Sunday, August 11, 2019

Ready for God’s Kingdom

August 11, 2019 –– l9th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 18:6–9 / Psalm 33 / Hebrews 11:1–2, 8–19 / Luke 12: 32–48
Ready for God’s Kingdom

Christian Smith is a sociologist of religion at Notre Dame. He uses the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to describe the popular religion of American people. These are the basic tenets:
––A God exists who created and ordered the world and “watches over” human life on earth.
––God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other as taught by most world religions.
––The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
––God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a  major problem.
––“Good” people go to heaven when they die.

There is a growing assumption that this is a basic summary of Christian Faith. These things are easy to “believe” because they make few demands on our lives and, in a society where “feelings” are almost the ultimate criteria of values, believing these things make us feel good. The rebellious mantra of the 60s has become today’s secular dogma: If it feels good, do it.

But what if deciding right and wrong is not just a point of view? What if religion is not just a list of rules—mine or yours or anyone else’s? What if truth is not the ever-changing consensus of the crowd but instead is a Person you can get to know and a Person who knows you? Christian Faith says this Person’s story is told in the Bible. His name is Jesus. It is good to listen to what he says.

In contrast to living for convenience and temporary happiness and presuming that we measure up to God’s standard of “good,” Jesus exhorts his disciples to live differently. They are to give and store up treasure in heaven. Disciples are to be like servants who await their master’s return late in the night; they’re to be ready to serve the needs of the master. Then Jesus introduces another element: One concern of the master is to make sure that no one breaks into the home. Here we have the introduction of evil and the possibility of danger. Someone could break into the house and wreak havoc.

Peter asks a question, “Lord, is this meant for us or for everyone?” The disciples have lived in the presence of Jesus. They have been given much. Yet the inference is that if they’re not vigilant, they will be judged.

Jesus’ words are not only directed at disciples who lived long ago; they are directed at us. We also know the will of God through Jesus Christ. We have the Sacraments, the Scriptures and the Apostolic teaching of the Church. We have been given much more than the disciples initially had.

We are caught today in a conflict of faithfulness and complacency. There are popular but devastating beliefs and values and assumptions voiced in the media and among some of our personal relationships. False teaching is breaking into “the house”––the Church, and it is wreaking havoc.

A recent report has projected that only 50 percent of those surveyed even know that the Catholic Church teaches that during the Mass, the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Of that 50 precent, 28 percent believe the church’s teaching, but 22 percent reject it. 

As our larger society grapples with decreasing respect for human life and an evaporation of any boundaries to sexuality, many claiming to be “Catholic” are surrendering to whatever seems popular or easy. Jesus is saying the opposite. He is the Master. He has promised to come again, and he can come at any time. His servants are to be ready when he does come. The world around us says: “Focus on your own security…. live the easiest way you can…. take a short cut…. do what's most convenient….” If we always choose what is quick and easy in the service of our heavenly Master, we will not be ready at his appearing. Life is more than temporal comfort and happiness. Christian living means staying ready.

The Gospel today asks: “Are we ready?” Jesus wants us to be prepared for the coming fullness of God’s kingdom. We must each decide whether to be servants of the Word of God, or to embrace whatever is convenient and “feels” right. Catholic parishes are meant to be places of refuge and vigil. Here find help as we await the coming of our Lord and embrace him in the Eucharist and in the Scriptures. One important reason to gather as the Church every week is to remember that the One we follow did not choose the quick and easy way. He chose obedience to a truth that was not easily understood. He chose to persevere in prayer and surrender to the Father’s plan. He chose the hard road to the cross. And as he finished his earthly ministry he could say to the Father, I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do (Jn. 17:4).

Each week we come to hear God’s Word. Each week we come to eat our Lord’s Body and drink his Blood. This is the very life of the Church. This is meant to hold us steady as we live in a confused and conflicted world. Consistently in the Mass we are reminded: When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again. Until he comes we remind ourselves of what Jesus said and did, and he said he would come back. We remember that he will come back at an unsuspected hour. We remember that he has called us to be and stay ready until then.

Jesus warns that a coming judgment will fall those who are not ready. In the meantime we will be surrounded by people and social media that try to throw “quick and easy” options in our path from every direction. We can be ridiculed if we live differently. But as surely as we profess our faith by partaking of the Body and Blood of our Lord, let us also persevere in the faith that has been handed down from the Apostles and stay ready…. until he comes. The reward, if we’re ready, is the greatest event we’ll ever attend: the heavenly Supper of the Lamb. 

This is what Jesus says.

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