Scripture reflection: Well done, good and faithful servant

9 November 2023

Grant us we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full of lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good. Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 19 November 2023.

First reading:
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Responsorial Psalm:
Ps 127(128):1-5
Second reading:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30
Link to readings

The readings in this final week of Ordinary Time Year A remind us again of the need to be always prepared for the coming of Christ by the way we live our lives. In the First Reading, the writer extols the virtues of the perfect wife. Although using language which reflects the practice and culture of biblical times, the passage speaks powerfully of the value and dignity of manual work, the importance of charity, and respect for all, whatever their role in life.

The Psalm speaks again of the dignity of work, of being self-sufficient, providing for one’s family, and living in awe of the Lord. St Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that if we live our lives in the light of Christ, we have no need to fear the coming of the reign of God. In the Gospel, Jesus uses the parable of the talents to show the importance of making best use of what we have been given for the benefit of others.

This week, we might pray for those who struggle to realise where their own talents lie, and those who lack the opportunity to be recognised, valued and celebrated. We also continue to pray for peace across the world.

1 Thessalonians 5: 1–6
You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers and sisters, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, brothers and sisters, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all children of light and children of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober.

As I settle in the place where I will pray today, I spend time becoming still in whatever way works best for me. To begin, I may like to focus on my breathing. Without changing it, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me put aside any worries or anxieties for this time of prayer. When I feel ready, I read through the passage slowly, perhaps imagining St Paul writing personally to me. I read his words and let them sink in. Perhaps there’s a word or a phrase that particularly resonates? I stay with it, and ponder its significance, asking the Lord to help me see and hear more clearly. Returning to the text, I notice what comes to mind when I consider the ‘times and seasons’ in which we’re now living.

In what ways does my faith in the promises of the Lord influence my response to what I see around me? I ponder. Perhaps I recall particular times in the past when I felt that I was ‘living in the dark’. Who or what helped me find my way back to the light? I talk to the Lord about what that felt like.

Paul reminds me that I am ‘a child of light, a child of the day’. What does that mean to me? How might others see that light through the way I live my life? Before concluding my prayer, I may want to bring before the Lord someone for whom ‘the worst’ has happened. In my own words, I ask that the Lord be close to them in their time of darkness.

Matthew 25: 14–21 (part)
Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third, one; each in proportion to their ability. Then he set out. ‘The one who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The one who had received two made two more in the same way. But the servant who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. ‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more, saying. “Sir, you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.” The master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”’

I take a few moments to ponder how I am feeling as I come to pray. I ask the Lord to be with me in whatever way he knows I need today. Perhaps putting myself in the place of one of the servants, I read the passage through slowly a number of times, noticing how it feels as I look at what the master has given to me. What motivates me now? Ambition . . . confidence in my own ability . . . the desire to please . . . doubt . . . fear . . . or something else? I ponder.

I pause to consider the ways in which my own life has been enriched by the talents I have been given. How do I express my gratitude? Or do I sometimes take things for granted? What is it that I truly value? I may like to invite Jesus to come and sit by my side as I review what has been entrusted to me. I look back, without judgment, at the ways in which I have already made use of my talents.

I listen to what Jesus says to me about how I am using them now, and what I might do in the future. How does it feel to hear him call me ‘Good and faithful servant’? In whatever way feels right, I offer my thanks to the Lord for this precious time in his presence.

Courtesy of St Beuno’s Outreach, the Diocese of Wrexham, UK