7 August 2016: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

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


Discipleship: watching and waiting for the Lord’s return

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings examine a disciple’s responsibilities while awaiting Jesus’ return.

The first reading from the book of Wisdom is a retelling of the Passover story that emphasizes the patriarchs’ faith. This first reading sets up parallels between Israelites awaiting the Passover (today’s first and second readings) and the believing community awaiting the Lord’s second coming (today’s gospel).

The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews discusses God’s promises to Abraham (a great nation and land) that God fulfilled through the Mosaic law and the promised land. Faith–“the realization of things hoped for”–connects Abraham and Isaac to Christian eschatology. Like the patriarchs, the believing community remains “strangers and aliens seeking a homeland.” Our faith in God’s promises tells us that our home is in God’s kingdom at the messianic banquet.

Luke’s gospel is a collection of four parables that stresses our need for faithful watchfulness while we await Jesus’ parousia (second coming). The four parables are: (1) the lord who serves (Lk 12: 35-38), (2) the thief’s coming (Lk 12: 39-40), (3) the slaves appointed house-managers (Lk 12: 42-46), and (4) the slaves who ignore or don’t know the lord’s will (Lk 12: 47-48). Throughout these parables, Luke uses the Greek words κύριος (KOO-ree-os) meaning “lord,” and δοῦλος (DOO-los) meaning “slave.” To see Jesus’ message, we will look at the first parable:

  • The lord who serves: The lord (κύριος) is at a wedding feast in his home. The slaves (δοῦλος) wait for him in the house’s private quarters. The lord slips out of the feast unexpectedly and returns to his private quarters. When the lord knocks, the waiting servants admit him. In a shocking cultural reversal, the lord ties up his wedding robe and waits on his slaves, serving them himself with food from the wedding feast.
  • Luke’s meaning: By the time Luke writes his gospel (mid-80’s), the believing community has started to lose faith in the Lord’s return. Luke’s Jesus tells his disciples to be prepared for his return, which can happen at any time. Jesus (the κύριος) promises to reward faithful disciples (his δοῦλος) with a share in the wedding feast (the messianic banquet, God’s kingdom). In answer to Peter’s question Jesus tells three more parables with the same message of faithful waiting. The parables are meant for all disciples, but those who lead the ekklesia have greater obligations (see the third parable about the slaves appointed house-managers).

This week’s readings highlight the tension between God’s promises and the fulfillment of those promises. We hate to wait! Why doesn’t Jesus hurry up? Our ancestors in faith thought of it this way: Just as the Jewish people expect the messiah to return during the Passover celebration, the early Christians expected Jesus’ parousia to occur at the paschal event (Easter). When the Lord did not return at the midnight vigil, the Christian community celebrated the eucharist, in which Jesus comes in advance (through the sacraments) of his final coming. As disciples, we make God’s kingdom present now, in this world. Jesus is present to us now in the sacraments. What are we waiting for?

—Terence Sherlock


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