Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 13, Matthew 25:14-30.
The Liturgy is a Type of Mother Who Instructs Us
The final Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A invites us to listen to the final chapter of the Book of Proverbs, which contains a remarkable and beautiful proverb that stands out among all the wisdom literature in sacred Scripture. It is the only passage in the sacred Scripture where a man shares a lesson he learned from his mother. We know that Mary, the Mother of God, gave some advice to her Son in the story of the wedding at Cana in John’s Gospel. However, we never hear Jesus repeat something his mother taught Him as a child or an adult, as in saying, ‘My mother said this . . .’ In 2 Timothy 1:5, we discover that Timothy inherited his faith from his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. However, we never hear him cite their words. Although the Book of Proverbs has several verses that stress the importance of a mother’s teaching, such as 1:8, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not reject your mother’s teaching,” only in Proverbs 31 do we hear the words of a mother spoken by her son. As a man who was greatly influenced by the words of his mother and grandmother and who quotes those words to his children, Proverbs 31 makes me rejoiceful.
I never received any positive guidance from my mother or grandmother on how to find or choose a good wife. They only expressed their opinions of the girls I liked or dated in negative ways, as in, ‘I don’t like this or that about her.’ However, they also influenced me by their examples as women and wives. I ended up marrying a woman who is very similar to my mother. So, I cannot relate to the words of wisdom that Lemuel, king of Massa, learned from his mother in the second part of Proverbs 31. My experience was more like the first part of the chapter, where his mother says, “What are you doing, my son!” Moreover, every son knows that that is not a question but a statement, which does not expect a reply but a reflection.
King Lemuel’s mother taught him that a good woman and worthy wife is resourceful, and she invests in things that are only for the good. I can relate to this wisdom because I have seen it in the women of my own family. My grandmother, who never had formal education or financial independence, became a widow in her late fifties and had to figure out how to survive independently. My mother, who never worked until my stepfather lost his job in the 1980s and then became abusive when he turned to alcohol, left him and had to raise five sons by herself. So, when I read in verses 13 and 17 of this Proverb that a worthy wife “works with wool and flax . . . she holds the spindle in her hand,” I think of the hard work, resourcefulness, and resilience of these women. Verse 12, which says a worthy wife “brings him profit, not loss,” or “good, not evil,” in the lectionary’s translation, reminds me that a good wife is a blessing to her husband and helps him avoid temptation. This is an essential lesson from King Lemuel’s mother because a man faces many challenges and choices in life, and he needs a woman who is a helpmate rather than a hindermate.
Moving away from the practical implications of the sacred text, one aspect of evidence is that these descriptions of a virtuous wife reflect the motherhood of the Church; that she is not only faithful, holy, and skillful, but through the liturgy of the Catholic Mass and the sacraments she brings us good, not evil. We do not lose anything from her gifts; she invests in us. Her worth is more than pearls, and she is a reliable reward. Verse 30 saying, “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised,” warns King Lemuel that the world will not appreciate her as you do. The world may judge your wife as being unattractive; it may not recognize her value or her true identity, but the value the world assigns to her is not her true value. There may be whores who seem more charming and beautiful. However, they are not worthy of being your wife or praising her because it is not those fleeting qualities in a woman that reflect her eternal worth.
The mother of King Lemuel is a symbol of the Church of Christ Jesus, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that teaches us and guides us through the language of the liturgy and the sacraments. It is her breast, the Bride of Christ, that we rest on for nourishment and graces. As King Lemuel was taught to trust in the wisdom of a worthy wife, so do we trust in the wisdom of the Church because there is nothing harmful to our soul in her dogma.
The caution here is that resting on the wisdom of our mother is not a passive activity, but as the Apostle Paul wrote in today’s Second Reading in 1 Thessalonian 5:1-6, trusting in the Lord is different from sleeping in the Lord, saying, “We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” In other words, our Eternal Father is always leading us to truth through His Son, Christ Jesus, and Christ through the Holy Spirit, and His Church is working through us to encounter those whom He loves. Therefore, we prayerfully and faithfully stay awake in Christ; that is, always attentive to His calling to serve Him through which He pours His love into us and, through us, our neighbors.
The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 shows us how God wants us to use the gifts and abilities He has given us. He has entrusted us with different talents and blessings, and He expects us to use them for His glory and the benefit of others. He does not want us to be lazy or afraid, like the servant who buried his talent in the ground and did not make any profit for his master. Instead, He wants us to be diligent and brave, like the servants who multiplied their talents and received their master’s commendation. In this way, the liturgy of the Catholic Mass strengthens us through its prayers of intercessory and the Holy Eucharist, so that we can produce fruit in our lives. We are not called to avoid the cross, but to accept it with love and confidence. God will reward us according to our faithfulness and generosity. Therefore, honor your father and mother so that your days will be blessed.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the Liturgy and how the Liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the Liturgy.