Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
This week the lectionary readings thrust us into end-time reality, when God shows up and writes the last chapter of this world’s story as we know it now.
Jesus – in Matthew 25:14-30, and the Apostle Paul – in his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica 5:1-11, draw us into this end-time story-writing. We discover that we are in the story; the story is also about us. This is our story. However, as God writes the last chapter, we are not flat characters on the page. Rather, we are called into interactive engagement with the narrative.
To help us find our place in this God-written, people-engaged narrative, Jesus tells us a story, and the Apostle Paul, brings his God-given gifts and his calling into faithful engagement as a servant of Jesus, a servant who is awake to this end time event.
In the story Jesus tells, a man is leaving on a journey. Before he leaves he calls his employees together, and gives each of them some money. Each receives an amount which is in harmony with their ability. Then he goes away, for a long time.
As we follow the story we find the first employee investing the money he had received, and making more – not for himself, but for his boss. The second employee does likewise. But the third goes a digs a hole in the ground and hides the money. What is striking in this story is how the third servant sees his boss: as a man who is harsh, who takes unfair advantage and who tries to make a profit at the expense of others, and so who finds himself paralyzed by fear, and thus unable to engage in his master’s work.
Of course, Jesus is not taking about money. Although some persons are given the gift of generosity – the talent of making money and being generous with it. He is speaking of our innate charism, the gift we are – along with the spiritual gifts we are given by God, for the sake of the kingdom of God of which we are a part. All is a gift; finally nothing in this world is of our making. We are, rather, stewards and servants of the Great Maker. It is as we invest our charism, our gifts in the work of the Kingdom of God, that we are in interaction with God who writes the Great Story
Paul sheds light on the Story, guiding the early believers in Thessalonica as they wait for this day when the Lord shows up – and writes the final chapter on life as we presently know it in this world. Faithful to Jesus’ guidance, Paul too speaks of surprise. “When they say ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them . . . and there will be no escape!” But there is comfort for these believers, and for us who also wait:
“But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day . . . so then let us not fall asleep . . . but let us keep awake and be sober.”
What keeps us awake? What protects us from being lulled into the sleep of forgetfulness by the world’s insistent and alluring liturgies?
Paul writes for us:
“Put on the breastplate faith and love
and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
Faith: turning to God for help in the face of difficulty, chaos, all that pushes against us.
This turning it an act of remembering, of being in conversation with God even as God is present and in conversation with us. Prayer counts.
Love: responding in love, rather than hate, anger, self-serving motivation; the kind of
Love that is patient, kind, long-suffering, not self-seeking, but which loves
God first, and one’s neighbor in the same way that we love ourselves
Hope: responding in hope –the kind of hope that knows that in this present
World and the way the world writes its story – and would seek to pull us
captive into its story – is all there is. We live in hope, knowing that God
will write the end of the story.
It is as we live in faith, hope, and love that we find ourselves engaged, in interaction with how God is writing the Great Story of redemption, rescue, and making all things new.
The spiritual discipline which helps us remember, which helps us stay awake to God’s Great Reality, is the “Consciousness Examen”. At first a difficult and strange name, but is no more than a guide for prayerful awareness. Help for practicing this guide is offered here. It is helpful to practice this prayerful awareness at the end of the day, or at least once a week.
Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost:
- 11/7 Monday: Matthew 25:1a,13, 14-18
- 11/8 Tuesday: Matthew 25:19-30
- 11/9 Wednesday: Psalm 90:1-12
- 11/10 Thursday: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
- 11/11 Friday: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
- 11/12 Saturday: Matthew 25:1-6
- 11/13 Sunday: Matthew 25:1a,13, 14-30