BLESSED IS THAT SERVANT WHOM THE MASTER ON ARRIVAL FINDS AWAKE
(Sunday, August 11, 2019 Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)
The three readings of today invite us to dwell upon the theme of our need for a lively faith and hope in the things to come. Faith is the confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see; and also the test of our faith is its endurance for the long haul, in good times and in bad times. In the Second Reading of today, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks about two faith-filled people, Abraham and Sarah. He recalls how our early faith ancestors placed their trust in God. Abraham and Sarah left their comfortable home and set out for an unknown land because God called them.
When God promised them that their 'descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea,' they were old enough to be great-grandparents and Sarah too was sterile. Even though for so long they saw no fulfillment of the promise, they believed. They had the virtue of faith, a lasting confidence that God's word would be fulfilled someday. And when God finally granted them a son, He asked Abraham to sacrifice him and still continue to believe, to trust, and to hope that the promise would still somehow be accomplished. Abraham, faithfully listening to the word of God, 'hoped against hope' that his son would be restored to him, even as he was willing to sacrifice him. It is shocking, even disgusting, to think that somebody was willing to sacrifice his own son to God.
Essentially, Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son is an act of trust, of faith, in which he was proved right. We consider Abraham our father in faith, and he is a model for our own times – he took great risks; he had no agenda other than his faithful obedience to the God in whom he trusted completely. We might ask whether we are models of faith in light of this passage.
Today's first reading from the Book of Wisdom recalls God's special care and protection of the Israelite people. The author sees God's people as 'the holy children of the good' who have cooperated with God's plan for salvation. Today's passage presents an account of the tenth plague during the night of the Passover, when the angel of death struck down the first born of the Egyptians and spared the Israelite people who had sprinkled the blood of the lamb on their door posts. God was liberating them from slavery and they put their trust in the power of their God to save them. God is always faithful to His promise. But He acts with divine wisdom and divine love, which is far above our ability to understand or see. We are challenged to put our trust in the promises of the Lord and never waver, never doubt His goodness, His power, and His love.
Today's Gospel begins by taking up the theme of last week, that is setting store on our treasure in heaven rather than being bound to our material treasures here on earth. Here Jesus speaks of material possessions as capturing the heart, not allowing one to be free to follow Him. So He challenges His disciples to reveal what it is they really value, following Him or being caught up in material wealth. But the actual theme of today's Gospel is 'remaining faithful as we wait for the return of the Lord.' Jesus uses two parables to make the point: First there is “the Parable of the Watchful Servants,” where Jesus encourages His disciples to be vigilant and ready for action as they wait for the coming of the Master.
That He will come is certain, but when He will come no one knows. The Lord comes unexpectedly into our lives every day through events and people we meet. But the ultimate expected coming of the Lord in our lives is the moment of death. We should be watchful to recognize the Lord and be prepared to meet him in the little unexpected opportunities of everyday life. This is the best way to prepare for the ultimate encounter with the Lord at the hour of death. In the second parable, “the Parable of the Faithful or Unfaithful Servant,” Jesus reiterates the lesson of the first parable under the heading of faithfulness. He portrays two different attitudes of disciples in the absence of the Master.
The wise disciple remains steadfast at his duty post even in the master's absence. The foolish disciple takes to a complacent lifestyle and takes the law into his own hands. The day of reckoning comes with the master's return. The faithful servant receives a promotion, the unfaithful one is 'cut to pieces' and given a place with the unbelievers. The Gospel completes this teaching in Jesus´ words to be ready at all times for the end, and to live each day as if it were the last; to live each day before God and to render fully to Him what He expects from each one of us.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to be fundamentally a man or woman of faith, someone who trusts completely in God throughout all the 'ups and downs' of life, someone who desires to do what God wants him to do even though he can’t precisely figure out what that is. It’s the desire that’s important. Significantly, therefore, when Jesus challenged His disciples, He prefaced His teaching with a counsel against fear. “Do not live in fear,” as the opening message in today’s gospel. Faith, not fear, was to be the guiding force in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. Faith would enable them to set their hearts on that never-failing treasure with the Lord; faith would empower them to live in a constant attitude of preparedness, ready to recognize and welcome Jesus, who promised to return for them at a time and in a manner they would least expect. Faith would keep them aware of and attentive to their responsibilities; faith would prompt them toward the mutual love and support of their brothers and sisters which was to characterize them as Jesus’ own.
Another way we Christians can prove that we are a people of faith is to live every day as though we expect Jesus to return. Jesus challenges His followers to be always ready for His return, to live as if the end were near: to build a true treasure, not fleeting wealth, giving freely, being generous and living in the sight of God at all times.
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me grace to grow in my faith so that I will be ready to prepare myself and be ready for your second coming by living a good life. Amen.