Scripture: Lectionary 158: Proverbs 31:10-13.19-20.30-31. Psalm 128:
1-2.3.4-5. I Thessalonians 5:1-6. Matthew 25:14-30: Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011
A Cycle, Year I
Liturgical readings on a Sunday usually feature a theme in the first
reading with one in the Gospel. At times, the Psalm Response corresponds
to the theme or some concept within the first reading and offers us a way
of praying throughout the day with the Psalm Response. Most often,
however, it is the first reading and the Gospel that bring out some common
theme or themes. The reading from the Epistle usually is simply a
continual reading and thus may or may not have the same thought as the
first reading and the Gospel.
The beautiful ending of the Book of Proverbs, an inspired work of Wisdom,
is about the industrious and successful work of a mother of a household who
takes very good care of her family and is also capable of gaining some
financial support for the family. In this sense, the reading has something
new and beyond the world of women during the time in which this book was
This woman of wisdom is easily compared with the first steward who doubles
the 5000 talents of silver entrusted to him by the master. He is rewarded
with another 5000 and even gets what the one who hid his talents in the
ground but has to return them with no interest. This latter is judged
severely for not making use of his talents that were a free gift of the
Master. We get the point that we as God’s creative agents of Christ’s
redemption are to be doers of the word as well as listeners.
The woman of wisdom in Proverbs is a great woman of valor, strength,
creativity, and capable of many tasks. She is a multi-task wisdom person.
In Hebrew this woman of valor is described as “eshet chayil”.” The word
“chayil” refers to strength of all sorts, whether physical or military
prowess, in social influence, in wealth, or in personal ethical and
intellectual power.” (Hebrew Study Bible, p.1498).
While the whole of the Book of Proverbs seems to focus on youth and men
especially, this final chapter is encased by the all encompassing Wisdom
which is feminine both in Greek and in Hebrew. Sophia or Wisdom frames the
whole book with her wisdom and offers in the specific historical image of
the faithful and valiant woman as the apex of its message and call for us
to be wise stewards of God’s gifts. This woman offers all ages a perfect
paradigm for one who accomplishes all that God asks of her. She is the one
who like the first servant in Jesus’ parable doubles her first gift and
this so pleases her Master that she is given more and more gifts for
herself, her family, her husband, and her people.
We praise such energy, such economic acuity, and the many virtues this
person possesses. She is a real wholesome person and should not be
allegorized. No wonder the Jewish men recite this last chapter of Proverbs
in the blessing over the wine making it holy on the Sabbath eve (the
Kiddush). It is also appropriately used for praising a woman who has died
especially if it is one’s mother. This Proverbial gem is prayed, said, and
extolled in “memory of her.” Amen.