Little things are “the” big things

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 19 November 2023
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 ><}}}*> 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 ><}}}*> Matthew 25:14-30
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa in Carigara, Leyte 2018.

Our first reading today from the Book of Proverbs is very interesting on this penultimate Sunday of the liturgical calendar before the Solemnity of Christ the King next week. If we go by today’s way of thinking, it sounds “sexist”, stereotyping the tasks of a “worthy” or perfect wife:

She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.

Proverbs 31:13, 19-20

But for those like me who grew up in the generation reared by mothers proudly described as “plain housewife”, there’s no sexism nor stereotyping of women by the author of the Book of Proverbs. It is actually in praise of women, of housewives and mothers supposed to be the most attentive in details, truly dedicated and faithful in daily house chores.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa in Carigara, Leyte 2018.

Our first reading reminds us to be like a “worthy wife” who is consistent in doing those little things mothers do to keep our homes warm and tidy. Most of all, orderly.

Moms are blessed with special grace and talent in budgeting limited resources to come out with outstanding meals daily, of keeping socks and handkerchiefs as well as cuff links and old clothes ready and handy just in case there is an instant out of town trip or school project. With moms, life is practically worry-free because she gets everything covered even outside home! I remembered how my mom had everything in her little bag, from medicines like Cortal to Vick’s Vaporub and Band-Aid, candies and money, tissues and even tape measure called medida! Truly a Girl Scout, always ready for any eventuality.

And that is why we have this part of the Book of Proverbs this Sunday: to wait for the Second Coming of Christ which is also the end of the world is to be like a “worthy wife” concentrated on life’s essentials “who fears the Lord” (v.30) and “reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy” (v. 20). It is basically being wise like the five virgins last Sunday – faithful to God, to his laws and commandments expressed in lovingly serving others especially the poor.

Photo by author, sunset in Tagaytay City, 07 February 2023.

That is the whole point of Jesus in today’s parable of the talents where he spoke to his disciples who include us today “of his coming” that no one knows like those servants awaiting their master’s return.

The parable did not tell us how the first two servants made use of their talents that earned them interests but it clearly pointed out what the third servant did not do. The time of waiting for the Parousia is an active waiting, of keeping up with the tasks entrusted to us by Jesus our Master. Instead of knowing its date with all those useless calculations and speculations, we are called to be diligent and committed in striving and persevering to be good at what is entrusted to us according to our ability like the first two servants and the perfect wife in the Book of Proverbs.

To wait for Jesus is not to be idle, doing nothing like the third servant in the parable who simply buried the talent entrusted to him. He was lazy, lacked any initiative, a whiner and a complainer.

Perfection and holiness lead to readiness for Christ, achieved in our faithfulness to our daily duties as his disciples, not elsewhere like in great moments we often await but never happen at all nor in appearances that do not matter like “charm and beauty” as the author of Proverbs said (v.30). Active waiting for the return of Jesus is living fully in every present moment, not in useless crying over the past or fearful anxieties of the future.

Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.

Jesus is not asking us – and would never ask us anything beyond our abilities – to do great feats like that master who simply entrusted his possessions according to his servants’ abilities.

Jesus is not telling us to do a Mother Teresa but simply be kind first to your family. Smile more often at people, laugh your heart out at the simple joys and stories especially of children. Choose silence than answering every call and conversation. Forgive a lot and you forget what isn’t nice. Then you see the hidden beauty of every person and thing. And not far from that, you find Christ coming right in front of you, too.

When we do the work of God, it does not really matter how big or small nor how simple or complicated that may be. It is always great to do the work of God because it is God’s work entrusted to us! A basketball is just an ordinary rubber ball but when used by Michael Jordan, it becomes of great value. The same is true when we do the works of God.

When Christ comes again to judge both the living and the dead, the only thing he would ask us is what have we done to those people and responsibilities he had entrusted to us. Ultimately, it is a question of how much have we loved, have we lived like him? Remember Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of his Father in heaven” (Mt. 7:21-23). What are we doing, how are we living our faith in God these days are the questions we must answer to be ready for the Second Coming.

Photo by author, Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 21 March 2023.

St. Paul lived at a time when people were so excited for the apocalypse, the end of time when Christ is expected to come again. They believed – along with St. Paul – that they would witness the return of Jesus in their lifetime.

And that is why St. Paul wrote them, trying to calm them by telling them to always live in the present moment, to live fully every day because the Parousia will come like a thief in the night, just “when people are saying ‘Peace and security,’ then suddenly disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman” (1 Thes. 5:2-3).

How sad that what is happening today is exactly the opposite. These days, many people live as if Christ is never coming back to judge us at the end of time. Worst, many people live as if there is no God at all with all the wars and crimes going on, the continuing disrespect for life and persons, as well the many abuses and injustices committed with impunity.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa in Carigara, Leyte 2018.

These very presence of sin and evil in the world show that God’s final victory has not taken place yet. Therefore, each day is actually a reminder of the coming end of time, the return of Jesus to establish final peace and order. Far from terrifying and discouraging us, it is a call for us to live fully in the present, mindful of that Latin phrase “memento mori” that means “remember you must die.”

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger said we are all “beings-towards-death”, meaning, we all die someday.

It is in being aware of this certainty of death that we humans live authentically. It is only when we have come to terms with death that we also come to terms with life. We fear death because we have not yet started living truly. Now is the time. No need to write those bucket list. Simply live in God, in Jesus. Be good, be joyful. Then, it does not matter anymore when death comes. Amen. Have a blessed, faithful week ahead.

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