Homily for August 7, 2016Published:
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time “C”
The message of the gospel today is urgent: Be prepared for the master’s return, for he will come at a time and a moment you least expect. Those found ready will enjoy the master’s favor, those not prepared will suffer the consequences.
But this message is actually one full of hope as it seeks to draw our attention back to the true priorities in life. Our problem is not so much that we are egregious sinners, but that, even with the best of intentions, our priorities can slip into the wrong order, almost without our being aware of it. Not only does each of us have so many things calling for our time and attention, but the culture is powerfully seductive, yet in so many ways absolutely opposed to the message of the gospel. The problem for us, and about which the Lord is warning us, is that living with the wrong priorities, even with good intention, inevitably brings bad consequences.
So the Lord reminds us that he is going to return. In a few minutes, we are going to say that we believe that when we recite the Creed: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” But do we really believe that? It is not that we do not have some concept of heaven as a good and desirable place, but that it seems so far away as to be almost unreal in comparison with the things which occupy our attention here and now. We are comfortable saying that we believe heaven exists, but what does that have to do with me?
Yet we know, all of us, only too well how fragile life is. There is no guarantee that you or I will live beyond today, though each of us is absolutely convinced that we will. But what will happen to you and to me if our life comes to an end today, tomorrow, this coming week? How confidently will we be able to stand before the Lord? What treasures have we stored up in that heavenly kingdom, where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves do not break in and steal?
It is possible that the image of “storing up treasure” is a difficult one, suggesting that we are making some sort of heavenly deposit, disconnected from our life. But we are called to be transformed. The treasure we are to store up is our virtue and the goodness of our life. The best preparation for the master’s return, the best way to store up unfailing treasure is simply to be faithful to the calling, the vocation, each of us has received. Are the choices I make, the way I spend my time and resources, turning me into the man or woman I want to be, or are they at best wasting time, at worst dragging me in a direction further and further from what I ought to be?
Do I ever have time for prayer, to ask for guidance or to give thanks? Is God so present in my life through Mass and the sacraments that, when he does come, I will not be meeting a stranger? We are, after all, usually somewhat uncomfortable with total strangers.
Do I realize that the people in my life, my spouse, my children, my confreres, parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, are more important than the things I have or want? Do I ever take responsibility for what effect my actions may have on my friends – for good or for ill?
Am I willing to set aside my own carefully laid plans when suddenly and unexpectedly someone needs my time or assistance? Is charitable giving part of the way I regularly plan my spending?
In short, if I ask God whether He is well pleased with my life, will the answer be,”Yes”?
The urgency of today’s gospel is a reminder of God’s love, which is a very difficult thing for us to trust. But only if we have faith in God’s love and power can we ever keep our priorities straight. That is why the Lord asked us to celebrate this Eucharist in his memory until he comes again. For in this celebration, we have present the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross in trusting obedience to his Father – something which seemed like utter disaster and defeat; and we have likewise the presence of the same Son of God, risen glorious from the dead, victor over the ultimate enemy, death.
And so, this week, keep in mind what would happen if we were to die in the course of the week. Do we have any treasure stored up?
Most of all, let us ponder whether we truly trust God’s love. Do not fear, little flock. It has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. It is up to us to decide whether we wish to accept this gift. But if we have the kingdom, what else could we ever want?
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