The Gospel According to Luke 12:39-48
Jesus said to his disciples: “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 everyone?” 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, he will put him 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.”
Opening Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen
Encountering Christ: Once again, Jesus insists on vigilance: be prepared, do not let your attention wander so that when the master comes you are ready to welcome him. In fact we are told that the Son of Man will come at an hour we do not expect. We would prefer something totally predictable, which we can control, but we know that the Lord comes to us very often unexpectedly, through events and through others. When a man has had a great deal given to him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given to him in trust, even more will be expected of him. Today let us give thanks to all that has been given to us, and repay others in generosity in our giving.
Jesus makes clear that although we know that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, we do not know when he will come. And so, we must always be ready. Either the second coming or our own death is always close by. This theme appears throughout the Bible. “As for man, his days are like the grass; he blossoms like a flower in the field. A wind sweeps over it and it is gone; its place knows it no more (Psalms 103:15-16). Is that how we live?
A common exercise for a spiritual retreat is to sit down and write one’s own eulogy. What we would want to be said about how we lived our life when our earthly journey is complete. Taking time to reflect on our lives from this perspective can help us gain clarity and focus, enabling us to live each day more truly and more fully.
Jesus explains that our experience at the end of history–either our own personal history or the history of the world as a whole–will be directly affected by how we choose to live in history. If we live responsibly, loving God and neighbor by seeking and embracing God’s will day by day until the end, we will be blessed. But if we block out the eternal perspective and live only for self-indulgence and self-glorification, we will suffer for it. And the suffering will be in proportion to the level of awareness we had of our true responsibilities. There are degrees of suffering as well as degrees of glory on the other side. Jesus wants us to know this. Theologians can’t explain completely how exactly this works, but we can’t ignore Christ’s clear revelation that our choices here on earth will have eternal consequences. How much does this awareness affect our daily life? How much would Christ like it to affect our daily life? How would our daily life look different if we lived with a greater awareness of this truth? Jesus often says that it is the person who is responsible and trustworthy in small things who is most suitable for being put in charge of greater things. Do we attend responsibly to the seemingly insignificant things in our daily life?
In fact, being faithful and prudent stewards of the great gift of life, and all that goes with it is merely the path to joy and fulfillment. Squandering our gifts may promise some immediate pleasures, but we are not made for those; we are made for lasting relationships and meaningful activity. And so, a healthy reaction to Jesus’ apparently stark answer to St. Peter’s question would be joyful relief. Jesus has designed the universe in such a way that the deepest longings of our hearts can actually be fulfilled, through living in friendship with him.
Closing Prayer: Lord, grant that I may live in such a way that your coming at the close of my earthly life will not be something to be feared, but to be looked forward to with the most joyful anticipation.
Action of the day: Lord, today by your grace, help us to find better ways to use our time, and how to use it more responsibly, for God’s glory and the advance of his Kingdom in our heart and in the hearts of those around us.