Aug. 11, 2013
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12
Luke 12:32-48 or 12:35-40
None of us know when we will die. When we are young, our own death is an abstract concept. Death enters our lives through those we love. The children of military personnel and emergency responders discover its reality very quickly.
My dad was a Chicago police officer in a crime ridden area of the city. Even though we learned to fear the telephone call that comes in the middle of the night, we also learned to be at peace with one another before we retired for the night. My dad’s last words to us each evening were, “I love you” and if the events of the day merited it, we got an apology or we offered one. We lived with the realization that some morning he might not return home. “Never let the sun go down upon your anger” was an adage we learned at an early age. We thought dad coined it rather than St. Paul. It was part of our lives.
As we matured, we discovered that even young people die and our own sense of immortality began to wane. Suddenly we began to look both ways when we crossed the street—not because mom said we should but because we knew that dad wasn’t the only one who could face sudden death.
Our spirituality develops in much the same way. As we discover the promise of eternal life and union with the Lord at a young age, we do not initially think of that promise being fulfilled anytime soon for us. We become ambivalent about death and focus on separation with eternal union of the Lord as something of a consolation prize. Age or terminal illness focuses us on the greater realities. At the root of our belief about death and its relationship to life is our faith and belief in an everlasting life. Only when this becomes a primary value can one understand and appreciate today’s Gospel.
We read the Gospel in the context of our faith. The parable is similar to the parable of the servant waiting for his master’s return found in Matthew or the story of the wise and foolish virgins. The message is the same. Luke applies these verses to the situation of the church waiting for the second coming of Christ. More immediately, we see it more personally. We do not know when the Lord will come so we are cautioned to live as if it might be in the next moment.
One need not live with a sense of anxiousness. Anticipation is founded on faith. The Epistle tells us, “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things not seen.” This is the cornerstone of our life. We acknowledge we are “strangers and foreigners on the earth.” Ours is a better future. It is one we acknowledge each time we pray for the kingdom to come.
We move to the altar challenged to live the moment with our eyes on the future the Lord has planned for us. Perhaps we will never celebrate again with this community in this place. The way we treat one another today reveals our faith that one day we will not merely celebrate the Eucharist; we will be the Eucharistic community gathered for all eternity in the faith that is ours today.
For the gift of this moment, we give thanks and praise to the Father.