Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
November 17, 2021
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray a lovely verse of Psalm 17:
The psalm is a gentle plea which might serve to soften our two dramatically intense readings.
Who can read the story of the Maccabean Martyrs without a mix of horror, empathy, and astonishment?
And don’t we all feel a pang of pity for the poor, fearful servant who hid his talent in a handkerchief much to the King’s displeasure?
The two stories, (one based in fact, the other a parable), paint a contrasting picture of courageous faith against fearful subservience. The difference between the actors lies in their capacity, or lack there of, to look beyond themselves toward eternal life.
Mother Maccabee bolsters her sons with her faith in a life beyond their current circumstances:
… the Creator of the universe2 Mc 7:23
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.
The poor soul in Jesus’s parable doesn’t have that faith and vision. His perception of God, represented by the King, is one of only harsh judgement. His fear causes him to bury not only his talent, but also his openness to the possibilities of grace and transformed relationship with God.
Jesus told his parable because indeed the Kingdom was at hand. He and his disciples were near Jerusalem where the Passion, Death and Resurrection events would begin.
He wants his followers to realize the challenging gift they have been given in their call to be his disciples. He wants them to see that it is now on them to magnify his message courageously and generously until he returns to perfect the Kingdom.
Jesus wants us to understand that too.
Poetry: Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent – John Milton
Milton became blind in later life. The poem reflects his concerns about all that he has left undone in his life. Ultimately, Milton expresses the confidence that God has no need of his “talent”, only his steadfast faith.
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Music: Be Not Afraid – written by Bob Dufford, SJ, sung here by Cat Jahnke