Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|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.)