'You, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief, for you are all children of the light and children of the day...' -- I Thes 5:4-5

The urgency of the Gospel call to conversion comes through once again in this week's readings. St. Paul says (1 Th 5:1-6) that "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night."

He adds this, however, and we must not forget it: "But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief."

The challenge of vigilance and readiness is presented again as we approach the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of Advent. Vigilance has to do with how we comport ourselves in the "in-between" time, the time after Jesus Christ's resurrection but before His second coming.

This is clearly presented in Sunday's Gospel (Mt 25:14-30). When the master of the house leaves on a long journey, he gives his servants part of his property to care for until his return. The servants entrusted with the master's property then have to give an account of their earnings when he comes back.

Of note
Two things are worth noting:

• first, the property or "talents" are the master's, just as we ourselves belong to God. We are free to choose how to live our lives, but let us not forget that who we are and what we have belongs ultimately to God. It's easy to think that what we have is due to our own ingenuity and hard work. But we have cooperated with the gifts given to us by God. He enables us to bring the work to a good end.

• Second, God will ask for a reckoning. He does not ask us for success, necessarily, but He does expect our effort. This is the point of the parable. If we are given much, we work with it; if we are given little, we work with that, too. In addition, we have been told ahead of time that we need to prepare for His return: We will be held accountable for how we live our lives. If, in the end, we only have excuses, we can expect to be thrown out "into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

This truth is not meant to paralyze us. The flip side is that if we actually do something with what God entrusts to us, we can expect to enter into the joy of the master. We just have to be realistic about what it takes and what is at stake.

Use talents
How do we deal with the time we have, and what do we do with the talents we have received? This is where the first reading (Prov 31:10-13,19-20,30-31) comes in. It gives the answer to that fundamental question.

The woman described in the reading has no anxiety. She knows what her work is and goes about it. In doing so, she lives an honorable life. Most interestingly, we are told that she "does good to [her husband], and not harm." How often do we reflect on what it would mean to do good, not harm, to those closest to us? How often do we change our habits or patterns of negativity to actually do it?

The wife presented in Proverbs receives the fruit of her hand, much like the servants in the Gospel. Their fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and they walk in His ways. Each of us is called to do the same.