Bulletin, August 11, 2019
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our readings today explore how faith begins and how faith works. Faith begins with God’s initiative of love, together with God’s promise about the future. The passage from Hebrews urges readers to have an assured confidence in God, who promised and delivered a lasting legacy to Abraham. The book of Wisdom reminds readers of the God who promised and delivered freedom from slavery during the Exodus. In the Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus begins with the promise that “your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom,” before describing how to live faithfully during times when God seems absent. God’s promises mean that God is fully invested in our future. Living in these promises, we can confidently let go of fear and insecurity. We can anticipate that when God intervenes in our lives, it will be for our benefit. And we can become God’s partners in fulfilling these divine promises.
PREPARE TO BE SURPRISED
In Luke’s Gospel today, Jesus places a strong emphasis on being alert, watchful, and vigilant. Similar passages recur throughout the Gospels, but here the call to vigilance is placed distinctly in the context of living in profound trust in God. It is not a vigilance based on fear, of “getting caught” doing something bad. This vigilance is based on confident hope that God will bring healing and justice. Exactly when and how God will intervene is not known to us. We need to be alert for God’s activity and expect to be surprised and disrupted, but primarily we need to live faithfully.
How can we practice vigilance? Regular patterns of prayer and reflection, works of charity and justice, and everyday kindness help us to stay alert. We can practice listening to others, especially to those we perceive as different from us. We can let go of excessive distractions. We might loosen our busy schedules to provide space for spontaneous generosity. We can learn to live in the present moment, listening for God’s voice within.
THE MASTER WHO SERVES
In his parable of the master and the servants, Jesus pulls a surprise on his listeners. When the master returns, he will “proceed to wait on them.” Jesus disrupts expectations of what masters and servants are supposed to do. The hierarchy of master and servant was foundational to the social order. Yet Jesus, summing up his ministry later at the Last Supper, underlined this radical overturning in Luke 22:27: “I am among you as one who serves.”
Jesus reveals the shocking humility of God, who humbly attends and tenderly cares for us human beings. Jesus’ humility, in his life and death, clarified for his disciples what it meant to follow him. Imitating Jesus means placing others’ needs first. Joining in God’s work means being vulnerable to others. Authority is authentically exercised only within service. In these ways, Jesus invites his followers to participate in God’s humility.
Today’s Readings: Wis 18:6–9; Ps 33:1, 12, 18–19, 20–22; Heb 11:1–2, 8–19 [1–2, 8–12]; Lk 12:32–48 [35–40]