The God Who Nurtures Us
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) | Fr David Goodill says that God nurtures his people, especially those who live their lives as though they have nothing to do with him.
Today’s First Reading from Proverbs gives a description of the perfect wife. It’s tempting to imagine a cosy domestic scene with the mistress of the house content in her work, locked away from the worries of the outside world. But if we read more carefully, and consider that spinning was not a past time for the leisured classes, but an essential part of the economic activity of society, a different picture emerges. Far from being removed from the outside world she reaches out to the poor, deserves a share of what she has earned and her praises are sung at the city gates. In other words, what happens at home does not stay at home, and societies throughout the ages have been built on the work of women inside and outside the home.
In describing the relationship between Israel and the Lord Scripture often uses the image of husband and wife, but we also find the language of motherhood. The Lord feeds his people, he cares for them, nurtures them and weeps for them. He nurtures his people in the desert through their first stumbling steps as they cross the Red Sea, to their entry as a mighty nation into the Promised Land. Psychologist call attention to the importance of our early development, and how essential a mother’s early role is for the future flourishing of her children.
The image of God nurturing his people casts some light on today’s Gospel. At first glance the master who goes abroad seems far removed from the God who feeds his people. But it is important to remember that although the master is abroad the servants are still his servants and the talents he gives them are his talents. All that they do will be done in his name and under his authority. He may be absent but he has put his trust in these servants and he asks them to return this trust by trusting in him; that he will reward them for the work they have done on his behalf.
The first two servants have secure relationships with their master. He has nurtured them and they return his trust by trusting in his goodness to them. The talents they earn do not make them independent of him, but enable them to enter more fully into his happiness. There is a virtuous circle of love and trust, such that the more that they have the more they will be given.
The third servant acts as if he has no relationship with his master. When confronted by the master he makes the excuse that he was afraid and so hid the master’s talent. But if he was truly afraid he would have invested his master’s money rather than hiding it. He accuses the master of being a hard man, but the master sees through this excuse and turns it back on him. A servant who is afraid of his master is at least in some kind of relationship with the master, and a good master will seek to overcome this servile fear by turning it into a loving filial respect. The problem with the third servant is that in his own mind he has no relationship with the master, and so the master confirms him in his isolation, consigning him to the dark.
Yet we know that God will never abandon his people, even and especially those who live their lives as if they have nothing to do with him.
It is into the darkness of this world that God sends his eternal Word, the light who shines in the darkness. From the cross Jesus Christ reaches out to those who dwell in the night. Through his broken body he binds up those who are lost in this world, gently nurturing those who allow him to heal their wounded isolation, inviting them to come and share in their master’s joy. And so we are called to reach out to those who are poor in love, using all that God has entrusted us with, so that through Jesus Christ our praises will be sung at the gates of the eternal city.
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Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of a stained glass window in Bamburgh parish church.
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