19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 11, 2013
Luke 12: 35-40
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.
“Be like servants who await their master’s return … ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Luke 12: 35).
Last Sunday at a Salesian summer camp in England, a 27-year-old Salesian seminarian was engaged in activity with some youngsters. Suddenly, without warning, a large tree branch broke off and smashed his head. Despite immediate first aid and helicopter transport to a hospital, he was killed instantly. (No one else was hurt, thank God!)
Yesterday Lindsey Stewart was supposed to marry Brian Bond in Piermont, across the Hudson. On the evening of July 26, they and 4 friends were crossing the river in a power boat. They struck one of the construction barges moored in the river, which the survivors claim they never saw. Lindsey and Mark Lennon, the best man, were killed. That story was widely covered in the newspapers and on the radio and TV; most of you probably saw or heard it.
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival,” Jesus says in today’s gospel (12:37). Blessed are those disciples who are ready when the Lord calls them and who welcome his coming (or their going to him, if you prefer to put it that way).
Last February, Pope Benedict gave as one of his reasons for resigning his desire, or his need, to prepare for death—to prepare to greet our Master, the Lord Jesus. But as the news informs us every day, not everyone lives to be 86 and has the luxury, so to speak, of putting his material and spiritual affairs in order. Very, very often, death comes suddenly and unannounced, like a thief in the nite (cf. 12:39)—in an accident, a heart attack, violence. It was true in Jesus’ time, and obviously it’s still true. “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (12:40), or we will be summoned before the Son of Man.
|The Last Judgment, by Jan van Eyck|
We all know this. But we don’t think about it very often, do we? Are we ready and waiting for the Master’s return, or ready and willing to go to him and present an accounting of our lives—of our actions, our inactions, our words, even our thoughts and desires, as our confession of sin at the beginning of Mass states?
When we were in school, our teachers probably advised us that the best preparation for an exam, whether it was the SAT, the Regents, or just a classroom test, was diligent daily study—attentiveness in class, reviewing notes, reading the assigned material, doing our homework. Cramming isn’t a highly effective way to study. It doesn’t work very well, does it?
Neither is putting off our spiritual conversion until we’re facing a serious illness or the decrepitude of old age a serious approach to our salvation—that’s like cramming. What if the Lord gives us a pop quiz, as he did Brother Greg, Lindsey Stewart, and Mark Lennon? What does diligent daily study consist of?
Of course, 1st it’s necessary that we enroll in the class, isn’t it? We have to sign up for Kingdom of God 101. We have to commit ourselves to live out the sacrament of Baptism that we received so many years ago, to be true followers of our Master, the Lord Jesus.
Such commitment means, as our baptismal promises say, renouncing Satan and all his evil; doing our best to live lives of virtue and not of sin—whatever form sin may take (review the 10 commandments, for starters).
Then such commitment means talking to God on a regular basis—what we call prayer; and listening to what he has to say, thru his written Word (the Bible), thru the teaching of his Church, thru his voice in our hearts (that’s the reverse half of prayer). Just as we look forward to visiting our parents (or our children, as the case may be) or old friends, we look forward to this regular contact with our friend Jesus and his Father—contact that enlightens us, strengthens us, empowers us to resist Satan and all his evil, and to do the right thing, the good thing in God’s eyes.
When we live that way, as best we can, then we’ll be “ready to open immediately when our Master comes and knocks,” and we’ll be among those servants whom Jesus calls “blessed.”
God bless you!