Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31,
I Thess. 5:1-6,
God desires and blesses productivity for the kingdom of God. Owners want their companies to be productive and make a profit. Managers want to increase productivity in their factories or businesses. Investors want to reap greater dividends on their investments. And God also desires to see productivity and a healthy return on the gifts and talents he has invested in us. “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:46). That is the message of the word of God to us today.
At first glance today’s first reading about finding a worthy wife might seem a bit disconnected or out of place. Upon a closer look, however, the message and meaning become clearer. This “Proverbial Woman” is extremely enterprising and highly productive! She obtains materials and sews garments. She serves the poor and needy. A reading of the entire chapter 31 of Proverbs gives more details. This wife buys a field, plants a vineyard, and makes sure her household has enough warm clothing to wear. She even makes some garments for sale. This worthy wife defines the word “productive!” “Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.”
The parable of the talents is very familiar to us. Three servants get five, two, and one, respectively – “to each according to his ability.” When the day of reckoning comes, the productivity of the first two is praised because they were able to show an increase on the initial investment. The third servant, who buried his talent out of fear of losing it, is condemned. This servant is called “wicked and lazy” and thrown into “the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” The Lord demands that the talents he has given us would produce and bear fruit for the kingdom of God!
Our second reading returns us to the theme of the Lord’s coming in judgment. It is remarkable that Jesus himself compares his coming as a “thief” (Matt. 24:43; Luke 12:39) and St. Paul repeats this terminology also. Paul urges us, “Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.”
PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT
This is a rather constant theme in the liturgy as the Church year winds down. Some weeks ago we heard about the owner of a vineyard who wanted it to produce a harvest of good grapes. And from the gospels, we recall that Jesus examined a fig tree and cursed it because he found no figs on it (cf. Matt. 21:18-21; Mark 11:12-25). Today’s message is a similar one. God has deposited his talents and gifts with us. He expects – demands – productivity, a good return on his investment! Let us pray in the words of today’s Collect: “Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good.”