19th Sunday of ordinary time - C - AUGUST 12, 2007
First reading - Wisdom 18:6-9
Second reading - Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Gospel - 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 veryone?" 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."
Sigmund Freud, a famous Austrian neurologist, had a favorite story that touches on the point of preparedness. The story concerns a sailor who was shipwrecked and washed ashore on a South Pacific island.
He was greeted enthusiastically by natives. They clapped and sang, hoisted him on their shoulders, carried him to their village, and sat him on a golden throne. Little by little, the sailor learned what was going on. The islanders had a custom of occasionally making a man king for a year. During his kingship he could order his subjects to do anything within reason, and they would obey him without question.
The sailor was delighted that he had been chosen to be the king. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Then one day he began to wonder what happened to a king when his year of kingship ended.
That’s when his excitement and enthusiasm came to an abrupt end. He discovered that at the end of his kingship, he would be banished to a barren island, called King’s Island. There he would be left to starve to death as a sacrifice to the gods. After the sailor recovered from his shock, he slowly began to put together a plan. As king, he ordered the carpenters of the island to build a fleet of small boats. When the boats were ready, he ordered the farmers of the island to dig up fruit trees and plants, put them in the boats, and transplant them on King’s Island. Finally, he ordered the stone masons to build a house on King’s Island. In this way, the sailor prepared carefully for the day when his kingship would end and he would be banished to King’s Island.
That story makes a good illustration of what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel.
In the words of Jesus, elsewhere in the gospel, he is telling us to “save your riches in heaven, where they will never decrease, because no thief can get to them,
and no moth can destroy them.” He’s telling us to do what the sailor did.
Today’s gospel invites us to ask ourselves how well we are preparing ourselves for that day when, like the sailor in the story, our life on this planet will come to an end. It invites us to ask ourselves, “If we were to die tonight, how ready would we be to face God?’’
And if our answer to that question leaves something to be desired, then we can be sure
that Jesus is speaking to us in a special way through today’s gospel. He is saying:
“Be . . . like servants who are waiting
for their master to come back. . . .
And you, too, must be ready,
because the Son of man will come at an hour
when you are not expecting him.”