19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings emphasize confident faith in God. The last-writtent book of the Old Testament, the book of Wisdom, today’s first reading, speaks to the minority Jewish population in Alexandria, Egypt, in the first century before Christ. Their faith wavered, and they needed to be reminded where their treasure lay.
The second reading gives us an excellent definition of faith: Faith is a confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. It presents examples of great people of faith. The popular slogan, Seeing is believing, is a poor kind of theology. Believing is precisely not seeing. Jesus told Thomas, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Perhaps we could have deeper convictions about religion if we simply had more faith in general, for we believe in many things we don’t see. No one has seen electricity in itself, but only the results of its existence; the same goes for the wind, gravity and even life itself. So we see that many an unseen mystery is a reality.
Jesus asks a faith that is up and doing, treating the members of the household justly, while watching out for the unexpected return of the master of the house. By the time Luke writes his Gospel, there is a feeling that the 2nd Coming of Christ is not going to happen soon, as the early Christians thought at first, a conviction reflected in Mark’s Gospel. Today’s Gospel deals with that development in the Church. The evangelist offers three images which helped his listeners (and us) to deal with a delayed 2nd Coming.
First, the Doorkeeper. He waits for his master’s return from a wedding. The master is definitely coming, though he knows not the exact time. So it is with ourselves. We are the doorkeepers of our own souls. Jesus is coming to us personally as well as to the whole Church in a 2nd Coming. In either case, we should be prepared for it. Second, the image of the thief. We do not want to be caught off guard either at the coming of a thief nor at the coming of our Savior. Third, the steward image. Obviously, the faithful, farsighted steward, is the one who is busy and responsible for their behavior, not the one who wastes his life and that of his master.
Today’s Gospel seems to be anticipating the pre-Christmas Season. The theme of coming, ordinarily associated with Advent, is stated and repeated in today’s text. In several ways Jesus emphasizes that the time of his return will be a surprise. Comparisons are made between the return of a master from a wedding, when the coming is certain but the timing is not, and the coming of a thief, when not even the coming is certain. Indeed, central to the test of faith is the challenge of constant readiness for the return of the Son of Man.
The story of the unfaitful servant warns us not to forget that we are indeed servants who, one day, will have to give an account of our service. People, who live as if there will never be an accounting, have lost their faith, Jesus warns. For such faithless servants the day of reckoning will be unexpected, and painful.