Today’s reflection is for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 11, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
In today’s Gospel Jesus warns his disciples that while the Master is away there is an expectation of appropriate behavior! They must be “faithful and prudent stewards,” lest they be cast aside with the “unfaithful.” Who are these unfaithful? And what made them so?
I’ve heard many people wrongly claim that the Old Testament reveals the wrath of God, the angry God, and the punishing God, while the New Testament reveals Jesus and the love, mercy, and tenderness of God. My friends, make no mistake, the God of Israel was patient, merciful, and loving with his rebellious children, and Jesus has some pretty clear and harsh teachings on the consequences of being far from God. He unequivocally demands that we make a choice. We are either with Him and for Him, or on our own and against Him. We are to choose either light or darkness, in or out, faithfulness or unfaithfulness. There are clearly only two choices and each of us must make a personal decision that is either for or against God and His Kingdom.
I believe today’s second reading from the book of Hebrews holds the key to understanding Jesus’ harsh teaching about the faithful and unfaithful, as well as what we might expect to see among those who are faith-full. Hebrews reads, “Brothers and sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (11:1) Hebrews says faith is two things: 1. getting what we hope for, and 2. evidence for the invisible God. People are usually quick to equate faith with trust and belief, but I think trust and belief and products of faith. There can be no greater hope for our heart than relationship and unity with God, our Creator. Faith is the attainment of that relationship. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for,” according to Hebrews. When we are in that relationship (faith) with God, then we have all the evidence we need for the truth of God. Of course God exists! We are in an intimate, loving relationship with Him! “Faith is evidence of things not seen.” And because we are in the relationship, we can trust and believe!
Relationship with God, like any relationship, must be attended to. I must spend time with, talk with, learn about, and share with others the beauty that I have discovered in my beloved. If we want a strong relationship with our spouse or with our children, we must attend to them, and it is true also with God. Faith grows like a mustard seed! It starts so very small–maybe as an infant in Baptism, but if nurtured and cared for, attended to and cultivated, it grows to be so big and strong that it brings comfort and consolation to others during times of need. Our relationship with God must be authentic, attended to, never neglected, and always shared.
Finally, Hebrews teaches us that because of his faith–his relationship with God–Abraham “obeyed,” “went out,” “sojourned,” “looked forward to,” “received power from,” and even “offered up,” his only son, trusting that God would raise him up again. In other words, Abraham’s faith caused him to do something! And therein lies the key for those who claim to believe. If we say we believe, if we have faith, if we are in a relationship with God, but we do not do what The Master commands, then we are no more in a relationship with Him than any anybody else! And if the faith-full are truly full of relationship with the God of the universe, then the un-faithful are those who find themselves alone. Faith is to recognize God and live in a loving relationship of obedience and service. Yes, to be a “faithful and prudent servant.” To disobey, to act as though there is no Master, and that the Master will not return, is to separate oneself from God; to walk away; to reject; to give our “no” to Him, His will, and His Kingdom.
So the faithful servants are in a relationship with God that causes them to act in a way that is responsible and brings glory to God and His kingdom of love, mercy, and justice. To be unfaithful is to reject that relationship, to store up treasure not in heaven but here on earth. It is to refuse to forgive, to show no mercy, and to love no one but oneself. When you love only you…you end up all alone…for eternity. And God honors that decision freely made by that person.
Choose faith. Nurture it. Act on it by serving those most in need. Be the good and faithful servant, because the Master will return at an unknown hour. Be ready. Get to work while there is still time. Amen?