33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
November 13, 2011

Today’s liturgy speaks as much of simple things as of seemingly insignificant matters. The first reading talks about the simplicity of a worthy wife, described as a “value beyond pearls.” The second reading talks about the deep, yet humble significance of the “times and seasons,” events in our everyday experience that we tend to take for granted. It also speaks about such mundane matters as day and night, darkness and light … again, realities that we hardly take notice of.

The Gospel makes much too, of what people in Jesus’ times most likely took for granted – the reality of servants who often would be left alone to fend for themselves, while their masters went away on long journeys. But more than just that, it speaks about something so simple and commonplace as the value of accountability, the good practice of stewardship, along with the virtue of responsibility.

But there are values and there are values … For their seeming simplicity and commonality, there simply are values that spell the difference between day and night, between light and darkness. I live in a place where a relatively big number of people live on dole-outs from government. Groceries tend to get crowded by shoppers on the first and the second days of the month, for that is the time the government dole-outs are given. In a land of supposed plenty, there is a lot of wastage going on, and a lot of what you might call, creative and imaginative uses of what the government gives away. I was told of people who actually “bought” only a handful of cheap items and the rest of the welfare money being converted to cash, or of people who actually bought bagfuls of expensive cuts of meat, and other groceries, only to sell them to eager second-hand shoppers for a much reduced price.

That is a value – the value of being enterprising!

Recently, we needed to procure a portable power generator. We found a relatively cheaper one, slightly used, bought from a store and returned for the simple reason that they were not satisfied with it. The customer is always right, mind you. Nothing illegal … nothing sinful … nothing out of the ordinary … except that it is unethical … exactly like people buying toys, enjoying them for a day or two, and then “returning” them and asking for a refund, for the simple reason that the wheel or something else did not seem to work right. Or think about people who shop around for expensive apparels to use once in a party, and then asking for a refund the morning after, for the simple reason that one “does not like it at all.”

That, too, is a value – the value of finding ways and means to use the capitalist system and put it to one’s best advantage!

Our consumerist world is full of values … We value convenience. We value speed and so many other things. We so prize quick service that in this throw-away world, hardly anyone uses real forks and knives, plates and bowls anymore, for they take up so much time to wash and dry and pile in cupboards. The most convenient thing would be to use styropor “paper products,” so called, and throw them away … which really means hiding them under the earth, out of sight and therefore out of mind … buried under the earth in increasing dumpsites all over the world.

That too, is a value – the value of convenience and speed and everything that saves precious time, while piling junk all over that takes thousands of years to process naturally.

Values, obviously they all are! But values, for the most part, that are associated, not with light and day, but with night and darkness!

From where I stand, the political culture, ostensibly born of the desire to “do public service,” is utterly dysfunctional. Decades of dysfunction have reduced the political machinery to nothing more than chicanery and deceit and tomfoolery. The values of decency and the search for the common good have long been prostituted at the service of self-serving and narrow political ends, which means money and naked ambition of all sorts. No more. No less.

That too, comes from a value – the value of leadership and so-called public service.

But all of it, as everyone knows, is more akin to night and darkness, rather than to light and day!

I work in a small school with big dreams and giant egos! I don’t know but when we were growing up, when I was just a greenhorn school administrator, before my age retired from the calendar, when children got bad grades, the parents turned their ire on them, taking them to task for not studying hard enough. From where I stand, times and values must have changed. When kids get bad grades, parents turn their ire on teachers and the school at large!

That, too, is a value – the value of asking for accountability, which in these litigious times, really translates to looking for someone to blame all the time. And yes, dear readers, you guessed it right … schools and administrators never get things right! Recently, we caught one student smoking weed. When we called for the parents, they had the gall to condemn the school for allowing such things to happen! Instead of accepting the blatant fact that their son was guilty of infraction of an important rule, they turned the tables against us, and took us to task for “allowing such things to happen.”

That, too, is a value – the value of protective and solicitous love for their children!

But was it Evangelii Nuntiandi, that, back in 1974, already taught the need to “evangelize cultures?” Yes … culture does need a whole lot of evangelization. Culture, no doubt, replete with values, need a great dose of purification. With so much narcissism and unbridled restlessness all around us, abetted by a media culture that glorifies the sordid and absurd, cultural practices like what the late Blessed Pope John Paul II called the “culture of death,” reign supreme and cause the “eclipse of God” in the lives of whole generations and entire nations in the fast shrinking globe. Night and darkness reigns, not light and day.

The clarion call to accountability and responsibility is clear from today’s readings. For all of us, it is not just a matter of giving back five talents or burying for safekeeping a single talent received in trust. We need to come out of the shadows of night and darkness, and come out to the light of responsibility and Christian stewardship. And more often than not, it means being counter-cultural, acting against the grain, being different from what contemporary culture expects of us, for “we are not of the night or of darkness.” “We are children of the light and children of the day.”