is something too about the feminine that is important here too. At first sight, this first reading is about women and the gospel is about men, which leads us into a gendered understanding of these passages. Instead, on second sight, taking this first reading metaphorically, it is worth playing with the idea that this is about the feminine in all of us, the good wife or the good steward that all of us are called to be. The stewards that we are called to in our baptismal vocation as prophet priest and King where kingship can be seen as stewardship.
This begins to help unpack the Gospel Reading. On its own, it is one that can engender in me a sense of guilt of not using my talent(s). As a cautious person, if I am given something to invest or look after then I am quite likely to keep it buried in a safe place. The guilt can arise from a sense of not doing or being good enough nor being able to get involved in bigger projects that require investing 5 talents. However, by understanding talents as something related to using my gifts of stewardship, then I begin to realise that I am doing that every day, without realising it. This is in the same way that the good wife gets on with what she needs to do to care for those around her and run her household. The multi-tasking that goes on every day that ensures the recycling is done, food not wasted, phone calls and emails to friends and family, balancing work pressures are all part of stewardship and using whatever talents/gifts of stewardship that we have each got. The small gifts are as much part of the larger necessary campaigning talents that others are called to use. I am realising that if we are involved in any way in God’s Kingdom we are very unlikely to be burying any talents. Instead we need to acknowledge that we are using what we have been given and then enjoy and be surprised by how many more talents we find that we now have.
This then leads into the second reading, realising that as daughters and sons of light and daughters and sons of the day we are called to stay awake. That staying awake involves being aware and responding to the needs here on earth, being good ‘wives’ or stewards so that all our works praise God, and we will have a share in God’s Kingdom. Then we will be the blessed good and faithful servants who fear the Lord, embracing the feminine and masculine that is in each of us, recognising that none of us are the good for nothing servant and all of us are welcomed into God’s House of love.