We can't be conscious of everything that
happens in our life. Anyone who actually tried to do so would quickly go
insane. We must experience certain things without reflecting on them or even
noticing that they've taken place.
If, for instance, we tried to be conscious of
every car we encounter on an interstate highway, we'd instantly have an
The key to a successful, fulfilled life is to
learn to be conscious of the things that make us fulfilled, to concentrate
on what brings success.
Sunday's three sacred authors encourage us to
do precisely that. Paul sets the theme with his command (I Thes 5: 1-6)
"Let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and sober!"
The Proverbs author ends his work by telling us
on what the "worthy wife" should concentrate (Prov 31: 10-13,
19-20, 30-31). Though it's a rare woman today who "obtains wool and
flax, and makes cloth with skillful hands," the writer's point is
still valid: We're most fulfilled in life when we're habitually
conscious of the needs of others, and do our best to take care of as many
needs as possible.
Here and now
Writing to the Thessalonians, a community
anxiously expecting Jesus' Second Coming, Paul points out how their
preoccupation with that future event is causing them to break their
concentration on the present.
Though our liturgical passage ends abruptly
with Paul's command to stay alert and sober, he goes on to tell his
readers to "live together with [Jesus],...to encourage one another and
build one another up,...to be at peace among yourselves."
Paul believes his readers should be
concentrating on forming community instead of worrying about the "times
and seasons" that will precede Jesus' triumphant arrival.
The same thought motivates Matthew (25: 14-30).
That's why he reminds his church of the allegorical parable which
comprises the Gospel. He shares Jesus' belief that the more we act on our
faith, the more our faith grows.
Scholars point out that Jesus is here
encouraging His followers to go against Jewish law: to make money from
lending money. Notice what the man asks the poor individual who returns the
same amount of money he received. He wants to know why he didn't
"deposit my money with the bankers, so that on my return I could have
had it back with interest?"
Following the course of the allegory, it's
obvious that, going against custom and tradition, faith isn't a commodity
to be preserved and hoarded, but a power and force that continually grows
and increases the more we put it to use.
Biblical authors presume everyone has many of
the same experiences in life. What distinguishes people of faith from those
without faith is their knack of concentrating on persons, things and events
that others habitually ignore. We find ourselves reflecting on what others
don't even notice.
The older we get in the faith, the clearer it
should become that religion offers us lots of "stuff." Our
Scripture writers tell us what part of this stuff we should push into the
background of our lives and what we should constantly be pulling into the
Theologically, all that the bishops did at the
Second Vatican Council was to pull some things which the Church had for
centuries relegated to the perimeter of our faith into the center and focus
of our faith. In turn, they pushed some of the center things out to the
perimeter. What many of us thought we couldn't live without before 1962
gradually disappeared from our field of vision, to be replaced with ideas
and concepts we had rarely noticed.
Should we ever again find ourselves in a pre-conciliar
mindset, we need only open our Scriptures. It's always there, ready to
provide us with a God-conducted eye exam.