It is customary that, in the readings at Sunday Mass, there is a link between the first reading and the Gospel. But the link between today's first reading and the Gospel is not obvious at first glance, and when it is found, it is of exquisite beauty. For the first reading is about the qualities of a good wife, while the Gospel is Our Lord's famous parable of the talents.
Therefore, what the Church is telling us in establishing this relationship is that an example par excellence of the realization of one's talents, and indeed of self-fulfillment in general, is found in the woman who chooses to devote her energies and abilities to the care of the home.
Any man with a good wife knows how much family life is enriched by the feminine genius of a mother in her own home. In an age when the frequent message is that it is demeaning for a woman to stay at home, the Church wants to help us see that a special way for a woman to express and develop her talents is by building family life. The woman of the first reading "exceeds pearls in value". Work hard, "he looks for the wool and linen and works them with the dexterity of his hands... he stretches out his arms to the poor man".
Although not mentioned in the abridged version we hear at Mass, the biblical texts tell us that this woman is a kind of businesswoman, managing the household servants, making sure everyone in the household is well fed and well clothed, locating a good field and buying it, selling clothes and goods... and much more. "It is clothed in strength and dignity.". Speak with wisdom and kindness. "Her children stand up and call her blessed"and her husband praises her. If this is not fulfilling one's talents, I don't know what is.
Of course, a woman may also choose to put her talents to use outside the home (or may have to do so to supplement the family economy), and society is increasingly blessed by the many ways in which women contribute their extraordinary gifts to the world of work. But the lesson we can learn from today's readings is that developing one's talents is more subtle than we think. We tend to think of talent development in terms of becoming proficient at some visible task such as playing a musical instrument or cultivating a technical skill. But perhaps we also need to develop talents such as empathy, listening or even the ability to suffer. Talents that need to be worked on and do not always come naturally to us.
We men also need to develop our talent for the home. What a great talent it is to be a good husband and father, and God will ask us what we have consciously and intentionally done to cultivate this talent. Perhaps we could start working on the talent of playing with children or dealing better with our awkward teenagers.
Homily on the readings of the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
The priest Luis Herrera Campo offers its nanomiliaA short one-minute reflection for these Sunday readings.