The night of the passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage. Your people awaited the salvation of the just and the destruction of their foes. For when you punished our adversaries, in this you glorified us whom you had summoned. For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.(P) The word of the Lord.
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting. Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance. (R)
See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. (R)
Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age - and Sarah herself was sterile - for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name." He reasoned the God was able to raise even form the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
"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."
Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?" And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, "My master is delayed in coming," and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master's will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
There is a story of a senior devil having a conversation with a junior devil. They were discussing the best way to tempt Christians to walk away from their faith and bring more people to hell. The junior devil explained his strategy to the senior one. He said, "Let us devise a plan to convince them that there is no God." "No", said the senior devil, "That will not work. If they start reading the Bible and take a look beyond the earth, they will know that God exists". "Well, let us then convince them that there is no devil", the junior devil suggested. "That is more difficult to do", replied the senior devil, "If only they take a look at their own neighbourhood, they will know that there is not just one devil but many around them". "Here is the best plan", the senior devil said, "We don't have to convince them that there is no God nor tell them that there is no devil. Let us just tell them: Take your time. There is no hurry". (Clive Staples Lewis - The Screwtape Letters)
Last week the gospel was about a man who requested Jesus to intervene in a dispute between him and his brother over the division of their inherited property. But Jesus declined to serve as an advocate and judge. Instead He merely told a story about a rich farmer who stored up his harvest for himself only to have God to tell him that he would not be alive to enjoy what he had stored up. Jesus used the story to warn his followers that people who are busy accumulating worldly possessions for themselves with no concern whatsoever for what matters to God and others or busy doing everything except what God requires of them, will meet the same fate as the rich farmer.
In today's gospel Jesus told two short stories to emphasize the importance of self-preparedness for such an eventuality. One is the parable of the watchful servants. According to the story, a master had gone to a wedding banquet and his servants were waiting up for him, even though he was delayed. In those days doors were often bolted from the inside, especially at night, to keep out robbers and troublemakers. Servants were expected to be dressed and ready with lighted lamps for their Master's return no matter when he returned. Jesus used this ancient custom as an example to teach his followers. He said, "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."
What does "gird your loins" mean? Back in the first century, people wore a long flowing tunic or robe, tied around the waist with a belt or girdle. The people would tuck the long flows of the robe under the belt when they went to perform hard labor or went to fight. So, "gird your loins" means get ready for action or prepare for hard work. Jesus told his followers this story to illustrate the necessity of being prepared to open the door at once when the Master of the house knocks and asks his servants to let him in. If the servants refused to answer the door or delayed, they could expect a rebuke or punishment from the master.
On the contrary, Jesus said if the master found his servants watchful even in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep and were ready to serve him, then the master himself would put on servant's clothes, seat his servants at his own table and to their astonishment, would serve them. Jesus then added another story. It was the story of the house owner who was asleep and unprepared for the thief's intrusion. He would have protected his house from break-in if he knew the hour when the thief would come.
Jesus further admonished His followers, "You must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come." Who is "the Son of Man" Jesus was referring to? People called Jesus "Rabbi", "Lord", "Master", and "Son of God". But no one called Jesus, "Son of Man". Only Jesus was referring to himself as the Son of Man. Why did Jesus call Himself the "Son of Man"? On the face of it, the Son of Man implies Jesus' humanity. He was born of a woman like us. However, Jesus is not just a human figure but an exalted figure. He existed as God's eternal Son before creation but came down and lived among us as the perfect human being, Daniel (7:13-14).
Then a question arises if Jesus was the Son of Man and, He was already there why did Jesus say the "Son of Man will come"? Here, Jesus was talking about His Second Coming or His return to earth after His death and ascension to heaven. His First Coming was to preach "the gospel of the kingdom of God", Mark (1:14-15) and pay the penalty for mankind's sin. He came first to save us but He will come the second time to judge us at the time of our death and at the end of the world. However, He did not say when and how He would come. That's why Jesus called on his disciples to be always prepared.
We can learn two lessons here.
Therefore let us always be alert, ready and prepared.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!