Sunday Sermon for November 19, 2017, the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary time, Year A
Readings: Prov 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30
In the second reading today St. Paul tells us we are children of the light and we are not of darkness. For this reason he says we are not to sleep like the rest do, but we are to be alert and sober. Unfortunately, we have been witnessing the drowsiness of many people when it comes to their faith. People are quite vivacious when it comes to the things of this world, of pleasure, or of selfish desires. However, when it comes to living the Faith or serving the Lord, it seems that many have grown tired and have fallen into a profound slumber from which it appears very difficult to awaken them.
The tragedy of this is that St. Paul reminds us the Day of the Lord will come upon the world like a thief in the night. He goes on to say that just when people are saying “peace and security” sudden disaster will fall upon them and they will not escape. The knowledge that people are walking away from the Lord and giving themselves over to sin is horrible enough, but to know the day of which St. Paul speaks will come suddenly and without warning is nothing short of terrifying.
The one thing St. Paul does say is that it will be like labor pains coming upon a pregnant woman. When a woman is close to her due date she knows her labor will begin soon, but she has no idea exactly when it will happen. Once labor begins, there is no turning back and the pains increase in frequency and intensity until the baby is born. If we look at the situation in the Church and in the world today and use this simile, I think we can say that the woman is “very pregnant.” Our Lord told us to interpret the signs of the times; I think the signs suggest the labor pains are immanent.
The fact that the labor pains are immanent does not mean the birth is immediate. We know labor pains can last for hours and even days. Part of labor, perhaps the worst part for us, is what St. Paul says in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians: the Day of the Lord will not come until after the apostasy. Following this apostasy, the man of Lawlessness, the son of perdition, will be revealed bringing with him a much heralded peace for the whole world. He will set himself up as a god and seek world domination. Then, as St. Paul says, when people are saying “peace and security” the day (the birth) will close upon them like a trap.
While it is not known if this apostasy is going to happen in our day, the events in the Church are certainly lining up to suggest that an apostasy is very possible. We have to admit that the “sleeping” of so many among the hierarchy as well as the laity has resulted in a material apostasy. The events presently taking place point to the possibility of a formal apostasy not too far up the road.
In the meantime, we have to make sure we are not falling asleep. We have to check our hearts, our prayer, and our actions to make sure we are striving to love and serve the Lord with our whole heart, soul, and strength. As we read in the Gospel, God has entrusted each of us with a number of talents. We note in the reading that when the Master returned, the money each one earned was for the Master, not for the servant. The Master rewarded the faithful servants for what they had done, but the talents were to be used to increase the glory of the Master.
We are no different. We have to ask if we are using our abilities for the Lord or for our own self. We have to make sure we are not burying our talent(s) in the ground so we can give it back on the day of judgment untouched and unused. For those who have fallen asleep spiritually, this is essentially what they are doing. The person who is awake in the Lord, on the other hand, is like the diligent wife spoken of in the first reading. She was busy about her work and seeking the good of her husband and charges rather than her own glory.
It is a good time to check our progress. How is my prayer life? Am I going regularly to confession? Am I trying to live a virtuous life? Do I wholeheartedly believe everything the Church teaches to be revealed by God? Am I slipping into worldly ways? Am I excusing bad habits in myself? Be prepared; the woman is very pregnant and the labor pains are immanent!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.