Sunday, November 18, 2007

33rd Sunday - commentary

The following is a commentary on today's readings by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, as provided by

This Sunday's Gospel is one of the famous discourses on the end of the world, which are characteristic of the end of the liturgical year. It seems that in one of the first Christian communities, that of Thessalonica, there were believers who drew mistaken conclusions from these discourses of Christ. They thought that it was useless to weary themselves, to work or do anything since everything was about to come to an end. They thought it better to take each day as it came and not commit themselves to long-term projects and only to do the minimum to get by.

St. Paul responds to them in the second reading: "We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food." At the beginning of the passage, St. Paul recalls the rule that he had given to the Christians in Thessalonica: "If anyone will not work, let him not eat."

This was a novelty for the men of that time. The culture to which they belonged looked down upon manual labor; it was regarded as degrading and as something to be left to slaves and the uneducated. But the Bible has a different vision. From the very first page it presents God as working for six days and resting on the seventh day. And all of this happens in the Bible before sin is spoken of. Work, therefore, is part of man's original nature and is not something that results from guilt and punishment. Manual labor is just as dignified as intellectual and spiritual labor. Jesus himself dedicates 17 years to the former -- supposing he began to work around 13 -- and only a few years to the latter.

A layman has written: "What sense and what value does our ordinary work as laypeople have before God? It is true that we laypeople also do a lot of charity work, engage in the apostolate, and volunteer work; but we must give most of our time and energies to ordinary jobs. If this sort of work has no value for heaven, we will have very little for eternity. No one we have asked about this has been able to give us satisfactory answers. They say: "Offer it all to God!" but is this enough?

My reply: No, the value of our work is not only conferred on it by the "good intention" we put into it or the morning offering we make to God; it also has a value in itself, as a participation in God's creative and redemptive work and as service to our brothers. We read in one of the Vatican II documents, in "Gaudium et Spes," that it is by "his labor [that] a man ordinarily supports himself and his family, is joined to his fellow men and serves them, and can exercise genuine charity and be a partner in the work of bringing divine creation to perfection. Indeed, we hold that through labor offered to God man is associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ" (No. 67).

The work that one does is not as important as that for which he does it. This re-establishes a certain parity, beneath distinctions -- which are sometimes unjust and scandalous -- in position and pay. A person who has done the most humble jobs in life can be of greater "value" than those people who hold positions of great prestige.

It was said that work is a participation in the creative action of God and in the redemptive action of Christ and that it is a source of personal and social growth, but we know that it is also weariness, sweat and pain. It can ennoble but it can also empty and wear down. The secret is to put one's heart into what one's hands do. It is not so much the amount or type of work done that tires us out, as much as it is the lack of enthusiasm and motivation. To the earthly motivations for work, faith adds eternal motivations: "Our works," the Book of Revelation says, "will follow us" (14:13).


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had an interesting question posed to me today. I was asked if I thought trust and faith were the same thing. I was told that perhaps I was confusing the two. Maybe. I was told that trust is based on evidence while faith extends beyond reason. Would that mean that faith is NOT based on evidence? Wouldn't that make faith, at least sometimes, unreasonable? And what human being is totally trustworthy or totally untrustworthy? If we trust based on evidence alone, what human being could we reasonably trust?

At 3:18 PM, Blogger bethany said...

I've always considered faith, to a certain extent to be irregardless of reason. In that sense I personally consider unreasonable but that's not a bad thing.

I'll agree that most human trust is based on past experience (evidence)-- i.e. Mike trusts that Anya will support him because she has in the past. Jo has trouble trusting guys because she's been hurt by them so many times in the past. Both are trusting or distrusting based on past evidence.

At 9:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reason, to me, is confusing. When I look at specific things all alone- like transubstantion, for example- maybe it isn't "reasonable". But when looked at in the context of Christ's whole life, and what He tells us through the Gospels, it becomes reasonable.

Faith must encompass reason, or why would we believe? If we believe in the Word of Christ, because we know Him to only be truth, then isn't whatever He said or did able to stand up to reason?

At 11:10 AM, Blogger fran said...

Faith vs. Trust

An example: say my daughter has car privileges and breaks curfew on more than one occasion. She has broken my trust, but I have faith that she will change her ways and learn to respect the house rules.
I think this applies to many situations where trust is broken. It is not possible to predict if trust will be restored, but faith should remain, as the person can always change.

Faith and Reason

Many of the things Jesus did defy reason. He changed water into wine, he raised Lazurus from the dead, he gave sight to a blind man with a salve of mud, he cured people of leprosy with the touch of his hand. None of these may seem reasonable to us, but we believe that they did happen. We believe because with God ALL things are possible, not reasonable, but really and truly possible.

At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Sometimes we are called to do interior work. We are broken by life circumstances. Our job is to get up and put one foot in front of the other. This is very hard work. Work that must be mostly done alone and with God alone. I have this job now, and it is the hardest work I have ever had to do. My hope is to get this work done quickly so that I can move out of brokeness into wholeness. I want to be a better mother, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, and servant of God.

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly- it’s good to hear from you again, as your family has been one I have thought about recently. I may seem strange thing to say, for you don’t know me, but FG mentioned your family in a post not too long ago, and you were one of those that occupied my thoughts I’m addressing here-

I’ve been having a hard time understanding why “bad things happen to goods people,” and Fr. Greg directed me to read Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) by Pope John Paul II. Here is the link to the full document:

My lack of understanding wasn’t so much in response to circumstances in my own life but more what I’d been seeing in others’. One of the first sections addresses something that did, however, resonate with me personally. It talked about the difference between physical and moral suffering. I hadn’t before made that distinction, and I was at a loss to explain to anyone why secular counseling wasn’t the right avenue for me- been there, done that- no difference (I’m not saying the counseling isn’t helpful- it just didn’t address specific issues for me). I thought my feelings about all entering into everything I was experiencing, and I placed a lot of emphasis on my feelings about what was going on (and so did my previous counselors). I thought I needed to feel good about my actions, and if I didn’t feel good about them, I was in crisis. I relegated the things for which I felt badly into God’ column of things for which He was at fault.

Being able to separate the kinds of suffering I am experiencing helps me to address issues more succinctly. It’s not that I don’t think God has the power to heal all- I do- but if I don’t deal with the issues for which I am suffering morally FIRST, the bad feelings, pain, resentment, etc. will inevitable follow. For me, it’s been a cycle. If I deal with the moral issues first- this is the right thing to do and will always be the right thing to do, regardless of what doing this means to me in this moment in my life- it gives me a kind of power to know (because I am doing the right thing) I can handle what will come. I can do the right thing because it is the right thing and still suffer physically/psychologically. But if I don’t do what I know to be morally (spiritually) right, I will always suffer physically/psychologically. Even if I suffer physically, if morally I am okay, then I am okay in the way that matters most. It’s a big distinction for me.

I'm not sure if any of this will make sense to anyone but me....but Kelly- it is an internal process with God first and foremost. I can see that there is great good in that process (in the midst of suffering) and pray that you will as well.

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Dear Anon,

I found a great non secular book in St. Francis library. It is called "Authenticity" by Thomas Dubay, S.M.
Great book. It is both affirming and convicting. I also read the link on suffering. Difficulty absorbing it but many parts resonated with me. I read the book of Job last summer. I will have to read it again. THanks for your kinds words!


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