Worthy in Love

Readings for November 19, 2017

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/

Some may cringe at the notion of a “worthy wife,” reading into the phrase an unequal relationship. Yet, reading further, the author of the Proverb speaks of a similarly worthy husband entrusting his heart to his wife. My wife and I have been married more than 30 years and while I have often joked that our years together have paid greater dividends to me than they have to her, we live in a full and equal partnership. She may not carry out all the tasks in the Proverb’s verses (if we have a spindle in the house, it is well hidden!), but her actions are centered on “good,” and she “works with loving hands.” She has also survived the “labor pains of a pregnant woman,” raised our children, shared my joys and sorrows, and “extended her hand to the poor and needy.” In entrusting my heart to her, I must also serve her. Our marriage requires an assumed reciprocity that works through love to serve each other in love. Only in serving one another is there a worthy love.

In its Catechism, the Catholic Church definitively recognizes the equal partnership of marriage. “The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to husband and wife in mutual and unreserved affection” (CCC 1645). Contrary to a subservient relationship, then, marriage must be an equally shared love where “authentic married love is caught up into divine love” (CCC 1639). Mutual, unreserved, authentic, divine – that absolutely seems to be a suitable definition of “worthy.”

To maintain our strong marriage, my wife and I must work to understand one another and to trust each other to work toward and through that understanding. Which is why there is nothing that irritates my wife more than when I go against what I know she wants me to do. In doing so, I have failed to understand her and I’ve risked damaging our relationship and separating myself from her love. That self-separation is the sin of the third servant who buried the talent given to him by his master. He did not squander, steal or lose the money making an ill-advised investment. Instead, this servant knew his master wanted a return on his investment. But untrusting of his master’s charity, he was scared. He feared his master’s expectations and, because of that fear, he did nothing. He was punished for this. What he had was taken away and given to others and he was cast “into the darkness outside.” This is a powerful metaphor for living outside of God’s love.

In a mutually loving relationship, I should fear any loss of that love. Fear is natural. Fear in the face of high expectations, doubly so. And no one has higher expectations for me than God. But the problem is not my fear. After all, one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is Fear of the Lord. When I fear the Lord, I “walk in his ways!” The problem is when I allow myself to be paralyzed by fear, as did the third servant. God understands if I mess up – in fact, He knows I’m going to. God only cares that I try. And as I’ve written many times before, what He wants to see me try my hardest at is love.

Often, it seems society treats love as a reaction. I am supposed to love my job, my car, my baseball team, and my new paella pan because they give me brief moments of happiness and pleasure. Love, however, is much deeper than a reaction to gratification. In its truest form, love is other-centered, favoring action over reaction. Pope St. Gregory the Great is quoted as saying, “Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” Loving my wife isn’t about what she can do for me or how well she understands me. It’s about what I can do for her, and how well I understand her.

The same holds true for loving my God, and for a servant loving his master. When I know what to do to act in love, true love requires I do so. Love pays dividends. Love multiplies talents. Love makes me a “good and faithful servant.”

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