33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 19, 2017.
Prov 31:10-13, 19-20,30-1; 1Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30
Devotion to Our Lady of “no excuses”
“She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.”
The woman of Proverbs 31 in today’s First Reading is an example of a worthy wife and mother, working hard in serving her husband constantly, “She brings him (her husband) good, and not evil, all the days of her life.” She serves her family, providing them clothing and food, “She obtains wool and flax and makes clothes with skillful hands. She puts her hand to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.” Her labor of love also extends to the poor, “She reaches out her hands to the poor and extends her arms to the needy.” She works hard in serving her husband, family, and the poor constantly and with all that she has without making excuses because she knows that she is loved by her husband, “Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.”
As I reflect on this ideal wife and mother, I cannot help but think of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, believing that she was loved by God, never made excuses for not obeying and serving God and others faithfully throughout her life. Mary received the most precious gift of divine love in the God-Man, Jesus Christ, at the Annunciation without making any excuses simply because she was loved by God as the Angel Gabriel had attested, “Mary, you have found favor with God.” With this firm faith in God’s love for her, nothing stops Mary from faithfully receiving love from God and bringing it to others in loving service.
At the words of the Angel Gabriel during the Annunciation, Mary did not excuse herself that she was too young or that being a Virgin-Mother would be rather counter-cultural or that St. Joseph would be offended by her submission to God. She did not make excuses for not visiting and supporting her pregnant relative Elizabeth at the mere prompting of the Angel Gabriel. Whether it is making the difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem while in the last days of her pregnancy, or having to give birth to the Savior in a manger, or having to flee suddenly to Egypt for an undisclosed amount of time, or having to come to the assistance of the distressed married couple and guests at the wedding of Cana by interceding for them, or having to journey with Jesus along the lonely and painful way to Calvary when all others abandoned Him, or having to stand at the Cross and share in the pains and insults that Jesus received, Mary never made excuses for not receiving love in the most difficult of moments and responding in serving God and others. Mary always responded to the material and spiritual needs of others as she did in the wedding of Cana, “They have no wine,” a request that yielded the best wine as well as faith in the servants, “His disciples began to believe in Him.” Mary is truly Our Lady of “no excuses.”
The Baltimore Catechism reminds us that we are created to know, love and serve God and to be happy with Him in eternity. The more we have loving knowledge of God, the more that we can serve God in others faithfully without making all the excuses that we make in our world today for not serving and obeying God as we should. When we are lacking in this loving knowledge of God, our excuses simply multiply.
The master in today’s Gospel parable did not call expert investors to manage his possessions, but, out of love for his servants, he “called his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.” He gave them his own possession as well as a lot of time to make faithful use of it simply because he wanted to share his joy with them, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.”
The servant who received the one talent in today’s Gospel does not realize the love that the master has for him in calling him and giving him that talent and the time to make faithful use of it. Lacking this sense of love, this servant made so many excuses on the day of accounting, “Master, I knew that you are a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.” The is a silly excuse because he could have securely placed it in bank and gained interest without any risk on his part as the master replied, “Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?” The bottom line is that he is both wicked and lazy; he is wicked because he lacks love for his master and no sense of the master’s love for him. The wickedness that this lack of love produces is in turn manifested in a laziness that he tries to explain with his silly excuses.
The servants may not know the master well but the master knows them well and what they can do with the gifts that he gave them “according to their ability.” In the same way, Jesus knows us very well as well as our abilities and what we can do with His gifts. He also invites us to know Him and His love for us very well too, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and mine know me.” (Jn 10:14) He gives us great gifts and lots of time to make use of the gifts in serving Him in many situations and conditions in life so that we can share in His own happiness. Sadly we often respond only with our usually baseless excuses.
I recall the moment that I first sensed a call to the priesthood and religious life and all the many excuses that ran through my mind like, “I have many sins and moral failures in life…I am not sure that I want to make a career shift in life now…Will I be disciplined enough for this vocation?…This is not the right time for such a thing…I have many expectations to meet in this life and priesthood and religious life was definitely not one of them…I am also a little bit too old to go to the seminary now…I am not sure I would fit into this way of life…What if this is all a mistake?” Talk about excuses, I had them all. But bringing those excuses to prayer one by one and asking Mama Mary for light and strength, I started to let go of each of the excuses slowly and began to see how silly many of them really were. Bringing all these my excuses to the light of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart dispelled my excuses and left me with an abiding sense of divine love behind my vocation. Now I know what do with all those excuses – bring them to Our Lady of “no excuses” and let her impress on my heart that love that led Jesus to the cross for me that alone moves me to serve God with all that I have even in my own weaknesses.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what excuses are we making today for not serving and obeying Jesus more faithfully? Maybe we are reluctant to respond because of our past failures or the fear of making mistakes. Maybe we feel that this is not the best time to respond so we keep on putting it off indefinitely. Maybe we fear the cost of serving or we have been hurt by others whom we served in the past. Our excuses only show that our sense of being loved by God just as we are is still not planted in our hearts. Let us bring these excuses one by one to Mary and let her imprint on our hearts her own attitude towards serving God and others that flows from God’s love for her.
We all will stand before Jesus one day and answer for all the talents and time that He has given to us out of His love for us. Our excuses will count for nothing then. Jesus never made excuses when it came to dying on the cross to set us free from our bondage to the devil, sin and death simply because He was firmly grounded in His Father’s love for Him. Why should we make excuses now? No matter what the past has been, let us make use of the precious gift of time and begin anew today to know, love and serve Him more faithfully with all that we have and to the end of our lives so that we can share in His own happiness forever.
This Eucharist is another precious gift of Jesus’ His love for us, a love that moves us to serve Him in others without excuses. With the help of Our Lady of “no excuses,” let surrender our myriad of excuses, allow His love to fill our hearts so that we set out to serve others till the very end till we hear those welcoming and consoling words of Jesus at the end of our lives, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share your master’s joy.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!