Vol.5 No.48 DoM Gospel Reflection
19th Sunday Ordinary Time—August 7, 2016
Rev. Daniel Aloo Owuor, FMH.
This Sunday, scriptures remind us of trusting faith in God’s promises and vigilant preparedness. I ave attended a couple of Franciscan retreats. I remember one in which the retreat master was explaining on how to get ready for heaven like St. Francis always did. He told a story about a mega-church pastor who, during his sermon, asked all who wanted to go to heaven to raise their hands. Everyone in the audience did so; except one elderly man sitting near the front of the auditorium. The pastor pointed his finger at him and said, “Sir, do you mean to tell us that you don’t want to go to Heaven?” “Sure I do,” the elderly man answered, “but the way you put the question, I figured you were getting up a busload for tonight!’
In that retreat, Father also told a story about a pastor of a very large catholic parish who died and went to heaven. He was convinced that he would get the penthouse in Heaven. If not he, then who, he thought. Instead, he was given a tiny one-bedroom apartment. Disappointed and a little bit angry, the priest asked St. Peter why he couldn’t have the penthouse. St. Peter replied, “We have lots of pastors and preachers like you here in Heaven, and the conveniences in your apartment surpass everything available to the rich and famous people on earth.” “Then who is in the penthouse?” the pastor asked. “It’s a politician,” replied St. Peter. “What?! Why?!” the pastor inquired further. Peter replied, “Until now, we have only one of them in heaven!”
As women of faith, our calling comes down to being alert, ready and watchful for we do not know the hour or the day. God has called to be His. He loves us so much. Each and every day of our lives, He wants us to know Him, love Him, serve Him and thereafter enjoy eternal life with Him. Before giving the commentary on the gospel reading, allow me to give some background on the first two readings and the Psalm.
Our Catholic bible is composed of 73 inspired books divided into two testaments or agreements: the old (46 books) and the new testament (27 books). The old agreement finds fulfilment in the new agreement. The books in the Old Testament are divided into the Pentateuch, Historical books, Wisdom and Poetic books, and Prophetic Books. The New Testament is a composition of the synoptic gospels, the letters of Paul, the pastoral letters and the Catholic letters.
The first reading (Wisdom 18:6-90), cites the faith-filled preparedness of the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt before their departure to the Promised Land. Their faith in God’s promises gave them hope. Their faith and hope resulted in their liberation. With expectant hope, the Hebrews sacrificed the first Passover lamb and ate the first ritual meal, as prescribed by their God through Moses. They awaited their imminent release and were prepared for it.
One of my daily spiritual exercises before retiring to bed at night is reading of the Psalms. I learned it from my parents. There are 150 Psalms in the Bible. After the divine office and Our Franciscan night prayers, I always pick one Psalm, read it aloud, meditate over it silently and go to sleep. Psalms are the prayers by which the Israelites brought before God their troubles and fears, perplexities and frustrations, hopes and aspirations, as well as their joyful expressions of gratitude and praise. Psalms contain a whole range of human emotions and moods, both sad and happy that every one of us experiences in the different circumstances of our life. It is their ability to reflect the shared human condition that has given them their universal appeal to all people of all places and cultures. Psalms are a means of approaching God in our own particular situations.
This Sunday, Psalm (Ps 33), invites us to express our own confidence in God and to declare our trust in His Providence. In the Second Reading, taken from the last chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, Paul defines Faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” He tries to bolster the Faith of the Jewish Christians (the Hebrews), by appealing to the example of their ancestors, starting with Abraham, and reviewing the things they had accomplished by Faith. And now back to the gospel reading.
In the Gospel reading (12:32-48), Jesus asks his disciples to trust the Father’s promise to give them eternal happiness in His kingdom. This calls for preparation at all times. He will come at an unexpected hour. Using the master-thief parable Jesus warns us to be alert so that the thief (the devil) may not steal our treasure of Divine grace by his temptations. Using the master-servant parable, He reminds us always to do the will of God by obeying His commandment of love, offering humble and sacrificial service to others.
You probably have watched the movie West Side Story. It is like a modern day version of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The setting is New York City. In the movie, the main characters are Tony and Maria. They belong to different ethnic groups at war with each other, but nevertheless fall in love. They are about to escape but Tony tragically dies in a fight. Tony never expected that night to be his last one. He was getting ready to be married to Maria and plans were underway for life thereafter. Jesus tells us that we must be ready, be on our guard because we do not know the hour or the day. This is not meant to frighten or scare us.
We are all good at planning and thinking about the future. It is true that if you don’t plan, then you plan to fail. We often prepare and get ready of what ifs. Think of our life insurance, car insurance, medical insurance and house insurance. We plan for retirement, education of our children, vacations. Others (like the Franciscan Missionaries of Hope) even make funeral arrangements years in advance, though they are in perfect health. Jesus wants us to go an extra mile and be always ready for Him.
Daughters of Mary, it is such a privilege to meet every Tuesday mornings and evenings for prayer. Every time we do so, we stay alert. Jesus wants to see that we have kept our personal relationship with him by growing in holiness. Such a growth is possible: daily talking to him in prayer, listening to him in Bible reading, spiritual reading, devotion to our lady by praying the rosary, by asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit every day, by recharging our spiritual batteries and getting spiritual nourishment in Holy Mass, by getting reconciled with God every day, asking for His pardon and forgiveness with a repentant heart and seeking His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by seeing the face of Jesus in everyone and by serving our families, our spouses and children, sacrificially sharing our gifts, talents and blessings with them.
St. Francis of Assisi was once asked: “Suppose you knew for certain that you were going to die and meet your maker at the stroke of midnight tomorrow, how would you spend your time between now and then? “Come what may,” he answered, “I would finish hoeing my garden.” His was a spiritual garden. The gospel invites us all to be engaged in a similar reflection.