Reflection on the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 18:6-9 Hebrews 11-12 Luke 12:32-48
In today’s Gospel, Luke’s audience is concerned about how they will provide for themselves for the long haul, about whether or not the claims of the Kingdom are more important than their daily demands, and about what commitments are worthy of ultimate trust and value. Luke refuses to calculate when the Messiah will appear. We Christians cannot set an end-time clock and retire for the night. No, it is as though Jesus is saying to us, “Dress for hard work! Stay alert! Establish inexhaustible accounts in the heavens!” This is a call to carry forth the signs of the messianic age in our own work. We must feed the hungry, heal the sick and free the oppressed. We have the promise that the master who finds his work going on in his absence will, upon his return, put on an apron, seat us at table, and serve us. We trust in that promise.
Trust is crucial to faith because faith is something that cannot be seen. Faith not only requires trust, but it also requires patience. But that is easier said than done. We live in a time when people find it difficult to wait. Many of us want things to happen quickly, even instantly. However, our faith encourages us to wait, to be patient and not always look for the “quick-fix” solution to the many potential problems in our lives. The Scripture reminds us that, as Christians, we walk the journey of our lives by faith and not by sight. Jesus reminds us that no matter how long it takes, God is with us and always faithful, always there to respond to our needs.
The Christian community for whom Luke writes faces a challenge. The risen Lord Jesus has promised to return but He looks to be late in bringing about the end and fulfillment of time and history. What are they to do in the meantime? Luke’s Gospel aims to respond to Christians who are growing weary of waiting and are beginning to cave in to immediate concerns.
It is the same as what Jesus asks of his disciples – not to be afraid — to give away their goods, to be on the move, be ready for what is coming rather than be satisfied with what is — all of that was an invitation to put “faith into action.” Like the disciples we are advised to live so as to be ready for whatever is to come.
Jesus started with “do not be afraid”, do not be afraid to let go of those things, those places and those attitudes that we have relied on for security. As Pope Francis says, in
“Fratelli Tutti,” “Human beings are so made that they cannot live, develop and find fulfillment except in the sincere gift of self to others. … Life exists where there is … communion … and life is stronger than death when it is built on true relationships.”
What is it that we here treasure? All of this makes me question what is my treasure? Where is my heart’s treasure? Where is Loretto’s treasure as we move forward into the future? Be not afraid. Even Father Nerinckx, in his farewell letter says, “I know not what will happen to you in the future. … there is not a spark of doubt in my mind that you will undergo great changes from your present state … you must pray that what is to come may be for the better.”
Like Jesus, Father Nerinckx left what he knew and moved into the future. What trust it must have taken on his part in leaving behind his little community of Loretto believing that those he was leaving behind would continue what had been started. Seemingly unafraid he moved into the future.
Aren’t we asked to do the same as we focus on planning for the future and wondering what our legacy will be? What if we really believed that? What if we believed that we have nothing to fear in sharing what gives us security because it is all a free gift in the first place? Fear erodes our ability to trust and eats away at our self-confidence. We fear becoming extinct, yet Jesus says, “There is no need to fear.” Why can’t we truly hear this?
If our trust in God is deep enough these words of Jesus are just as much a promise filled with hope and joy as a warning filled with fear and trembling. We await the full coming of God’s “kin*dom” into our world, but it is not something to fear. It is a “kin*dom” of joy and justice and forgiveness. What is there to be afraid of?
“Fear not, little flock.”