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Joyful Vigilance

  • October 19, 2021 (readings)
  • Memorial of Saints John de BrĂ©beuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs
  • Fr. John Bartunek, LC
  • Luke 12:35-38

    Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.”

    Opening Prayer: Thank you for the gift of another day. Today, I know you want to give me something, to teach me something. Today you have something for me to do. I want to receive what you want to give me and give whatever you ask of me. Help quiet my mind and my heart so that I can truly hear your voice and live today on the wavelength of your love.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. White Martyrs: Today’s martyrs suffered violently for their faith. They were not only rejected and humiliated, but they were also brutally tortured for their faith. It was their calm fortitude and persistent courage in the face of such dreadful opposition that sealed their witness to the Gospel, making a lasting impression on the pagan peoples they had come to evangelize in North America. They join the long line of red martyrs–martyrs who shed their blood for the faith–who have constantly accompanied the spreading of the Church throughout the centuries. Though we are not all called to be red martyrs, we all are called to be martyrs. The word “martyr” comes from the Greek word for witness, for one who bears testimony. Every Christian is by nature a witness for Christ, someone who shows the world the truth of Christ and his Gospel. And so, every Christian is called to be a martyr. Those who literally shed their blood are traditionally called red martyrs, while those who faithfully bear witness to Christ through the hidden–and often painful–sacrifices of everyday faith, hope, and love are known as white martyrs. How am I living my martyrdom? What is the witness that Jesus is calling me to give to this needy world in which I live and work?

    2. Active Waiting: Jesus calls us to be active waiters. He repeats multiple times in this passage that we will be blessed–truly happy, truly fulfilled–if we patiently await his return. For, he has revealed to us that he will come again, and we profess our faith in this second coming every Sunday when we pray the Creed: …he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead… This means that a fundamental Christian attitude is anticipation, hope: Jesus has ascended into heaven, leaving us to carry on his work in this fallen world under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But he has promised to return. It is not up to us to finish his work and finalize the building up of his Kingdom; it is just up to us to do our part in the time allotted to us. This attitude, if we truly absorb it into our hearts and minds, gives us peace and energy at the same time: peace, because we are confident that no matter how crazy things get in this broken world, Jesus is still the Lord; and energy, because we know that if we keep on doing our part as he reveals it to us through the Holy Spirit, we will surely receive a joyful reward and our efforts will bear eternal fruit for his Kingdom. How much do those attitudes characterize the landscape of our minds?

    3. Our Job: Jesus uses three words to describe how we should be living our lives in this in-between state between his first coming (at Bethlehem) and his second coming (at the end of history): ready, vigilant, prepared. What do those words really mean for us? Jesus is the Master who is coming back soon, at a time we are not sure about. We are his servants, entrusted with the care of our own lives in the meantime. Ultimately, even our lives are simply a gift from God; they belong to him. He entrusted us with them as with a precious gift. If we squander that gift by wasting our lives in self-absorption, self-gratification, and other genres of rebellious, sinful behavior, we will lose the original gift and never enjoy its fulfillment. But if we spend our lives in a manner worthy of the master who gave them to us–generously loving God and neighbor, developing our potential, and putting it at the service of all that is true, good, and beautiful–then we will be blessed when he returns. Indeed, upon that return, we will enter into his joy, and he will rejoice in us, and all our deepest desires will be satisfied far beyond our wildest imagination.

    Conversing with Christ: I want to be ready, Lord, to be vigilant, watchful, responsible. I want to live my life knowing that all my choices really matter, that you have entrusted me with a great gift, out of love. I want to live calmly in this truth, because it is the true way to fulfillment that you have revealed, and you would never deceive me. Teach me, Lord, to be ready, to be vigilant, to be prepared—in short, to live as your true follower, no matter what.

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reflect prayerfully on what I usually do for relaxation and recreation, examining my conscience to see if these are healthy ways to recharge, in harmony with my identity as a Christian. I will make any adjustments that need to be made–even if they involve repentance–in light of this prayerful reflection.

    For Further Reflection: From the Office of Readings for today, an excerpt from the Diaries of St. John de Brebeuf.


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