Sunday, May 31, 2009

11-16-2008: 33rd Ordinary Time (A)

Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31/Psalm 128/1 Corinthians 5:1-6/Matthew 25:14-30
I wonder what the master in today’s gospel parable would have done upon his return if the servants he entrusted with his wealth had lost his money on bad investments rather than having returned it to him with interest. Would that unfortunate servant whom the master judged wicked and lazy - for not investing - have been held in any higher esteem for at least returning his master’s original principal? We’ll never know, of course. Besides, parables are not intended to be ambiguous but clear presentations of a moral lesson. And the moral in this one is no less ambiguous: don’t hide or squander your talents and skills out of fear but put them to good use. Like the worthy wife from the first reading who is praised precisely because she does not squander her talents but industriously, fearlessly, puts them to good use.

Life, though, is not as straightforward as a parable or a proverb; it’s not lived on an even playing-field. Life’s like a box of chocolates, the mother of that renowned philosopher of life, Forrest Gump, once said. You never know what you’re gonna get. Good investments and industriousness might work for some, but does the same advice hold for everyone. Fate deals us the cards, but our destiny lay in how we choose to play them.

Proverbs might hold a clue, though, on how we’re meant to play those cards. The worthy wife, we’re told, works with loving hands and her fingers ply the spindle. In Old German the word for spindle and fate are the same. In Late Antiquity, Boethius wrote that God “turns heaven like a spindle.” Our word spider comes from Old English meaning “spinner.” And how often is the Virgin Mary pictured spinning her wool as Gabriel makes his entrance to announce she has conceived divinity? This ancient archetype is not lost on us moderns either, especially the young, as we go on-line and embark on a daily adventure into the World Wide Web (www…). With all due respect to Bill O’Reilly, we are meant to be enmeshed in spin and, if there were an actual No-Spin Zone, it might prove to be a rather dull and boring place.

In contrast, the Spin-Zone (if we might call it that), is a holy place - where grace and imagination intercourse, where, as in the Incarnation itself, spin spawns divinity and salvation is had. If fate is but chance, then destiny is the chance we take on fate: where the likes of that proverbial lazy servant is judged wicked, not because of any particular moral flaw but because, from fear, he buried his meager but particular talent and refrained from taking a chance on life, missing his singular opportunity to put his unique spin on the unrepeatable life he was given.

Even in our complicated high-tech world the moral of the ancient parable holds true: fear is the biggest obstacle to a well-woven life.

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