General, Joy of the Gospel

Comment on the gospel of the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time year C

Fr. Dumisani Vilakati, Diocese of Manzini, Eswatini.

Luke 12: 32-48

The gospel continues the thread of last Sunday’s gospel (18th) with a particular focus on what constitutes the real treasure. This time the real treasure is to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. In other words, one has to be constantly faithful to his/her task.

In a situation where people place their trust on material things, Jesus immediately exhorts his own not to be afraid of losing them. Materialism and secularism are therefore not modern phenomena. Jesus had to deal with it as well. We are immediately told to sell what we have and give alms, making safe investments with God where no thief comes and no moth destroys. This injunction by Jesus will be repeated later on in the gospel with the story of the rich ruler whom Jesus exhorts to sell all he owns and give the money to the poor and then be his follower (Lk 19:19-27).

The nuance of giving alms is certainly worth pointing out here. The word alms contains within itself (from the Greek eleow) matters of mercy that Christians have to extend to others. Therefore, both rich and poor have the capacity and indeed the duty to give alms as this extends beyond material things. We are called to be merciful just as the heavenly Father is merciful (cf. Lk. 6:36). Where your investments are, there will your heart be also. The question is are we invested with the poor and the needy. Are we invested in growing our spiritual lives or we leave that to chance?

Immediately, even without warning, the gospel moves forward to inviting the disciples to be ready for service. This is a continuation of the story of the rich fool who was not ready for his own death as he delighted in his riches. The parable of the Master, putting on an apron and having the servants sit down at table and waiting on them is strange. Ordinarily the servant should wait on the Master when he returns. This reversal speaks of a God whose task is to serve and save humanity.

Another parable, highlighting the need to be ready, speaks of the Master of the house and a thief not being known when he will come. Then the teaching comes that the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect. Again, this harks back to the rich fool, who did not know that his time was up. It is not known when the second coming of Jesus will happen even as some “false prophets” tell us these days that it is about to happen. All we know is we have to be ready.

Peter interjects asking if the parable is only for them or for everyone. The answer is not given, at least not explicitly so. In fact Peter’s question looks out of place as Jesus continues the same discourse even thought this time it is introduced by, Jesus said…in verse 41. Some manuscripts though add a little detail “unto him” in order to indicate that Jesus was answering Peter. Whatever way, again the summons to be ready receives emphasis with the added qualities of wisdom and fidelity being more pronounced as Jesus speaks of the wise and faithful steward.

In as much as Sacred Scripture is a spiritual treasure for us Christians, nevertheless, there is also plenty of wisdom in it. Even Non-Christian have received nourishment from Sacred Scripture with Mahatma Ghandi being touched all the more by the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Sacred Scripture, therefore, has universal appeal. The question of Peter therefore can be answered thus: This applies to you and everyone else. This is wisdom one can use for life. In this Sunday’s gospel reading, Jesus appears as a sage who gives lessons for life. However, Jesus gives lessons not only for this life but also on how to attain eternal life, the inexhaustible treasure in the heavens.