Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 8-7-16
Peace be with You,
This weekend, we continue our crash course in Christian discipleship picking up right where we left off last weekend. Last Sunday, Jesus taught us that we are to value material goods only inasmuch as they enable us to live lives of self-giving love. We saw that this requires us to live contemplatively, so as to view things with this end in mind. Today, we are given further instruction on the type of mentality the Christian disciple must maintain in order to live in such a manner.
The mentality that enables the Christian disciple to live a life of self-giving love in a contemplative manner can be described as faith-filled. Our word faith comes from the Greek pístis, meaning at a basic level, trust. Faith, as utilized here is not blind credulity as many would accuse believers of, but rather trust in the revealed Word of God as related by the prophets, apostles and most especially as lived by the Incarnate Son. It is interesting to note, that though denoting an abstract mentality, faith, in its fullest sense, does not remain in the realm of the static and abstract, but is lived. This quality of faith is explained in our first reading where we read of the ancient Israelites acting upon the message that had been related to them by Moses prior to the first Passover celebration (cf. Wisdom 18:6-9). It is again related to us in our second reading from Hebrews where we hear the story of Abraham, whom we are told: ‘sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country…for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect is God,’ and who ‘By faith received the power to generate, even though he was past the normal age…for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy’ (cf. Hebrews 11:9-11). What is made evident in these passages is that this trust we call faith is always precipitated by an encounter and realized in action as insinuated by the opening lines of or second reading where we read that “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
It is this understanding of faith that we must employ as we read the gospel for the weekend. As always, within this reading we encounter Jesus, the very Word of God made flesh. And notice please that Jesus begins his teaching for today with a promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). With this opening, we have been alerted that we are to approach what follows with the mentality of faith that we have explored above. Next, Jesus goes on to say: “[P]rovide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy” (Luke 12:33). Notice please, that this is very similar to the language employed by Jesus in last weekend’s gospel when he called us to become ‘rich in what matters to God’ (Luke 12:21). The parables that follow directly illuminate how it is that we are able to store treasure for ourselves in heaven.
Many will look at this parable and read it as an allegoric fable relating to the Parousia (the Second Coming of Christ that Christians believe will take place at the end of time). And, while these words of Jesus certainly do call to our attention that we must be prepared to meet our maker at any moment (whether it be at the end of the world or the end of our own life), I would ask us to recognize that these parables have something more to tell us about the manner in which we are to understand and conduct our lives day to day. This is made evident by the language within which the parables are framed.
Though perhaps odd, I would propose that we are able to gain a deeper understanding of just what it is that Jesus is trying to tell us by reading these parables in reverse order, beginning with the closing words of Jesus: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48). Moving backward we then read the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants (N.B. faith is being directly tied together with one’s actions). First, notice that the servant is being entrusted with much, in fact the care of the whole of his master’s household in the master’s absence. Jesus then tells us that the servant has two options as to how he can exercise this great gift: 1) He can treat his master’s servants with loving care, or 2) He can lord his power over his master’s servants. Given the words of Jesus, it is quite obvious that the master would prefer the first option as this options gains the servant praise, while the second severe punishment. Moving backward once again, we can see that it is the loving care of his fellow servants that makes the one entrusted with much either prepared or unprepared to welcome his master home at any time. Making one last step backward it becomes clear that living in this manner is how we can store treasure for ourselves in heaven, with an additional kicker.
Notice that just prior to telling these two parables, Jesus had said, “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Luke 12:34). For ancient peoples, the heart was seen as the central location of one’s being and consequentially representative of one’s whole self. In short, what we are being told here is that we are not to wait to live the life of the Kingdom of God until the day our earthly life ends and life eternal begins. Instead, by living a life of loving service we begin living the life of heaven here and now! However, in order to do so, like Abraham we must maintain a stance of faith.
My friends, faith is a portal which enables us to keep one foot here on earth and another in our heavenly homeland. Live a life of faith, and make the Kingdom of Heaven present to all around you starting today!
Your servant in Christ,