ARE YOU FAITHFUL?
HOMILY FOR NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33; Hebrew 11:1-2.8-19; Luke 12:32-48.
How will you feel as a spouse, after years of trust and faithfulness, you realize that the children under your roof are not yours, but are someone else’s or some persons out there? How will you feel after years in marriage you realize you have step-children outside your matrimonial home? While hearts are beginning to break as we contemplate our unfaithfulness as humans, the liturgy of today presents the faithfulness of God’s plan of salvation for us at all times and the fulfillment of his Word in Christ Jesus.
In the first reading, wisdom points to us that God is faithful to his word: how he promised to deliver his people from the hands of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and how these enemies were destroyed. As God promised, he led his people through the mighty waters (Ex 14:1-31). The reading says, “That night was made known beforehand to our fathers, so that they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted” (Wis. 18:6). The previous verse (v.5) makes it clear, that it was the night of the Passover and the tenth plague against Egypt (the death of first born as seen in Ex 11:1-12:36) where the people’s bondage was brought to an end. This was made known to the fathers by Moses (Ex 6:6-7); 11:4-7). The reason for their being informed beforehand is that they might have a trusting faith in God’s oaths and rejoice in their fulfillment.
In some sense it could be said that father Abraham knew of that night in advance inasmuch as he was informed by God that his descendants will be held in bondage for 400 years and then freed by God’s judgment against the nation which so held them (Gn. 15:13-14). The people’s expectation of their deliverance and the destruction of their enemies are due to the trust they put in God’s oaths. Hence, every year they remember this great event and celebrate it as the Passover, giving praise to God. The celebration of their salvation is what later became the new sacrifice, that is, the Eucharist, which also means thanksgiving. Wisdom points to us that Christ is the Word promised of salvation to save humanity. When the Israelites remembered their history and discovered God is faithful to his words and promise of salvation, it gave them courage and hope for the future.
The theme of faith reflects in the second reading with two major figures: Abraham and Sarah, but first defines faith “as assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Abraham, by faith sojourned in the land of promise and when tested, offered up Isaac. It was a pre-figuration of God’s promise of salvation, offering his only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, Sarah by faith realized God’s faithfulness to his word through the angels/visitors.
Christ in today’s gospel gave an explanation of the parable of last week, the parable of the rich fool who stores treasures for himself without being rich towards God. He allowed death to take him unaware or unprepared (Lk. 12:13-21). This explanation of Christ in today’s gospel promises hope, and would therefore be of special interest to Luke’s church, which is suffering persecution and awaits Parousia (second coming).
The gospel comprises of three parables: the first, about a wedding banquet (vv. 35-38), promises blessings to the watchful; the second, about the coming of a thief (vv. 39-40), warns of judgment of those who are not ready, and the third, about a faithful and unfaithful slave (vv. 41-48), which promises blessings to the person who is at work when the master returns, and judgment on the person who knew the Lord’s will and did not prepare nor do what he wanted. Christ in his explanation urges us to become faithful to his words and teachings, by placing our treasures in heaven, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12:34). Further he said, “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning…” (v.35). It recalls the instructions of the original Passover meal: “This is how you shall eat it: with your belt on your waist, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste” (Ex. 12:11). The Passover instructions were to prepare people for quick departure from Egypt once the right moment came. Christ’ instructions are to prepare his disciples for his return, which will take place at an unexpected time. And the burning lamps require from us constant attention. Wicks must be trimmed and oil replenished. We should be like the faithful and wise steward, always prepared, waiting for the master to come at an hour we do not know.
As faithfulness cuts across the reading, what comes to our minds when we think of it? Is it restricted to spouses or marriages alone? In the first place, are we faithful to God who is ever faithful to us in keeping his words? How often have we promised and failed? What about our priestly and religious vows? How faithful are we to these vows? What about our vows to renounce Satan and his empty promises at baptism? Are we still faithful in keeping these vows? Are we faithful to time in our places of work, school, church and other events? Fidelity is not limited to marital relationships alone but practically cuts across every sphere of life. May God help us to be faithful to our vocations through Christ our Lord. Amen!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ