33rd Sun [A] 1999

Fr. Charles Irvin

Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Ps 128:1-5; Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30

What would the perfect wife be like? How would you describe her? Many men have pondered that question… and many times during their lives!

Today’s first reading gives us a description, one that’s very ancient, taken from the Old Testament’s Book of Wisdom. And by the way, the Old Testament’s writings about Wisdom are all written in the feminine case. It’s a way of seeing the feminine qualities found in God… under the Transcendental virtue known as Wisdom, readings from which appeared during this past week’s daily Masses. When you return home from Mass, go to your Old Testament and turn to Chapter 7 of the Book of Wisdom. There you will find a beautiful and inspiring vision of the nature of Wisdom, the descriptions of which are all written in the feminine case.

Here in this Mass we are now celebrating we find something from the Old Testament’s Book of Proverbs – again presented to us in feminine terms, under the description of the perfect wife. She is beyond any value that could be placed on her. She unfailingly presents nothing but good to her husband, her family, her servants, and all who know her. She is skillful and industrious while at the same time being compassionate and charitable. She is God-fearing, faithful and totally reliable, always true to her word of honor, and true to her commitments. She is never fickle; she is always faithful, steadfast and constant in the giving of her love.

What fascinates me in this modern day and age of ours is that many of these Old Testament virtues describing a good woman speak of her business abilities. A good wife was seen in ancient times as an astute businesswoman, a valued partner to her husband? How about today – how are women depicted in the magazine, television and movie media? And furthermore, just how does our culture tell us we should understand and see that it means to be feminine?

This ancient biblical vision, however, is not presented to us just to admire and emulate. No. Holy Mother Church presents all of these qualities of wisdom and astuteness in terms of the Second Coming of the Messiah. It is all placed in the context of our anticipation of the Day of the Lord, that final time when God will bring our world to its historic completion at the end of earthly history. He will audit our books and examine our accounts on that great Day of Reckoning, an event with which all business men and women are not unfamiliar.

Last week Holy Mother Church presented us with the depiction of the wise and foolish virgins, reminding us of our need to be constantly prepared for the moment when God comes to call us to himself, either at the end of our personal lives or at the end of the world. This weekend Our Mother the Church reminds us that when God calls us to Himself He expects us to have been useful and profitable servants. He calls us to be like the perfect wife depicted in the Book of Proverbs, filled with those attributes found in the Book of Wisdom, and likewise found in those wise virgins we heard about last weekend who lived during the day and went to sleep at night in a state of preparedness for the arrival of the Bridegroom.

Furthermore, we need to see that God has faith in US! Normally we give attention to our faith in God. But we need to be conscious of the stupendous truth that God has placed His faith in us, giving us precious talents of enormous value. God, you see, is a risk-taker. He has even taken the risk of placing His only and precious Son into our hands – something that is about to occur again in our Holy Communion when God places His Son into your hands. Did you ever think about what a risk God is taking with you in doing that?

Is our religion, then, to be kept in the closet hidden from public view? Is our faith and is our spirituality to be kept removed from our schools, our businesses, our careers, and away from our friendships with others? Are we to sit down, shut up, and keep quiet about God and what He has done and is doing for us?

We are called to be risk-takers — risk-takers like God. We are called to invest our faith, our hope and our love in others. God wants us to make venture capital investments in those who surround us, in our schools, our businesses and in those who live near us and relate to us. He wants us to work reveal His Kingdom here on earth.

Why do I say that? Well, ponder for a while over all of the parables Jesus used in teaching us. How many of those parables involve money, business transactions, and the finding of valuables? How many of them involve risk-taking?

Jesus is coming in glory at the end of human time. We live in the time of the “already but not yet”, during the time since Jesus established the Kingdom in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, as well as in the time that anticipates His return to bring all things into completion. What will we have done with all that He has given us? What will we have done with the Faith that He has given us –and which we share here in our Church? Will we have kept timidly quiet and kept our light hidden under a bushel out of fear for what others will think?

It’s strange to think of our faith in terms of investments, dividends and bottom-line profitability. Probably because we feel we have to keep our spirituality here in church on Sunday and out of our ordinary weekday business activities or school life. But that’s exactly the opposite of how God wants us to see things. He wants us to be risk-taking venture investors who take all of the valuable talents He has given us, things worth more than their weight in gold., and invest them in human living. He wants us to profitably invest all of these pricelessly valuable things His Son has given us and invest them in the world that His Son has died to buy back (which is what redeem means!) and to save.

Pray that on the Day of Judgment we may not be found among those who put His Son to death and then buried Him… along with burying everything else God has given us.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”