Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dance Steps

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
(World Day of the Poor)

Picture: cc Juliana Chong

My dear friends, do you dance? As you know, dancing involves movement. But not all movement is dance. To dance is to move in a certain way. One’s movements must match the music heard in the ears… or in the heart. We might say that dancing begins not by wilfully performing some movement, but by humbly receiving a rhythm. First I listen to the music. Then I match my movements to what I hear.

Perhaps the same can be said about what we find in our readings today. Something that is described in different ways. The first reading and the psalm call it wisdom, and the fear of the Lord. The other readings speak of staying wide awake and sober, of being prepared for the master’s return.

At first glance, the readings may give us the impression that being well-prepared is all about movement. The first reading tells us that the perfect wife is always busy, not just with household chores, but also with reaching out to the poor. And it seems that the wicked servant in the gospel is punished only because he doesn’t do enough. Doesn’t move enough.

If our reflection were to go no deeper than this, then we might feel obliged simply to do more. To engage in more vigorous movement. Perhaps to join a new ministry in church, or to volunteer at a charity. All of which may actually be good and commendable actions, if we can sustain them. But could it be that, just as there is more to dancing than movement, there is also more to wisdom than simply engaging in more activity?

Consider where that wicked servant might actually have gone wrong. How did he become so paralysed by fear? Was it not because he failed to properly receive the precious gift that had been given to him? Commentators say that, in the parable, a talent signifies a very large sum of money. We might think of a million dollars, for example. Could it be that, if only the servant had considered the immense trust that must have accompanied the handing over to him of such a large sum, he might have been moved to match that gift with a more courageous and creative response?

Could it be that, if we find it difficult to reach out to the poor in more sustained and creative ways, it’s because we don’t ponder enough how much God has reached out to us, and continues to do so, especially here in the Eucharist? Preoccupied with securing our own greater comfort, we fail to listen to the silent cries of those who may lack even the most basic necessities. How then can we expect to match our movements to the rhythms of our merciful God?

I’m reminded of these words from a hymn we used to sing:

Dance, then, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.

And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be.

And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

Sisters and brothers, on this fourth World Day of the Poor, how might we better help one another to enter more fully into the Lord’s Dance today?

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