Reflections on Mass Readings for Nov. 19 (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time)
As we come to the next to last week of the liturgical year, it might be somewhat confusing that the Church chooses the reading from Proverbs, giving praise for a worthy wife. We might be forgiven for that confusion because most Catholics know that the readings for the last few weeks of the liturgical year focus on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.
So, how does the praise of a good wife fit in with that theme?
I took a course on liturgical theology from Msgr. Kevin Irwin. He suggested that to understand the choice of a certain reading on a certain day in the liturgical calendar, it was helpful to look at where else that reading was used in the lectionary.
This reading from Proverbs is used for the Memorials of St. Francis of Rome (who was happily married for 40 years) and of St. Jane Frances de Chantal (widowed at 28 with four small children and who later became a nun). It is also given to us by the Church as an option for the Mass for the Common of Holy Men and Women (a set of Mass readings for the feast days of saints) and for the sacrament of matrimony.
Remember that the sacrament of marriage is a sacrament of our relationship with Christ. In heaven, the reason that we are not married or given in marriage – as Jesus said – is because we no longer need the sacrament. We will be living the reality of our marriage with Christ.
Yet those of us who are called to live the vocation of marriage now are called to do so in a way that leads to us fully living out in heaven the meaning behind the sacrament. For those of us called to live a life of consecrated chastity, we do so not in rejection of marriage, but as a way of living out even now the heavenly reality of our marriage with Christ.
One of the titles of the Church is spouse of Christ. Whether we are a man or a woman, an adult or child, through baptism we all become Christ’s spouse. Because of this, we are all called to be a worthy wife. Proverbs praises the worthy wife for being diligent in her vocation. The worthy wife has a love that is expressed in everything that she does and is always open to the poor and those on the margins.
As we are called to remember the four last things – death, judgment, heaven and hell – we are called to diligently live out our vocation in such a way that we might live eternally with the holy men and women who make up the communion of saints and who live out their vocation as the bride of Christ.
Seeing the reading from Proverbs from this perspective, the reason it was given to us this week by the Church makes all the sense in the world.