Bulletin: August 7, 2022
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last Sunday’s “Parable of the rich fool” delivered a compelling reason to do the right thing—now: “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” Today, Jesus warns us: “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Though we do not know when our Master will come, we do know what our Master expects to find. Jesus expects us to be vigilant and diligent in our work for the kingdom, but also filled with reverent mercy toward our fellow servants and ourselves. What changes do I need to make, right now, so that the many people outside “the Master’s house” will want to come inside to experience the healing comfort of Jesus’ own mercy in the compassion of Jesus’ modern-day disciples?
Today Jesus proposes an attitude universally countercultural: vigilance. Whatever our other differences, we moderns dread delay; we hate to wait! All three readings call us to faith-filled vigilance, “focused” waiting, holy patience. In communion with our ancestors across the centuries—those to whom Wisdom and Hebrews were addressed—we, recalling the Rich Fool’s sudden demise, must work, witness, and worship in this world with our hearts set on the future that God has prepared for us, the fulfillment of bold and beautiful promises: deliverance from threats without and burdens within, a heavenly homeland, a city yet to come. Well might all of us called to spiritual vigilance also spare a thought for those who work while others sleep—police, firefighters, first responders—making our own the night prayer attributed to Saint Augustine: “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”
Our watchfulness is to be not only prayerful but service-oriented, that active-contemplative balance so often proposed by Luke’s Jesus. Though ignorance of the master’s wishes may win some a reprieve, Jesus presumes that we who are listening to him now will not qualify for such mitigation. Using Luke’s favorite image of table fellowship, Jesus depicts the master “girding” himself, just as the disciples have been told to do, and serving the servants who persevered in their service of watching and working. How often we brush off a thank-you from others by saying, “It was the least I could do!” And, sadly, how often we do the least we can! But true discipleship, in Luke’s perspective, is not settling for the least we can get away with until our master’s return, but getting ready by always being ready for his kingdom to come.