domenica 7 agosto 2016

«Estote parati»

Last Sunday’s liturgy was about detachment from material goods. In today’s gospel we still find an echo of that teaching, “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.” But this reference just serves to introduce the theme of today’s liturgy, which is vigilance. All three readings are about waiting.

We can start from the second reading, which is about Abraham. He was called by God “to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.” God said to him, “I will make of you a great nation.” To be sure, he went to Canaan, where he lived as a foreigner in tents, and had a son, Isaac, from his barren wife, Sarah; but that was the end of it. The letter to the Hebrews rightly points out that “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.” They believed; that is why “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

If we now pass on to the first reading, we find the Israelites on the night of the Passover. They also had received “oaths in which they put their faith.” And for that reason “they awaited the salvation of the just and the destruction of their foes.” They saw with their eyes the fulfillment of the promises; they experienced the might of God, who delivered them from Egypt. But we can imagine what they felt that night: nothing was assured; their flight could fail; only faith gave them courage.

And now let us move on to the gospel. It invites us to take the same attitude of the Israelites before leaving Egypt, “Gird your loins and light your lamps.” The Israelites had their loins girt to be ready to flee; in this case we have to gird our loins to be ready to work on the Lord’s arrival. The master is away for a wedding, and he could come back at any moment. The servants do not know at what time he is coming; so they should be vigilant, that is awake, watchful and ever ready to open to him. Surprisingly, when he comes and finds them so, it will be he to gird himself and wait on them. So, in short, “you also must be prepared (estote parati), for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

These words apply to everyone. Peter thought that they were addressed only to the apostles. Specifically for them, Jesus adds another parable. The apostles are—they also—servants, but with an additional responsibility: they are like the steward of the parable, whom the master “put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time.” This is their specific assignment: to be at the service of their co-servants. Of course, to fulfill their task, they are provided with authority; but they cannot abuse their authority, especially in absence of their master. They also do not know the hour of his return; so, they should always be, all the more, at work. In their case, the recompense will be greater; since they were faithful in small matters, they will be given great responsibilities: the master will put them in charge of all his property. 

What matters is to learn to wait. We cannot be impatient. God takes his time. We cannot hurry him. It is we that should adapt to him; not he to us. The only thing we can do is to wait and be ready. Nothing else.