Opening the Word: Stand ready

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There’s a good deal of modern liturgical music that celebrates the arrival of God’s justice. In these hymns, we tend to call out for God’s justice to descend. We sing it happily, joyfully, with pep and vigor, unaware that when this justice arrives, it might be directed at us.

Yes, we know that there is evil in the world. Yes, we know that not everyone loves God and neighbor. But, surely we do! Surely we are among the righteous.

This attitude is behind Peter’s question to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus exhorts the disciples to sell everything. They are to give alms, storing up treasure in heaven. Nothing they have received is their own.

Jesus concretizes this exhortation through a parable. Disciples are like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding. Their lamps are lit. They’re ready to serve the needs of the master. In this readiness, there will be a great reversal. The master will instead serve them. They will be called to the wedding banquet.

Jesus then introduces another motif to the parable. Part of the responsibility of those servants is to make sure that no one breaks into the master’s home. Here, we have the introduction of evil, the possibility of danger. Someone could break into the house, wreaking havoc.

After Jesus has preached, has spoken this parable, Peter asks his question, “‘Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?'” (Lk 12:41). We must admit that we don’t know the precise motive for Peter’s exhortation. Perhaps he was confused, unable to determine the meaning of Jesus’ preaching.

At the same time, it’s possible that Peter understood exactly what Jesus was saying. We could imagine the disciples talking among themselves, “Are we really servants? Aren’t we part of Jesus chosen band? If justice is coming, it’s going to be directed at the Roman city state, to the hypocrites, to the sinner! Surely not us!”

Jesus, as he often does, doubles down. He recognizes the leadership provided by the apostles: the earliest disciples. If you’re in charge, get ready. If the master comes and finds you being unjust, not distributing bread, there will be a severe punishment.

The disciples know God’s will. They have dwelt in the presence of Jesus. They have been given much. If they don’t share it, if they’re not vigilant, they will be the ones judged. Of course, Jesus’ preaching is not only directed at disciples who came long ago.

Since it is the living word, active and alive, it is directed at us. We also know the will of God through Jesus Christ. We have the sacraments, Scripture and the teachings of the Church. We have been given even more than the disciples, because we know the end of the story: that Jesus Christ has come to redeem the world.

So, let’s ask ourselves, “Are we ready?” Are we ready for the coming justice of God? Are we servants of the Word of God, or do we distribute our own bureaucratic, technocratic regulations? Are our parishes places of vigil, where we await the coming of Our Lord in the Eucharist and in the Scriptures? Or do we live as if God is not present among us? Is our parish a space where the hungry and thirsty and those on the margins are treated as the living, abiding presence of Jesus Christ?

Through baptism, we are servants of the living God. Better get ready and recognize that the coming judgment may be directed toward us. The reward, if we’re ready, is the greatest wedding we’ll ever attend: the heavenly Supper of the Lamb.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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