The Church’s liturgical year is coming to an end. Next Sunday we will celebrate the great feast of Christ the King, which begins the final week of the year. As the days of the year come to an end, it is a good time for us to consider that the days of our own lives will also one day come to an end. While our theme for this week speaks of us waiting for the return of our Redeemer, we can also think of this as us waiting to return to him upon our death. Since we know that our lives here will certainly end, we want to spend however many days the Lord gives us in storing up for ourselves “treasure in heaven” (cf. Mt 6:20) by using the gifts he has given us to build up his Kingdom.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul warns us not to “fall asleep” but to “stay alert and sober.” We can easily see that in the world today many people seem to be sleep-walking through life. They are busy about every little concern of the moment, just moving from one thing to the next, day after day, without ever stopping to consider what all the activity is for. Others seem to be intoxicated with the pleasures and enticements of the world – comfort, power, riches, honor. They do not think about how useless these things will be when their lives come to an end.
The Psalm gives us an insight into what being “alert and sober” means for us. It says, “Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways!” The Hebrew word which is here translated as “fear” has a range of meanings. In this context it means not that we should be afraid of the Lord but that we should be in awe of his goodness; we should revere and honor him. And to “walk in his ways” means to follow as he leads us, to do what he does. So we could re-phrase this verse as, “Blessed are all who honor the Lord and do what he does.”
What is it that God does, which we are to strive to do also? God loves! Thus, blessed are we if we love. Unfortunately, we too often think of love as an emotional state. For God, love is not merely a passing feeling; it is both what he is and what he does. God acts in love. He created us in love. And when humanity fell away from him by sinning, he immediately set in motion his plan of love to restore us, ultimately coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ and giving his own life to save us.
To walk in the Lord’s ways is to do as he does, to act in love. We do not walk in his ways merely by thinking about love, having a positive feeling or a good intention. To think about loving is not love. To intend to love is not love. Love must be acted out in concrete ways. This is why the “worthy wife” in the first reading is praised, because she acts with love: “She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.” This passage can also refer to us, since in relation to Christ, we are called to be his bride. How wonderful if it can be said of us at the close of our lives, ‘Christ, entrusting his heart to us, has an unfailing prize. We bring him good, and not evil, all the days of our lives’!
In the Spiritual Reflection this week, Pope Francis tells us that God “is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans.” Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel makes this clear to us. The man going on a journey entrusted his possessions to his servants. He gave them what was his own, and expected them to use it in such a way as to increase it. This is exactly what God does with us. He gives us various talents and gifts, but most of all he gives us what is his own – his love, and he expects us to make use of it in such a way as to bring an increase. How do we increase love? By giving it away, as the Pope instructs us: “Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give.” We are reminded of the widow who was praised by Jesus after putting two small coins into the temple treasury (cf. Lk 21:1-4). It is not how much we have to give that matters. Rather it is how much of what we have that we give.
The Pope encourages us especially to look to the poor, for “there, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor.” When we think of “the poor,” we can consider not only those who lack material goods, but also those who are grieving, who are lonely, who are without hope, who are spiritually poor. Who are the poor with whom we come in contact, and how can we act in love towards them? This gives us much to ponder today, but not only to ponder – to act on as well.
We began this meditation by considering that we have a limited number of days on this earth, and those days will at some point come to an end. Therefore we want to spend our days profitably. Seeking to give ourselves in love to alleviate the poverty of those around us is a most profitable way for us to spend our days. As Pope Francis tells us, “Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbor. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”
Am I storing up “treasures in heaven” by using the gifts God has given me with prudence? Can I understand that what matters is not what I have, but what I give and that is “love”? Since I have a limited number of days on this earth, how am I spending them profitably?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 8. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.