Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blessed Are The Servants Whom The Master Finds Vigilant Upon His Return.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I
Wisdom 18:6-9
The night of the passover was known
beforehand to our fathers,
that, with sure knowledge of the oaths
in which they put their faith,
they might have courage.
Your people awaited the salvation of the just
and the destruction of their foes.
For when you punished our adversaries,
in this you glorified us whom you had summoned.
For in secret the holy children
of the good were offering sacrifice
and putting into effect
with one accord the divine institution.
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Psalm 33
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
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Reading II
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.

By faith Abraham obeyed
when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land
as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob,
heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward
to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
—and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one
who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised
but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves
to be strangers and aliens on earth,
for those who speak thus
show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land
from which they had come,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland,
a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises
was ready to offer his only son,
of whom it was said,
“Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.”
He reasoned that God was able
to raise even from the dead,
and he received Isaac back as a symbol.
Luke 12:32-48
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants
who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant
whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants
and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations
nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required
of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded
of the person entrusted with more.”
Today’s scriptures give us lessons in the history of the relationship between God and the people God created.

The first lesson is found in the second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews. Its subject is the patriarch Abraham. He was the focus of the First Reading on the last two Sundays in July, on the last Sunday, when Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah completely, for the sake of the few innocent people there, and on the previous Sunday, when God promised him that he and his wife Sarah would be blessed with a son, in their old age.

Today, the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of Abraham’s story from the outset. God called him to leave the country where he lived. He had to leave his friends and neighbours and most of his family. God did not then tell Abraham where he was to go. He just said, ‘Go to the land that I shall show you’. So Abraham set off, because he knew that he could trust God. We like to know where we are going and we like to choose the way. Abraham obeyed God’s command, although he did not yet know where he was to go. He knew it was right to trust God and to obey him.

When Abraham arrived in the land that God had promised to him, he lived there as a foreigner. He had no rights or possessions in that land. Later he did buy a small piece of land in which to bury those who died. He had no house to live in, but with his family he lived in tents. His son Isaac and Isaac's son Jacob also had no permanent place in the land. But God gave them the same promises.

Abraham was content to live as a foreigner in the land. He knew that one day God would do all that he said that he would do. Abraham looked forward, beyond his death, to his true home in heaven. He would no longer be a stranger, but he would belong there. By faith he saw a city which God planned and built. God has made the foundations of it, so we know that they will never fail. It will not be like living in tents, but will be a permanent home for the people of God.

When God told Abraham that he would have a son, both he and his wife Sarah were really old. At first, Sarah laughed at the idea. But Abraham trusted God to do what he promised. Sarah received strength for the birth. Isaac was born. And God promised that Isaac would be the first of a very large family. They would be like the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea - too many to count.

The second lesson is found in today’s First Reading, from the Book of Wisdom. It focuses on the night when the LORD told Moses to tell the Hebrew families to gather together at sundown to celebrate a meal, the main course being roast yearling lamb. When that meal was done, they began a journey from Egypt to Canaan, the land on the west bank of the Jordan, a journey that took them forty years. When they left Egypt, they had no knowledge of the trials and tribulations that lay ahead of them, but, by and large, they kept faith in the promise God made to them, that he would save them, and punish their enemies.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that they have nothing to fear, because God, His Father and theirs, has promised them a place in his kingdom. Jesus wants his disciples to be like servants are ready to welcome the master when he comes home from a wedding banquet. No one on the household staff knows when the party will end; they need to be on the alert for the master’s return all night long. Those servants who stay awake and ready when their master returns will get a pleasant surprise: the master will put on an apron, ask them to sit down at the table, and he will serve them a meal. Whether he gets back at midnight, or at three in the morning, or even at dawn, if they’re ready, they will be rewarded.

Then Peter asks a question: “Lord, are you telling this story for us or for everyone?” Some of the scripture scholars suggest that Peter is thinking about Jesus’ teaching that he will be going back to the Father, but will come again on the Day of Judgment. Peter seems concerned that some of the disciples will not be ready to greet Jesus when he comes again.

Jesus answers with another parable: He makes a comparison between a loyal servant who manages the household wisely during the master’s absence, making sure to give the other servants the food they need at the proper time. If the servant has carried out his duties properly in the master’s absence, not only will the master be pleased, but the servant might be promoted, and placed in charge of the property on a permanent basis. On the other hand, if the servant thinks, “The master is taking a long time to come back”, and he starts abuse the other servants, both men and woman, and he eats and drinks too much, and gets drunk, that servant will be severely punished. And finally, it is possible that the servant put in charge of the master’s property does not really know what the master wants, and may do something wrong that deserves severe punishment, but will be punished lightly, because he acted out of ignorance, and not out of malice.

The lesson is clear, and it applies to all of his disciples, including ourselves: God will be fair when he punishes people who do wrong. The more responsibility God gives us, the greater the graces we receive to guide us in fulfilling our duties. In this gospel, Jesus is preparing us for our Passover from this life to the next. We must always be prepared, because the Lord will come when we do not expect. Once upon a time someone approached Francis of Assisi, and said: “Holy Father Francis ...” “Don’t call me holy”, Francis interrupted him. “ I’m not dead yet.” The moral of the story is this: “Live as if today was the first day, the last day, the only day of your life, because one of these days, it will be.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Then Peter asks a question: “Lord, are you telling this story for us or for everyone?” Some of the scripture scholars suggest that Peter is thinking about Jesus’ teaching that he will be going back to the Father, but will come again on the Day of Judgment. Peter seems concerned that some of the disciples will not be ready to greet Jesus when he comes again.

A few days ago, we read that Peter is given the keys to the kingdom of Heaven.
The following day, Peter states “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God”.
Now today, Peter asks “Lord, are you telling this story for us or for everyone?”

Ever notice that with each step of knowledge and understanding, with each new certitude, your concern for readiness when Jesus comes again starts to move beyond your own self and begins to include those around you? How that will then, affect your actions toward others, your prayer life for others and most of all, build a community of faith, hope and love?

In the end, it worked for Peter, it works for his successors and it will work for us.