|by Angela Lambert|
August 7th, 2016; 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Luke 12:35-40 NAB
“Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’”
Today Jesus emphasizes the need for disciples to be vigilant. According to Wordbook, vigilant means to be “carefully observant or attentive; on the lookout for possible danger.” Discipleship can suffer from the same waning of enthusiasm as any of our other noble tasks. How many New Year’s diets end by February? How many work-out videos get one viewing before gathering dust? How many books are left only partially read? How many friendships or relationships wither from slow neglect? Jesus exhorts us to head off dangers to our faith by being aware and making efforts to protect ourselves from them. Discipleship requires the same perseverance, effort, and watchfulness as anything else we hope to accomplish and maintain.
To achieve a goal of getting in shape, having someone to hold you accountable and work out with you will be necessary in order to avoid giving up early or choosing to watch tv instead of going to the gym. Discipleship requires fellowship as well. We need faith-filled friends to keep us accountable, inspire us to be better, and keep us in the habit of prayer and worship. To achieve the goal of developing your mind through reading, you will need to choose a time, place, and frequency or it will never happen. Forming a book club can also give that added boost of a deadline to motivate you. Similarly, to grow nearer to Christ you will need to read Scripture regularly. The same pitfalls apply here so being vigilant about sticking to a routine will be important and joining a bible study could also be motivating.
Wordbook’s synonym for vigilance illuminates the essence of discipleship as well: “open-eyed.” Here however, it’s our eyes of faith that we need to struggle to keep open. In Hebrews 1:1, St. Paul defines faith as: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (RSV). He goes on to illustrate this with the example of Abraham who left for a land God promised without any sight of it beforehand – no map, no appraisal or inspection, no google images – only God’s word. Moreover, after having received a son despite he and Sarah’s old age, Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac at God’s command. Imagine the paradox presented to Abraham. God had promised Abraham many descendants through Isaac, and yet God also asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. How could both of these things be true at the same time? Abraham could find no assurance in natural reason or human experience and power. Abraham merited the title Father of Faith by his response. St. Paul relates, “[Abraham] considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11:19 RSV). Abraham had confidence that God is all-powerful and that God keeps His promises. He didn’t limit God to our human experience. He trusted God and proved his conviction when he risked everything to be obedient to the Lord.
How can we imitate the vigilant, open-eyed faith of Abraham? Every day we need to open our eyes through prayer. We need to ask for the gift of faith and trust. We have to keep sharp through fellowship with faithful Christians and spiritual reading. We need to deepen our trust through developing our relationship with Christ and receiving His grace in the sacraments. Finally, many saints and spiritual writers suggest doing an examination of conscience every night. Look back on the day and evaluate your choices. When did you show love for God and for others? What temptations did you overcome? What inspirations of the Holy Spirit did you follow? Secondly, where did you lean on your own understanding instead of God’s? When did you relax into thinking and acting like a child of the world rather than a child of God? What choices were motivated by a lack of faith, hope, or charity? Ask God for forgiveness and an increase in grace to do better the next day.
Even if the end of the day doesn’t work for you, try to at least be more introspective throughout the day. Jesus warned “Be sure of this, if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” Sins can make little strongholds in our soul if we are not vigilant in identifying them and putting them before the Lord for healing. We never know when we will be attacked by temptation and sometimes it can be very subtle. By developing a habit of staying alert we will be better able to avoid or overcome them.
Lastly, we never know when Jesus will come. He too appears at surprising times in surprising ways. If we live in faith, our hearts will be open to receive the gifts Christ desires to bestow on us. We may have to take a step that makes no sense from a practical perspective unless God is real, all-powerful, and keeps His promises. God will provide. If therefore we seek first His kingdom, we can be assured that everything else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33), and quite often in ways we could not have foreseen.
We have a tendency today to need to “see it to believe it.” Although I still have to struggle to patiently trust God, at this point I have seen God act so many times in my life that I can say I believe it because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen God provide over and over again, always in unexpected ways, and just at the right time. He has done this at every level – family, relationships, work, finances, and health. Even though it’s easier to trust the wisdom of the world or our own strength which we can see right before us, we ought to vigilantly keep our eyes open to the wisdom and strength of our loving God which is far more reliable. He is coming, and it will be a day of great rejoicing we won’t want to miss!
- Reflect on what practices have deepened your faith and helped you grow as a disciple of Christ?
- Consider where you need further growth. Pray about how you could be more vigilant in that area.
- Meditate on the words Jesus asked St. Faustina to have written below His image: “Jesus I trust in You.”
- Reflect with gratitude on a time(s) when God came through for you in a surprising or powerful way.
- Is there a part of your life that needs more trust in Jesus? Pray for an increase in faith and hope.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Choose one way to be more vigilant in your faith life. Share your goal with someone who will encourage you and keep you accountable.
- Pray the short prayer, “Jesus I trust in You” several times each day.
- Pray Psalm 27 each day this week.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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