|19th Sunday in Ordinary time, 7 Aug 2016|
From the Dean’s desk
Today’s Gospel [Luke 12:32-48] can leave us feeling a little unsettled. It seems to be a difficult Gospel passage to understand and to apply to our lives, as it seems to speak of servants, masters and slaves – all titles that seem a little outdated to modern society and culture. However, when we consider its structure it can begin to open up for us some insights into Jesus’ teaching. This Gospel passage can be divided into three sections: a teaching on possessions [vv32-34]; a story that demonstrates the importance of watchfulness [vv 35-40] and instruction about responsible leadership [vv41-48].
From this Gospel passage the themes of ‘vigilance’ and ‘faith’ are predominant. What are we to be vigilant about? The Gospel tells us that we need to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, for we do not know the time or the hour of his arrival. To emphasise this Jesus gives us the story of the servant who awaits the master’s return from a wedding feast – they need to be vigilant, prepared and ready for his return. The result is surprising: the master will wait on the servants. There is reference here to the Last Supper and the foot washing. Our vigilance and faith lead us to a life of service.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews links faith with hope as he states: ‘only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended’ [Hebrews 11:2]. To emphasise the need for faith and hope, the author then presents to us the lives of Abraham and Sarah, as people who not only modelled the gift of faith and hope but also lived it to the full. Their story of faith makes up our second reading today [Hebrews 11:1-2.8-19]. It is through faith that we receive the blessings from God, even though we may not comprehend the realities to which we are called. Both Abraham and Sarah did just that: they left their homeland for a new land that God promised and journeyed into an unknown future with faith in God’s word [Genesis 12:1-4]. They accepted God’s word that they would have a child even though they were old [Genesis 18:9-15; 21:1-7]. They were willing to sacrifice their son Isaac who was the only evidence they had of God’s promise of many descendants. And God gave Isaac back to them as a sign of the truth of God’s word to them and as a witness to their confident hope [Genesis 22:1-19]. The author tells us that we have faith when we accept God’s word as the truth, confident that what God says will become a reality.
That same promise and call to faith and hope in God’s ways begins our Gospel today. Jesus assures us that ‘there is no need for us to be afraid…for it pleased your Father to give you the kingdom’ [Luke 12:32]. What does this gift of the kingdom entail for us then? Jesus makes mention of a radical poverty that allows us to solely focus on the elements of God’s kingdom as the sole ‘treasure’ that should make up our lives. He emphasises this by stating that: ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ [12:34].
In order then to treasure the kingdom of God, Jesus tells us that we need to be vigilant members of that kingdom. He uses the analogy of the masterservant, highlighting and stressing that the servant’s actions and sense of duty will not be reliant on the physical presence of the master. The servant will be just as dutiful when the master is away as when the master is also present and overseeing the servant’s work. In fact, Jesus tells us that the master will reward the vigilant and dutiful servant on his return by waiting on them and serving them at table [v.37], foreshadowing here the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus at the Last Supper [John 13:1-20].
Jesus tells us that simply because a great deal has been given to us (the kingdom of God), then a great deal will be demanded of us. This demand comes then in the form of our faith, hope and trust in God’s ways. We need to live lives that echo this faith, similar to Abraham and Sarah. This faith allows us to live our lives knowing that God will give us all that we require for life. It is a faith that allows us to move forward without knowing where the journey will take us. This is simply living out our Baptismal vocation, since it is the ‘sacrament of faith’ [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1236]. This faith is exercised each day in the following ways: by our seeking to do the Father’s will each day; to live each day conscious of the presence of Jesus as our constant and faithful companion; and to care for those we meet each day, since the fruit of faith and hope is love. May we be vigilant in the living out of our faith.
Fr Robert Bossini