Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
11-12 August 2007
Holy Cross Parish, Hutchinson, Kansas
The key word that sums up this Sunday’s readings is “Passover”. Passover is a word we all know; it’s a coin really with two faces, the one is “deliverance” and the other is “retribution”. In the Exodus from Egypt, as we heard in our First Reading today recounting the first Passover, God’s destroying angel passed over the houses of God’s Chosen People marked with the blood of the lamb, saving them from God’s wrath and delivering them from their slavery, leading them out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, while punishing their oppressors, the Egyptians, with the sudden death of their firstborn – retribution for their having oppressed God’s People.
This Sunday’s readings focus less on the topic of our salvation or deliverance and more on the retribution side of the coin as it applies not only to those who oppose God’s People but also to us who belong to the household. We’ve just heard about the punishment of those who do not turn to the Lord, those who are not sealed with the Blood of the Lamb, that is, those who are not watching and waiting for their Master’s return.
“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.” Harsh words!
Am I motivated to look forward to heaven? Is that the quest of my life, the direction in which my heart is set? Or are the attractions, distractions and worries of this world the ones which have me in tow? Where will the Lord find me and my heart when He comes to call me?
St. Peter poses a further question in the Gospel which applies for every day and time, and therefore to us: “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” Who really is supposed to keep watch for the Lord who comes? Just priests and nuns? Retired people maybe? How are all the healthy young lay people out there in the world supposed to order their lives? Take note that the Lord Jesus doesn’t simply respond to Peter’s question by saying “Yes, it’s meant for everyone”. He answers Peter with another question: “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?”
Do you, each and every one, believe that you are so called? I hope so! Recognizing that through Baptism you have been made a part of God’s People has its implications for the way we behave. “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” says the Responsorial Psalm. What sort of language, what sort of entertainment, what sort of life is appropriate for the rank and file among the baptized?
Stewardship is really the universal call. All of us, no matter what our state in life, have to be watching and waiting, ready at all times for the Master’s return, all the time serving the needs of others as well. What exactly is expected of us depends on where we are in the Church: I, for instance, have a stewardship role in the Holy Father’s place for the Church in the Antilles: I am to “strengthen the brethren” as Jesus charges St. Peter in another place in the Gospel. Fr. Joe has been entrusted by the Bishop with watching over and caring for the people of Holy Cross Parish. Moms and Dads have the care for each other and for their children. Single people have a special part to play in the work place and society as well. Filial piety, the respect and love we owe our parents, is ultimately a sacred trust given to us all, as stewards, for as long as our parents live.
We’re certainly talking about duty, but not as much in the sense of a task to be fulfilled as in the sense of a dignity which is ours. “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” Each and every one of us has an appointed task in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.
The other night on EWTN’s program for young people called “Life on the Rock”, Father Francis was pressing the representatives of an international youth group called “Generation Benedict” who were on the show to explain how they planned to convince their peers of the value of being practicing, fully committed Catholics. In essence, he was asking how you get people to commit themselves to living according to God’s Will within His Holy Catholic Church when there are so many distractions, so many things out there which seem more fun and more attractive. Truth to be told, that is a question Catholics of all ages and states in life could ask themselves at every turn. Am I focused? Am I really convinced? Do I have the right priorities? As obvious as having faith in God may be, challenging ourselves and others to turn away from sin, big sin or small, and to be faithful to the Gospel is a real struggle. All too often people are as short-sighted as the delinquent steward, abusive toward his fellow servants and bent on his own pleasure and entertainment, thoughtless of the consequences he’d face upon his master’s return: “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.”
It’s easy to shake a finger at someone else and shout “Clean up your act!” The reality, especially as we face up to our own human frailty, is quite another. What to do? Are we really convinced that watching and waiting for the Lord is our calling? Are we convinced that a holy life, care and concern for others, sobriety, living close to God, are the happy choice, the right choice?
Leaving you hanging with such questions would probably be the best route to go. In a sense Jesus’ response to Peter’s question “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” is the only real answer to give to a responsible adult: “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?”
Who then is the good Catholic? Can we hedge on any of the commandments or requirements the Church places upon us? Can we be anything other than the best: faithful to the practice of Mass and the Sacraments, eager to share our faith with our children, especially, but also since we’re sharing joy, eager too to share our Catholic faith with others? Do we recognize the gravity of having let a day pass without having lifted our hearts and minds to God in prayer? This type of examination of conscience could go on and on, but let’s just leave it right there with Jesus’ question: “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?”
Passover: salvation/deliverance… retribution for our negligence as well as for wrongs committed – here we are, watching and waiting, I hope, for the Lord’s Passover.