Year C: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

You Must Also be Prepared

Luke 12:32-48

(Jesus said to his disciples:) Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knock. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. 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 him 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.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If like Peter you asked Jesus, “Is this parable meant for us? ”How do you think Jesus would respond? How does this parable apply specifically to your life?
  2. Do you see yourself as one who has been “entrusted with much or more? ”In what ways are you a good steward of the resources you’ve been given? Are there opportunities for growth here?
  3. In what concrete ways do you most see and serve Jesus in the poor and persecuted around you?
  4. In what ways do you feel you are, or you are not prepared for your end-time?

Biblical Context

Sr. Mary M. McGlone CSJ
Luke 12: 32-48

Today’s Lucan Gospel is a compilation of parables and sayings on judgment and vigilance. It also exhibits evidence of all three stages of textual development: Jesus, the church, and the evangelist. In its original context during Jesus’ ministry, the parable of the doorkeeper (vv. 35-38) was directed at Jesus’ contemporaries in an effort to convince them that the master of the house, i.e., the messiah, had come among them in the person of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus was knocking at the doors of their hearts. Would they welcome him or not?

At the second level of development, within the Lucan church, the parable was understood to refer to Jesus’ second coming. As his disciples, the earliest Christians were to be ever watchful and prepared for his appearance. Even if he came unexpectedly, like a prowler in the night, they were to be ready. Those who were ready would be served by the Lord himself at his messianic banquet.

In its third level of development, the parable was recast by the evangelist and infused with a Passover motif. “Gird your loins and light your lamps” (v. 35) was part of the traditional Passover rite, which commemorated the exodus (Exod 13:11). Luke pointed to the exodus as a type of Jesus’ passing over from death to life. This Christian Passover is remembered and celebrated at every Eucharistic encounter.

Peter’s question (v. 41) about the intended audience of the parable was not part of the original tradition and represents Luke’s intention to apply the parable’s message to the growing Christian community. The church is Jesus’ little flock (v. 32), and because of that, believers are to be dependable and conscientious in their stewardship.

In its original context, the stewards or servants in Jesus’ parable were the religious leaders of the people. They should have been open to what God was revealing to them in Jesus. But many were not. At its second level of development, the parable served as a warning to the leaders of the Jesus movement. Entrusted with the good news of God’s great gift of salvation, they had great responsibility, and they would be held more accountable and judged (by God) to be more culpable if they neglected their responsibilities.

This notion regarding responsibilities and punishment reflects the Jewish notion of sin. Some sin because they do not know what they should be doing; they are not conscious, therefore they are less guilty than those who sin deliberately (Num 15:27-31; Deut 12-17; Psalm 19:12-13). Nevertheless, ignorance of the master’s return — i.e., unawareness of the eschatological judgment (end of time)— does not eradicate guilt. In fact, it results only in a lesser degree of punishment.

For the Christians of the late first Christian century, today’s Gospel underscored the certainty of Jesus’ return and counseled them to be watchful and prepared. As the interim between Jesus’ advents has stretched into 20 centuries, the call to exercise responsible stewardship has not diminished. We cannot become insensitive or indifferent. Rather, we are to continue to see and serve Jesus in the poor and persecuted. We are to continue feeding him in the hungry, clothing him in the naked, healing him in the sick and welcoming him in the lost and the lonely. This is the authentic preparation that will help us to recognize him when he comes. “Blessed is that servant whom the master on arrival finds doing so” (Luke 12:43).

Be Not Afraid

Deacon Ross Beaudoin

Cell phones, tablets, laptop computers and more keep us connected, informed and able to shop at any time. Incessantly, someone or something demands our attention. Whenever the beep, chirp or musical notes sound, we feel drawn to check in. If not, we might miss something! There is always a treasure waiting for our acknowledgement: some person wanting to befriend us; a nugget of news or laughter coming our way; a new product or “just reduced” price on something we might want …Jesus’ disciples lived in a much different time. People’s material treasures were simpler and close at hand: their personal belongings and money. But even then, these things could consume a person. There would be fear of not having enough or of losing what one had. Jesus’ instruction today about how we are to live our life begins with, “Do not be afraid.”

It seems part of the human condition that people tend to amass more than they need. We get entangled in getting more and more. Then we worry about keeping what we have. We become afraid of what could happen to our property. Fear of lacking, losing, doing without can paralyze us. There is something in us that wants to accumulate and to cling to what we have.

This Gospel of Luke was written toward the end of the first century. Christians were still expecting the return of Christ soon. As time went on, though, they began to understand that the final end-time was not imminent. Luke’s stories point out that what is imminent is the personal end-time for each one of us. Consider the contrast between two seniors coming to the end of their lives. One was 101 years of age, the other 102. Both had lived long and full lives, and they had their mental faculties pretty much up to the end of their days.

One had kept everything she acquired throughout her life. Her house was full. Her two garages were full. Five storage sheds were full. As the end of her life drew near, she begged the doctors to restore her health so that she could continue on as she always had. This person was afraid: afraid of losing her belongings, afraid of losing a younger way of living. She was not at peace.

The other person, in the latter part of her life, started to trim down her belongings, as she found that she did not need them anymore. She was not afraid of parting with some things or the life she had lived before. She actually felt freer as she gave away or sold what she didn’t need. This person was ready for her personal end-time. This brought her and her family a sense of peace.

The Gospel passage of today is preceded by teachings of Jesus concerning greed and concerning simplicity of living. Jesus told his disciples how to live by relying on God’s care for them. Today we read, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out. … For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Jesus calls us to watch and be ready. We are not to get caught up in treasures of this life, in false securities, for here we have no lasting city. Our personal end-time will come at an hour and a place of which we have no idea. If we share what we have and do not cling to what is passing, we will be well prepared.