Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 16, 2014 Cycle A
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E.

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In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The only time that I saw my parents arguing was on the day before their 50th anniversary. They were arguing about the Mass readings. My father wanted the first reading to be the same as today’s. My mother did not. The reading starts as follows: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls” (Prov 31:10). In the end, they chose another reading.

Today’s readings talk about the “fear of the Lord” in both the positive and negative senses. Today, we are invited to meditate about the meaning of the fear of the Lord.

The first reading and the Psalm talk about the fear of the Lord in the positive sense, while in the Gospel we find that expression used in the negative sense.

The first reading extols the virtues of an exemplary wife. The portrait is so perfect that we can easily envision Mary, the epitome of a perfect creature. She was always available to God, in all His unpredictability. We can easily apply the words of the reading to Mary: “the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Prov 31:30).

The Psalm says that those who fear the Lord are blessed. The fear of the Lord brings fruitfulness to life: “[…] you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored. Sacred Scripture also states: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10; Prov 1: 7).

To fear God is not to be afraid of God. The Fear of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Parable of the Talents helps us understand the distinction between the positive and negative senses of fearing God. The servant who received one talent says: “Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground” (Mt 25: 24–25). 

He was afraid of his master. He might have thought that the master did not like him because he had given two and five talents to his companions but only one to him. Jealousy led him to feel humiliated and deprecated.

After the original sin, Adam and Eve were afraid of God and “hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8). The devil instilled the idea that God is a rival instead of a friend in the hearts of our first fathers.

To be afraid of God is related to sin, while the Fear of the Lord is a fruit of grace. There is a clear distinction between servile and filial fear. The Fear of the Lord is the sincere and reverential feeling that a person experiences before the tremendous majesty of God.

The two servants were not afraid of their master. They loved and respected him. They were able to risk everything that their master had given them because they wanted to do their best in order to please him. In the end, they received abundant recompense: “Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:23).

Saint John Paul II wrote: “With this gift, however, the Holy Spirit instills in the soul most of all a filial love, which is a sentiment rooted in love of God. The soul is now concerned not to displease God, whom he loves as a Father, not to offend him in anything, to ‘abide in him’ and grow in charity (cf. Jn 15:4-7).”

Let us ask for the gift of the Fear of the Lord. Just as Mary feared the Lord, let us follow her example. Through her intercession, may we fear God in all the circumstances of our lives.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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