Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time(04/07/2004)

Face Death with a Clear Mind, Shrewdly Manage Earthly Possessions

First Reading (Wis 18: 6-9): The Israelites firmly believed they would be saved
Second Reading (Heb 11: 1-2, 8-19): Faith guides us to desire a heavenly home
Gospel (Lk 12: 32-48): True treasure and astute counsel
Chinese classics:
-“The heavenly edict has come; all must return to their roots. The spirit has departed, forever to rest with its parent.”

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes. Who then is the faithful and prudent manager? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. (Lk 12: 32-43 summarized)

Today's Gospel twice mentions ‘Blessed are they...’But who are those who are truly blessed? Those who are truly blessed are the ones who know how to ‘invest’ or store up wealth in heaven, who live prudently and with care, and are faithful stewards of the affairs of life.

A life of clear-mindedness means to always preserve a high level of vigilance until the moment the Lord calls us to Himself. It means to do all things well, to fulfill our obligations responsibly, to be prudent and careful, and be a good steward of our affairs.

In an agrarian society, people work from dawn till dusk, loosening their belts and lighting their lamps at night. The next day they rise, tie their belts and prepare to go out to the fields to work. Until once more, they extinguish the lamps.

In the day time tying their belts alerts them, at night lighting the lamps is a sign of being on their guard. To tie their belts and light their lamps really means that a person is preserving a high level of alertness at all times, both day and night.

We remain vigilant because we are waiting. We are waiting for the master to come, that is, we are waiting for death when God will call us.

At the entrance to a graveyard, there is a Chinese couplet which reads, “The heavenly edict has come, all things must return to their roots. The spirit has departed to forever rest with its parent.” (1)

But when will the “edict from heaven” come? We do not know. We do not know when the master will come or when from among others God will call us to Himself. He may come at any time. We who are servants must remain awake until the master comes. “If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves... You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Lk 12: 38-40)

Today's Gospel seems to emphasize the element of 'unexpectedness.' So afterwards Jesus repeated once again, “If that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming’, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know.” (Lk 12: 45-46).

Since the 1980's, I have been going to mainland China almost monthly to serve the church there. Every time I travel on the highway I see car accidents. I wonder when there will be an accident in which I am involved. So each time I go to the mainland, I think this might be the last time. So I try to prepare myself well so that if I do meet with an accident I will not have left unfinished something I should have completed.

There is a story about the young St. Aloysius Gonzaga. One day when he was playing ball, someone jokingly asked, “Aloysius, if God called you to Himself tonight, what would you do right now?” Aloysius calmly answered, “I would continue playing ball.”

Yes, continue to play ball! This is because we should finish, under God, whatever we should be doing, whether it is eating, sleeping, praying, working or playing. Whether it is a small family matter or a responsibility to society, in God we should complete them all. They are all ‘works’ that help us prepare to meet God.

To be a ‘prudent steward’ we should finish each task as well as possible, consume each meal properly, say every prayer as best we can, sleep as soundly as possible.

Moreover, we should enter fully and happily into all that we are called to do with attentiveness, energy, enthusiasm and love. In such a way we can meet God at any time without regret.

Some people say life is like walking on a one-way route the end of which is death. As we grow older our bodies grow weaker; we begin to face some deterioration, especially physical, in our lives. But apart from our bodies, we still have an even more precious soul! And these souls cannot be totally restricted by our bodies. That is to say, when the 'lamp' of physical life is about to burn out, our spirits can still be quite clear, calm, joyful, content and accepting of God's plan for us. That is what we call a 'good' or 'peaceful' end.

.The end of life should be the climax of our lives. At that moment what we especially need is that God be with us. The “Sacrament of the Sick” is a time for Christ to accompany us on our final earthly journey. If we have lived life prudently and have been faithful stewards, at the end of this life we will behold and enter into the bright eternal land of blessedness.

When that time comes, we will render an account and present our lifelong 'investment' to God. What we will receive in the Kingdom of God is “a purse that does not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven.” Furthermore, our treasure is entirely safe because “no thief and no moth can destroy it.