19th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C (2)

In today’s Gospel Our Lord warns us to be vigilant, but also promises that we will be rewarded if we serve him well. Peter’s question might be our own: to whom is he referring in this parable? Just some or all of us? That servant is you.

Today’s First Reading recalls that Passover night in Egypt when the Israelites celebrated the Passover in their homes as the Angel of Death passed through Egypt striking down the first born of those who did not serve the Lord (see Exodus 11:1-12:36). This was the last plague that represented the last straw for Pharaoh: he didn’t just release them from slavery in Egypt; he drove them out, along with all the other Egyptians. The author of the book of Wisdom sees this obedience by the Israelites to what the Lord had instructed them (the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb and Passover meal, the placing of the sacrificed lamb’s blood on the door) as faithful service to the Lord. It was also a moment for vigilance: their liberation from slavery and death was at hand. Their faithful obedience in this matter saved their lives and won them their freedom.

In today’s Second Reading we are reminded that, like Abraham, even in this life we have already received something of the faith that the Lord has promised us. It describes Abraham as having died without having seen the promises made to him by the Lord completely fulfilled. Before his death he received the land, an heir, and descendants, just as the Lord had promised. He even passed the great trial of faith by being willing to sacrifice Isaac at the Lord’s command, which would have killed two of the promises. The Lord’s promise went beyond Abraham’s family and blood descendants: Abraham’s faith paved the way for believers in Christ to call Abraham our father in faith, and to serve now with our eyes set on the true Promised Land that awaits us in the future: Heaven. Abraham’s countless descendants are all believers in Christ, more descendants that he could have ever imagined. We too have faith because the Lord has already done great things for us, whether we recognize them or not, and his promises are already being fulfilled, until the Last Day when they are completely fulfilled.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord encourages his disciples regarding his return at the end of time: the “wedding” of the Lamb is fulfilled in Heaven after his Ascension, and the master’s return in the parable refers to Our Lord’s Second Coming. He exhorts them to vigilance: to be ready to serve at any time, under any conditions, day or night (hence the lamp), at home or travelling (hence girded for a trip). He tells them his return could be quick or be long, but that they should be ready, whether late at night or early in the morning. He also describes how pleased he’d be to find them ready: can you imagine someone after a long trip making his servants sit down and waiting on them instead of the other way around? He considers himself the servant-in-chief. He wants his servants to share in the joy of a job well done in service to Our Heavenly Father. Peter asks Our Lord to explain the teaching about vigilance; was it only for the Twelve, or for everyone? Our Lord repeats the need for vigilance, and then explains the fate of servants who do not their master’s will. As believers we are servants of God and servants of others, but that doesn’t take away our freedom: we can be faithful servants or rotten ones. The choice is ours, but with that freedom comes responsibility.

Our Lord will return at the end of time, but for each of us, at the end of our life, we can expect an encounter with him as well. Ask yourself today how you’d react if Our Lord showed up right now on your doorstep. Is there anything to which you should have attended, but haven’t? Are you excited at the thought of his return? Persevere in hope, trust, and service.

Readings: Wisdom 18:6–9; Psalm 33:1, 12, 18–19, 20–22; Hebrews 11:1–2, 8–19; Luke 12:32–48. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C, 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday and Wednesday.