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[117] Homily for 19th Sunday of the Year

[117] Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 18:6-9 / Ps 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22 / Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 / Lk 12:32-48

The author in Wisdom is speaking to God and is listing the various manifestations of his power against idolaters and in their liberation from Egypt.  Here he speaks about “the night of the passover,” where the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain and the Israelites were spared. It is within the context of salvation history that they find courage and await their salvation with assurance.  This militancy is a common thread in the Old Testament. Their faith finds affirmation with “the destruction of their foes” and the “punish[ment] of their adversaries.” There is a sense of vindication for their fidelity and secret oblations during their time of bondage.  Note the reciprocal action: when adversaries are punished, they experience not just vindication but glorification. I suppose one might say that God’s glory spreads to them as his people. The responsorial continues this thread about the LORD blessing his own. Again, this divine protection is not measured as trivial. It is always regarded as a matter of life and death. God protects them and seeks “To deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.”

The apostle gives us that beautiful line, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Then he recounts examples of those who have come before. Abraham places sufficient trust in God that he is willing to leave his own so as to form a new people.  Despite his age, he believes the promise of divine providence that he will have an heir and that he will father a great kingdom. The promise of the patriarchs and prophets is only realized in Christ. Like Abraham, we are wanderers or strangers in this world, pilgrims seeking a promised land. Our true home is the kingdom of Christ. Put to the test, Abraham in faith was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.  God stayed his hand but the heavenly Father did not spare his Son in allowing him to suffer the indignity of the Cross.  If Abraham supposed that God could raise the dead, this miraculous intervention is realized in Jesus Christ.

The alleluia verse is the great summons to all believers as sentinels for Christ: “Stay awake and be ready! For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” This is our posture as we await the fulfilment of Christ’s promise and the full realization of his kingdom.  This kingdom breaks into the world first through the person of Christ and now through his flock, the holy Church.

What does the Gospel reading teach us in terms of our posture and activity as sentinels?

  1. Do not be afraid.  We must witness with courage and conviction.
  2. Embrace an evangelical poverty. We must not allow possessions to possess us. Our true treasure is the Lord.  We must embrace God’s inscrutable providence and trust the Lord. We must be a people who share God’s love or charity for others.
  3. Gird your loins and light your lamps! We must be prepared to encounter Christ in the light of truth.  The banquet of the just will begin but so will judgment.  Those who will enter will be found worthy of the Lamb that was slain.
  4. Our Lord comes like a thief in the night.  Those unprepared or whose lamps have gone out will find themselves outside.  There will be a reckoning between the sheep and the goats. We must always be about the Lord’s business. 

Those who would be part-time Christians might be loved and deemed good by the world but ours is a jealous God.  He will not share us.  Our hearts must belong to him.  Think about it, what is a part-time Christian really?  Such a person is also a part-time devil!  What God refuses to claim becomes Satan’s property! The parable refers to believers, including ministers of the Church. While the master is away the steward beats the servants under him, makes a glutton of himself (no doubt depriving the poor of food), and finds his satisfaction in the bottle. Our Lord says he will be punished severely and given a place with the unfaithful.  What is that place?  It is hell.

The parable also speaks of lesser punishments for those who are still faithful but suffer from human weaknesses.  I suspect this is where purgatory comes into the parable.  God’s justice demands hell but his mercy makes possible purgation and healing for a few. But we as Catholics have to be careful about purgatory.  Judgment is not like finals in high school.  You can’t just try for a “C” when the Lord wants you to get an “A.”  I suspect that many if not most of those who spiritually and mortally settle will miss the mark entirely.  What you do and your obedience is important, do not get me wrong, but more important is “who you are” as those who claim to be believers.  Do you aim high in being the saint that the Lord wants you to be? Do you have sanctifying grace? Have you sought holiness?  Are you sorry for your sins?  Do you trust the Lord and thus surrender yourself to his will?  Too many have become comfortable with living in a state of perpetual mortal sin.  A saving faith in Jesus Christ must be made real by a sacrificial life of constant fidelity and charity.   

One Response

  1. Beautiful and sobering words!
    Thanks Father

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