HOMILY FOR NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME,
AGORSOR AARON AGBESHIE
WISDOM 18:6-9/ PSALM 33/ HEBREWS 11:1-2; 8--19/ LUKE 12:32-48
THEME: BE WATCHFUL
The Liturgy of today offers us three things for our reflection namely Covenant, Faithfulness and Watchfulness. The First reading draws our attention to the Passover experience and how it foreshadows the Easter experience. The Second reading unfolds the unwavering faith of our Patriarchs which is worthy of emulation and the Gospel invites us watch and pray since we do not know when the master (Jesus) is coming. Therefore the First Reading and the Gospel bring out the basic theme of trust in God by emphasizing the fact that those who put their trust in God do not have to waver because he is a faithful God.
Hebrews 11 is often called “The roll call of the heroes of faith.” Yet strictly speaking, the Bible knows no heroes; for heroes are witnesses to their own achievement, whereas in Hebrews 11, the great figures of salvation from Abraham to the prophets and martyrs of the old covenant are praised not for their heroism but precisely for their ‘faith’ which is in the authors thought closely linked to hope. Faith is taking God at his word when he makes promises for the future.
Because of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and because of the Covenant or agreement made between them and Yahweh, the Israelites thought of themselves as the chosen people whom God had selected out from all races on the face of the earth (Deut. 6-8) in order to shower his blessings on them and make them great among the nations on face of the earth. Later authors saw this and reflected it in their writings. Thus the author of the book of Wisdom in today’s First reading says that the Israelites knew beforehand that God was going to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians; and by the very same act by which God destroyed the enemies of Israel, he also established them as a people ( ie., death of the first born of Egypt and the Exodus). They accepted God’s sweet law so that they might form one community “Singing the praises of the fathers.”
In addition to the idea of the covenant in today’s Liturgy, we also find the notions of faithfulness and watchfulness. In general, it cannot be said that the people of the Old Testament times were very faithful to the covenant with Yahweh. “When Israel was a child, I loved him; out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” And since they were unfaithful, God constantly punished them in order to bring them back to their senses. Not only did he destroy Israel, but he eventually destroyed Judah and Jerusalem as well. Once the Davidic monarchy was removed from the scene, the understanding of the covenant between Israel and her God was opened to a more spiritual understanding. The infidelity of Israel always contrasted with the fidelity to his chosen people.
Furthermore, a faithful Christian is never surprised by the coming of the Lord. The emphasis in today’s Gospel is on Christian preparedness or watchfulness in the service of the Lord. To be watchful means to be vigilant. Jesus is by this urging us all to be vigilant, to resist evil and to overcome temptation. The point of the parable is not that we should cut down our sleep, but that we should be careful to lead fully Christian lives, untainted as much as possible by the values and aspiration of the sinful world around us. The faithful Christian is never really surprised by the coming of the Lord, since he is always in the state of grace and of the love of God; it is a Christian who falls into sin, remains in sin, omits to pray and watch who will be surprised by the unexpected arrival of the Master. “You must also be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40).
Watchfulness should be a regular part of Christian Life. It includes not only the negative aspect of resisting temptation, but also the positive note of detachment from worldly things, self-sacrifice for others and self-discipline. These things are absolutely necessary if we are to wage a successful battle against the endless round of daily temptations which in turn are only anticipations of great eschatological combat when many will not remain faithful to their God.
The parable of the faithful and wise steward certainly has implications for all in leadership positions in the world namely Priests, Parents, Managers to mention but few. We all have a heavy responsibility; one for which we will have to give an exact account when the just judge comes in the glory of the Father. Be watchful demands of us faithfulness. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta says that God did not call us to be successful but to be faithfulness.