Year A: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings designed to help and instruct young men - hence the emphasis today on the “perfect wife”. The Reading was written for a time when society was far more patriarchal than it is now. This means that it does not speak as directly to us as to its original readers and so we have to approach it with an openness to the grains of truth that it has for us in our day
The responsibility of a young man in Old Testament society was to establish a new household and the Reading emphasises the need to choose a partner who will use her gifts and talents to ensure the smooth and prosperous running of the family.
This wisdom applied, in fact, both to men and to women - the choice of a life partner depended not just on appearances but on a willingness to contribute generously to the life of the family. If either the man or woman proved to be lazy and unwilling to use their God-given talents, then the family could be heading for ruin. Where both invested their talents in the family, then the way was open for prosperity and security.
In our society, subsistence (living on what you produce by your own hands) is far less common - and so what is required in a partnership has changed considerably... Very few women need to spin and dye the wool - weave the cloth - to make garments for their families just as few men need to plant the grain or buy the sheep to provide their food.
However, the principle of choosing wisely remains - not to accept someone who looks attractive but who will, in effect, hide their talents - but to choose someone who will form a true partnership. Such a partnership, as the reading suggest, benefits the partners themselves - but also the whole family - and overflows into generous concern for those in need around them.
What does it mean for me?
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