Luke 12: 42-48 is the Gospel for this Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It also reminds me of growing up in the mid-sixties. In ‘66 everyone except dad moved to Vandergrift, PA. Dad was not able to leave his job in Levittown, near Philadelphia, so mother moved with the kids to her old home town of Vandergrift. We now lived 320 miles from dad. One Friday evening mom was late getting home from her job. Dad was scheduled to drive up from Levittown.
Leadership is a curse, not a blessing. In Book 19 of The City of God, Augustine tells us to take leadership positions with angst and what Kierkegaard called dread. The higher we are up the food chain, the more God requires of us.
Being the leader, I decided the house must look immaculate when dad arrived, so I pushed my three siblings to the breaking point, getting the house ready. I of course had the hardest job, so felt free to help myself to dad’s beer, chips and the like. I even had friends over to help drink, and push my siblings around. As evening became later, my friends and I got drunk. As we passed out, my siblings trashed the house. They looked out the window, gawking at every car going by, trying to listen for the sounds of dad’s American Rambler as it came down the road.
Luke 12 ends, “That servant knowing his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will… shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much; still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
I was eager to see dad, and mom for that matter, when she got home. In day to day life, on the other hand, I chose to put myself first. The focus in everyday life was toward myself and my interests. God calls us to put him first in the guarding and keeping of his garden, this planet. That in particular included his charges, all of his children.
“Faith,” comes from a Hebrew word, one we use every Sunday and close all of our prayers with “amen/faith. The root word in Hebrew is, “Amen.” The root is “Emit.” The three radicals (in Hebrew, the letters are radicals) are “A,” “M,” and “T.” “A,” is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “M,” the middle letter, and “T,” is the last letter. “A,” stands for leadership, “M,” for water, (as in Baptism,” and “T,” for the cross. These come from the shapes of the letters in that language. True faith is being in touch with all things. It is seeing the image of God, and his craftsmanship in each person, place, and thing we see.
My mistake was the same as Eve’s in Genesis 3. Eve answers the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden… God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it…” Genesis 2 states, “The NAME, God ordered Adam, ‘You are free to eat from the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of the satisfying and the rotten. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it…” The address is to Adam only, not Eve. God tells Adam not to eat of it. When Eve speaks to the snake, she adds to the command. Eve is not guilty of rebellion, but over-piety. I was not guilty of rebellion against our parents, but of being overly scrupulous, at the expense of others.
Another way to present the idea is that when we have faith, we orient everything we have toward God. In our second reading, St. Paul notices this. “Many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things.” “Beware your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life. That day catch you by surprise like a trap and assault everyone. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the imminent tribulations and stand before the Son of Man.”
God calls us to balancing our piety and industry with love of others. That day comes against all, so we must be mindful of others’ suffering. God will be far happier to find his children happily doing their share to keep the house in order. This includes making all happy. Remember, God looks forward to seeing his children in the window, looking for his second coming, but he also wants his house, our planet ready for his arrival.