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Prudent Stewards

  • October 20, 2021 (readings)
  • Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
  • Fr. John Bartunek, LC
  • Luke 12:39-48

    Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

    Opening Prayer: Thank you for the gift of this new day. Thank you for the gift of faith, which allows me to seek to live this day meaningfully. You know that I come into your presence filled with a desire to praise you and to receive the grace I need to glorify you by my life. Enlighten me, Lord, and strengthen me.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. Unexpected Arrival: Jesus makes clear that although we know that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, we do not know when he will come. And so, we must always be ready: You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Jesus invites us to a daily lifestyle marked by a keen awareness of life’s brevity and eternal trajectory. Either the second coming or our own death is always close by. This theme appears throughout the Bible, especially in the wisdom literature: As for man, his days are like the grass; he blossoms like a flower in the field. A wind sweeps over it and it is gone; its place knows it no more (Psalms 103:15-16). Is that how we live? Do we see ourselves, our work, our decisions, and our relationships from this perspective? A common exercise for a spiritual retreat is to sit down and write one’s own eulogy, what we would want to be said about how we lived when our earthly journey is complete. Taking time to reflect on our lives from this perspective can help us gain clarity and focus, enabling us to live each day more truly and more fully.

    2. Eternal Repercussions: Jesus explains that our experience at the end of history–either our own personal history or the history of the world as a whole–will be directly affected by how we choose to live in history. If we live responsibly, loving God and neighbor by seeking and embracing God’s will day by day until the end, we will be blessed. But if we block out the eternal perspective and live only for self-indulgence and self-glorification, we will suffer for it. And the suffering will be in proportion to the level of awareness we had of our true responsibilities. Some commentators see in this passage an allusion to purgatory, since Jesus points out that those who are grossly irresponsible in this life–the ones who act irresponsibly even though they are fully aware of what God was asking of them–will be beaten severely, while those who acted similarly with less awareness will be beaten only lightly. There are degrees of suffering as well as degrees of glory on the other side. Jesus wants us to know this. Theologians can’t explain completely how exactly this works, but we can’t ignore Christ’s clear revelation that our choices here on earth will have eternal consequences. How much does this awareness affect my daily life? How much would Christ like it to affect my daily life? How would my daily life look different if I lived with a greater awareness of this truth?

    3. Great Expectations: When Jesus summarizes his parable by saying, Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more, how do I react? An unhealthy reaction would be to think that I need to earn God’s love by putting on a good performance. Jesus doesn’t say that God’s love for us depends on our behavior. In fact, his love for us is complete and overflowing regardless of our “performance.” The mere fact of our existence is proof of this—if God didn’t love us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), he wouldn’t have created us in the first place. Another unhealthy reaction would be to turn away from God because he is too demanding, too authoritarian. Jesus is not being unreasonably demanding with us simply by encouraging us to live responsibly. In fact, being faithful and prudent stewards of the great gift of life, and all that goes with it, is merely the path to joy and fulfillment. Squandering our gifts may promise some immediate pleasures, but we are not made for those; we are made for lasting relationships and meaningful activity. And so, a healthy reaction to Jesus’s apparently stark answer to St. Peter’s question would be joyful relief. Jesus has designed the universe in such a way that the deepest longings of our hearts can actually be fulfilled, through living in friendship with him. This is a far cry from the emptiness and angst brought to us by the postmodern view of human life as a meaningless and hopeless blip on the universe’s epiphenomenal radar screen. 

    Conversing with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for giving me work to do for you in your Kingdom. Thank you for entrusting me with so much—with my life and talents, with the sacraments and faith itself, with the people around me and connected to me. I want to be a faithful and prudent steward of all your gifts. I want to live on the wavelength of glad gratitude, joyfully fulfilling my duties with the knowledge that in doing so I get to exercise my love for you and comfort your Sacred Heart.

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will have a conversation with my spiritual director, or a trusted mentor of some sort, about how I use my time, and how I could use it more responsibly, for God’s glory and the advance of his Kingdom in my heart and in the hearts of those around me.

    For Further Reflection: Read Father Robert Spitzer’s explanation of the Four Levels of Happiness.


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