33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 16th 2014.
Prov 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; 1Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30
Having a true fear of God
The worthy wife and mother depicted in the last chapter of the book of Proverbs in today’s First Reading leaves us wondering how she could be constant in doing good for all around her. Her husband confidently “entrusts his heart to her” and she “brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.” She labors constantly and “works with loving hands” not for selfish reasons but she does this so as to benefit others: “She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.” The passage ends by telling us the driving force behind her untiring diligence in caring for her home, children, servants and needy – her fear of the Lord: “The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” She is praised more for her genuine fear of the Lord than for all her other skills and characters. It is this true fear of God that keeps her doing the good that she does for others “all the days of her life.”
What is this true fear of the Lord? What does it look like? True fear of God has its roots in love for God and it renders the soul diligent and persevering in doing good. The soul strives to do the good and do it well not out of fear of punishment but to please God in all things as a loving child seeks to please its parents. A soul that possesses this true fear of God never stops doing what is good no matter what the cost.
Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel shows the crippling effect on a soul that lacks this true fear of God. The servant who buried the only talent that he received gave fear as his reason for not making use of the talents like others did. “Out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.” Truly, if he had any iota of fear of the master, he would at least have invested the talent safely and effortlessly in the bank as the master indicated, “Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return.” This servant began doing something good: he answered the master’s summons before his departure and he received the talent offered him by the master. But he ceased doing good till the very end because he lacked a true fear of the master. His idleness during the master’s long departure was a clear manifestation of his lack of love for the master. He was thus justly condemned as a wicked and lazy servant. There is a connection between wickedness and laziness.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, at one point in our lives we may have begun doing something good and beautiful for God and then we stopped. Maybe we got inspired to pray more, read the Scriptures, frequent the Sacraments, give witness to the truths of the faith in hostile environments, forgive some hurt, etc. Why do we stop doing the good that God has inspired in us? We usually blame it on things like fatigue, discouragement or laziness, etc. Indeed, our bodily nature makes us both unstable in our good resolutions and easily wearied by the constant effort required. But is a lack of true fear of God not behind our numerous reasons for quitting doing the good that we had begun?
God does not only inspire us to do the good out of love for Him but, like the master in the Gospel parable, He gives us gifts “according to our ability.” One of these gifts is the Spirit’s gift of fear of the Lord. Filled with this Spirit, Jesus “went about doing good,” and He did it so diligently that they would say of Him, “He had done all things well.”(Mk 7:37) Jesus did good to all and He did it diligently till the very end of His earthly life because all that He did and endured was out of love for His Father.
A merely servile fear of God that moves us to do things so as to avoid punishment by a vengeful and tyrannical God we make out in our minds cannot sustain our effort do good always. But if our fear of God is rooted in the fact that our desire for doing any good is a gift of God’s love that calls for a loving response, this true fear of God makes us diligent and persevering in all things that we do and endure to please God and to avoid offending Him. Before we throw in the towel in our struggles and give up on the good that we have begun by blaming fatigue, lack of result or laziness, we must offer confident and persistent prayers for a true fear of the Lord. We obtain this fear of God through honest prayer and through acknowledging that the God who inspires us to the good will sustain us till the very end.
Every sacrament is a new beginning, a new summon to begin doing something good for God. This is because the same Spirit of goodness that constantly inspires the good in us is poured into our souls in the sacraments. God knows our abilities as well as our struggles. In the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, “Let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” as we await the glorious return of Christ Jesus. It is by the grace of God that we begin doing any good in this life. It is only by the Spirit’s gift of fear of the Lord that we can only hope to persevere to the very end in vigilant and dutiful waiting for the Lord’s return.
Lord Jesus, we humbly implore you through the intercession of Mary most holy to pour into our souls the holy fear of God so that we may serve you diligently till our last breath and merit to hear you say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s joy.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!