We find the theme of Sunday's readings in Paul's warning to the Thessalonians (5:1-6): We belong neither to darkness nor to night; therefore, let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and sober!

Practical, down-to-earth activity goes with being followers of God. Those who give themselves over to God might not know how to translate "Carpe Diem!" but that doesn't stop them from eagerly seizing every day the Lord gives them.

The author of Proverbs believes everyone even women should be creatively and lovingly active (Prov 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31). Writing against a cultural background which stressed the exploits of men, the Sacred Author sees the "worthy wife" not as a Barbie Doll clone, but as a dynamic, ingenious individual. Among other projects, "she obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands,...puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle,...reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy."

Her actions proclaim her personality. She stands in contrast to "the cows of Bashan" whom Amos condemned several centuries before, wealthy women who "oppressed the poor, crushed the needy and pleaded with their husbands: `Bring us something to drink.'" No wonder the worthy wife's husband entrusts his heart to her. "Her value is far beyond pearls."

Take a chance

Counter to the faith most of us learned as children, the Gospel (Mt 25:14-30) has Jesus encouraging His followers not to be afraid to take chances. Overwhelmed with the fear of being eternally condemned to hell, most of us identify with the person who quickly buries the thousand silver pieces he received from his master.

Though we admire the two who ingeniously double their funds, we agree with former Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes' defense of his non-passing offense. "Three things can happen," Hayes said, "when you pass a football. And two of them ain't good." Our concern with eternal salvation is so intense that we concentrate only on the possibility of loss. We'd be out of our mind to risk what we have in a bad investment.

Yet, Jesus' words continue to ring in our ear. "Well done!" the master tells his two industrious servants. "Since you were dependable in a small matter, I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come, share your master's joy!"

We forget that our faith doesn't revolve only around the future. It's the faith of Jesus. Because it springs from Jesus' historical experiences, our faith has already been tried and tested in His life, death and resurrection. When Jesus tells any parable of risk, He's actually reflecting on His own faith experience. He could have played it safe and done only what others around Him expected. But He refused to bury the gifts and talents which God entrusted to Him. He stepped out of the safe line. Jesus discovered eternal life by risking life itself. His parable is His own faith journey. He's simply encouraging His followers to walk down the same road that He's traveling.

Paul's risk

We often forget that Paul gave up the security that came from following the Mosaic Law to be a follower of Jesus. Instead of basing his behavior on 613 safe regulations, the Apostle put faith in the Lord. He trusted his eternity to that relationship. That's why he encourages his community in Thessalonika to stop worrying about the Parousia and to start concentrating on their daily lives.

"The day of the Lord," Paul writes, "is coming like a thief in the night." Yet, if the Thessalonians zero in only on that future event, they'll never be part of what God's doing around them right now. "All of you," Paul reminds his community, "are children of light and of the day." Only those who live each day to the fullest will be ready when Jesus' special day arrives.

No matter the source of our fear, if it stops us from living life to the fullest, it doesn't come from God. We who imitate Jesus' faith must also imitate Jesus' lifestyle. We remember that it's not only a life of risk, it's also a life grounded in such a deep trust in God that no fear can ever stop us from taking that risk.