For many of us the fear level is high and rising. After these past few years the epidemic is still a constant threat to our health and has killed so many. Now we fear a new variant that the vaccine might not protect us from. Grammar school children have been murdered in their classroom. Kids are not even safe at school! There have been mass shootings at public gatherings and shopping malls. Add to those the economic shifts that have caused many to lose their jobs, or drained their savings. The highest inflation rate in 40 years has pushed many into poverty and had family members stand on lines to get food for dinner. Need I go on? We can add much more to this partial "fear list." I haven’t even begun to list international fear factors like terrorism, the threats posed by Russia, China and North Korea. Plus, the devastating effects of climate change. In July, the temperature in my home state of Texas was frequently over 100 degrees!
How then, can Jesus tell us, "Do not be afraid any longer little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom." Some might ask, "What world does he live in?" What’s more, he advises us to, "Sell your belongings and give alms." But it is the security our belongings give that helps alleviate at least some of our fears.
Jesus is reminding us that our earthly possessions cannot protect us from what we fear. Rather, we have God who is "pleased" to give us what is imperishable and can’t be taken from us, life in the community Jesus calls "the Kingdom." And ruling in that new order is our gracious God who cares for us even amid real threats and dangers. This does not mean we will live a carefree life, but God will never leave us on our own. The question for us is: where, or on what, do we place our confidence for the uncertain future? Is it in our possessions, or by living under the loving gaze of God, whom Jesus tells us is "pleased" with us. Haven’t we known people whose faith has sustained and even given some degree of calm as they face loss – even impending death? Their possessions did not provide that calm when their needs were dire.
Jesus is reassuring his disciples who, because they are his followers, will face questions, opposition and even death. Who is strong enough for that? It will not be their determination and courage alone that will see them through, but the one he calls "Father," who is already pleased with them. God does not take a judgmental seat like a chair umpire at a tennis match, who observes and judges the players from above. Instead, the God Jesus reveals to us is concerned about even the hairs of our head. This God is giving us a treasure that will not wear out, or fail us in our need. So, Jesus advises not to put our confidence in human resources, in what we own, or can buy, as important as they are to daily life.
Jesus proposes the parable of the late return of the master of the household. The master expects the servants to be ready for him whenever he comes. But what an unusual master! When he arrives and finds them prepared, he puts on an apron to serve them. Is this a reminder for us to be vigilant and persistent in our service to others? When we are, we can be assured that the Lord is in our very midst, indeed, joining us in our service.
When can we expect the Lord to come to serve us, his disciples? Certainly at this Eucharist where Jesus feeds us his very life in his word and the bread and wine. But, according to the parable, he will also show up at times we do not expect him to enable us to serve him in the poor, among our coworkers and at our family dinner table, where his Spirit provides wisdom and sustains our desire to be his alert and faithful witnesses.
The servants who wait their master’s return from the wedding are consistent in their waiting. They expect his return and are congratulated when he arrives. They did not know when he would come, but that did not diminish their vigilance, or expectation. The unusual feature of the master serving them may be a figure of Jesus’ own death for us. It also directs us to the meal he serves us at our Eucharistic table. It is a meal for the present, but also for the coming days when we servants must return to our work responsibility as Jesus’ vigilant laborers in the world. We want to be diligent in our work in the Kingdom here on earth. Jesus encourages us to sell and give our possessions to the poor. It is his Spirit that empowers us to trust in his being with us as we focus on our work for the Kingdom now and until he returns.
Let’s join the Master’s servants in their surprise. Who among them could have anticipated what they experienced; mere servants being treated with honor and dignity and served at the table by their master? What does that suggest to us servants in the Kingdom? Well, those servants didn’t do anything extraordinary or praiseworthy. They just stayed faithful to their assigned tasks. The surprise came by way of an unexpected gift, the master served them.
Day by day we do what is expected of us: we serve the Lord in ways he has shown us by his life and death. Are we prepared to be surprised when he shows up? Do we sense his presence, for example, when a simple service project we work on evokes unexpected results we would never have anticipated? Or, when we have done our best to raise our kids and have felt inadequate to the task. Yet, they do something, or choose a way of life, that swells us with pride. How did that happen? The parable tells us: the Master surprises ordinary servants just doing the best they can. Surprise is another name for grace.
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Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.
In junior high school, I can remember the drills for what to do in the event of nuclear attack, as if our metal desks would protect us. I can remember people of means building bomb shelters in their back yards. And I can remember being firmly convinced that God would protect my family when we lived in Miami, FL., during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Today, more leaders realize that nuclear weapons as a deterrence is an illusion and that money spent on weapons of mass destruction is money not spent on bettering the human condition. The Archbishop of Santa Fe, John C. Wester, in January of this year, published, "Living in the Light of Christ's Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament." On this anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, please take the time to read his full document. Wester writes:
"For many decades now, the church has condemned nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war. Support for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is solidly rooted in Catholic social teaching on war and peace...
"Just a year after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. . .Pope Saint John XXIII reflected on the arms race which continued to build after the U.S. dropped the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He noted the damaging outcomes of the arms race and called for its end along with a ban on nuclear arms, and a true and lasting peace based on mutual trust. He said:
" ‘…This policy is involving a vast outlay of intellectual and material resources, with the result that the people of these countries are saddled with a great burden, while other countries lack the help they need for their economic and social development … Justice, right reason, and the recognition of man's dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race…Nuclear weapons must be banned… But this requires that the fundamental principles upon which peace is based in today's world be replaced by an altogether different one, namely, the realization that true and lasting peace among nations cannot consist in the possession of an equal supply of armaments but only in mutual trust.’"
Wester writes, "[Jesus’] light is the true light of universal love. . .universal compassion. . .universal peace. . . the light of total nonviolence. . .toward a new future of peace, a world without nuclear weapons." This is our true shield.
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
The parables today are particularly pointed in their use of images like break-ins and surprise returns. Those responsible for administration, spiritual leadership and the church’s dealing with social issues (like abused workers) will be held accountable for the care of the household; the well-being of the servants.
So we ask ourselves:
I don’t want a moratorium on the death penalty, I want the abolition of it. I can’t understand why a county [USA] that is so committed to human rights doesn’t find the death penalty and obscenity.----Bishop Desmond Tutu
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131
Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/
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