Reflections

Wednesday in the 33rd Week of the Year, November 20, 2019

Faithfulness With God’s Gift Of Faith
Introduction
We hear the inspiring story of the mother and her seven sons who with great courage preferred to die for their faith rather than to sin against the Law.
Faith, the Gospel and the life of Christ are rich gifts which we have received to work with, to produce with, to do business with, as the Gospel says. We cannot just take our faith for granted. We are stewards of the goods of the kingdom; a good steward does not only keep what the master gives him or her, but invests it to produce more. One who has will be given more. This is Luke’s presentation of the parable of the talents. How productive is our faith?

1 Reading: 2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: “I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.” Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words, thought he was being ridiculed. As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him, not with mere words, but with promises on oath, to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs: he would make him his Friend and entrust him with high office. When the youth paid no attention to him at all, the king appealed to the mother, urging her to advise her boy to save his life. After he had urged her for a long time, she went through the motions of persuading her son. In derision of the cruel tyrant, she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language: “Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age. I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things; and in the same way the human race came into existence. Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.” She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said: “What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command. I obey the command of the law given to our fathers through Moses. But you, who have contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews, will not escape the hands of God.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 17:1bcd, 5-6, 8b and 15
R. (15b) Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit. R.

My steps have been steadfast in your paths,
my feet have not faltered.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word. R.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence. R.

Alleluia: cf. John 15:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Luke 19:11-28
While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’ He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’ And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’ Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’ He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding man, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’ And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’ He replied, ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'”

Commentary
Fidelity to God at all cost. An enterprising spirit in the reign of Christ. Our two readings today illustrate both of these ideas. The celebrated mother of seven sons in Maccabees stands at the center of this account of torture and death. The issue was whether or not they could be forced by the king to eat pork. All of the sons go to their death rather than violate God’s law. In the case of the seventh son, the king promises him a lofty position, but, failing to get a favourable response, he asks the mother to intercede with her son. She feigns persuasion but actually encourages her son to remain steadfast. She argues that he will soon be with his Creator. He too goes to his death. The account comes from the Hellenistic period, when defections among the Israelites were common.
In the Lucan parable, the utilization of gifts for the reign of Christ is underscored. The nobleman who went to a distant country to obtain his kingship may reflect a conflict over Herodian succession in Judea, or it may simply be the return of Christ to the Father after his death and resurrection. Each of the three servants is entrusted with a set amount of money to be used in trade. Upon his return, two of the servants report the financial gain they have made and are duly rewarded. The third, fearful of his master, simply preserved the single coin and done nothing with it. His conduct merits only condemnation. 
Human respect often tempts us to bypass the dictates of the Lord in the interest of some human gain. But we must be steadfast. Faith is a matter of conviction, and conviction will always be tested.
To compromise our beliefs in order to achieve some human gain is an act of betrayal. The young son of the widow is prepared to die rather than violate the law of God. We are not tested to that extent. But to put God in second place even for lesser reasons is a serious failure. Similarly, the use of our gifts and talents in the interests of the kingdom is only right and just. Do I spend myself in the interests of the Christian community? Or am I completely absorbed in earthly concerns?

Blessing
When the Lord asks us what we have done with the rich gifts he has given us, what would we answer? Shall it be simply but inadequately, that we have done no evil, or could we say that we have invested in people, in truth and justice and love, as the Lord asks of us? May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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