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“Be alert and ready for action!”

  • International
  • October 23, 2012
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Once again, Luke’s Gospel speaks of the Endtime, that Final Day of Accounting, and how we must be prepared for it. Jesus’s words are addressed not just to the ordinary disciple, but also to the ‘stewards’, those who hold responsibility in the Church.

There are two points made repeatedly and emphatically: first, “the Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect!” And second, “Don’t be slack and easy-going. Be alert, always!”

The warnings to the disciples are couched in metaphor, the metaphor of a household filled with many servants, where the Master is away on a wedding, and is expected back late at night. As his return gets delayed longer and longer, the servants grow careless and sleepy. But return, he will! Perhaps it will be surreptitious, like a thief in the night. Perhaps it will be sudden, catching all by surprise. Then, those servants who have been waiting up for him will be pleasantly surprised to see the Master himself serve them at table! This will be their reward for their fidelity and attentiveness. But those who have been remiss “will be flogged severely.”

Today these warnings about the Endtime do not disturb, so distracted are we by the cares and comforts of this world. We have lost the sense of urgency that Jesus brings: “Change your lives! God’s reign is here!” We don’t believe that the world will end in our life-time, and so we are slothful. As the passage puts it, we say to ourselves, “The Master is a long time coming,” and begin “to bully the men and the maids, to eat, drink and get drunk.”

And yet! There are so many signs today which remind us that the world we’ve created for ourselves is crumbling. Global recession, displacement of peoples, war, climate change, earthquakes and tsunamis…are all indications that when change comes, it is sweeping and irreversible. Will the Master find us prepared or not?

Jesus’s words are addressed specially to those entrusted with the care of his Church – this is why Peter’s question is introduced into the text. It is the clergy who are the stewards of his household and the shepherds of his flock. Sadly, their corruption and irresponsibility endangers the whole household. They are asked to look to the present with solicitude, and to the future with alertness. The Master will be particularly severe with them when he comes. “For where a man has been given much, much will be expected of him.”
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