The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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August 10, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

We must live in response to our call

We are entrusted to be watchful and accountable in caring for the Church

August 12, 2001, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Luke continues as our guide in today's gospel. He helps us understand more about discipleship and how it functions in forming a community of disciples.

The gospel begins, as usual, with Jesus teaching. Words of encouragement are addressed to Jesus' followers in his time. Luke uses them to speak to the disciples of Jesus in his time. They are also addressed to us as well for we listen as Jesus' disciples today. Jesus reminds them and us that being a disciple is not easy. God's kingdom makes demands on us that are difficult. Jesus continues what last Sunday's readings emphasize, and that is that our real focus must be on God and not on things. We should realize that Jesus was not telling them to get rid of all things for one couldn't survive that way. It is Jesus' and Luke's way of telling disciples that their commitment should be totally directed to God. Jesus had advised in last Sunday's parable that it isn't the possession of things that is wrong but a fixation on them. The advice Jesus gives then is to trust in God. Carrying moneybags means a surplus, which one does not need.

The second part of the gospel reading introduces Jesus' teaching on watchfulness. He teaches that one must be prepared like servants who await the return of the master even when that master comes at night. Notice how throughout the section examples are drawn from real life. That is how wisdom thought works, and Jesus is certainly drawing upon the pattern of wisdom that had developed in Jewish thought. So one too must be prepared against the coming of a thief. The thief doesn't announce when he is going to come so one must be vigilant.

It is interesting that the master is away for a wedding. This detail could easily be overlooked. Remember messianic times are often referred to in terms of a wedding and wedding banquet. Then too the fact that the master will prepare a meal for watchful servants as a reward for their vigilance may also refer to a messianic banquet which God provided.

The final section is a reply to a question posed by Peter in which he asked whether this teaching applied only to disciples or to everyone. Jesus, in response, tells a second story. We certainly can hear Luke speaking to his church community again. Now the master has stewards to whom he entrusts the care of the estate. The story is about how different stewards would carry out their responsibilities when the master was absent. One steward is trustworthy but the other, because he believes the master would be delayed in returning, treated people in an abusive way. Another is criticized for failing to be prepared for the master's return. This suggests that one should simply not do nothing but must act in a caring way. To be watchful one must both be diligent and do what is needed.

All of this points to the need of realizing that a person must be accountable when given responsibilities. The leaders of the early Church must, like all other disciples, be watchful and vigilant but they also needed to care for the Church. They had been entrusted with important duties and, during the interim when the master was away, they would be judged on how well they had cared for the Church. Each disciple has been given gifts and each therefore must, during their life, live in response to their call. Each person will be judged on what they had done.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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