Who does not know the experience of fear? It is a fundamental emotion which plays an appropriate role in the preservation of life. Fear alerts all of our senses to potential, perceived or genuine threats, allowing the individual to perform at a high level for the preservation of one’s own life or the lives of those entrusted to his or her care. Fear is highly motivational! (This fear is positive.)
At the same time, fear can paralyze us into in-action. The immediate threat can seem so overwhelming that we freeze in our cognitive ability to develop an adequate response, and simply surrender to what appears to be inevitable. Or fear can cause us to over-react in ways that do not respond appropriately or measured to the perceived threat. Fear can be used by others to coerce or manipulate behaviors that would not otherwise be freely chosen. (This fear is to be avoided.)
Last Sunday’s Gospel portrayed the rich fool who planned for his future in terms of material things. Looking to the future can stir a certain amount of fear in any of us. He was deemed foolish because he acted according to the wrong fear. He tore down old barns and built newer, larger ones to store his bountiful harvest. On the one hand, this seemed a prudent way to act. But as we recall, his actions were short-sighted in two ways. First, he failed to look to the true future, that of eternity. Second, his storing up of treasure was only for the provisioning of his own future, apparently with no vision to the needs of others. Thus, the parable concluded with the wisdom that the true disciple does not store up earthly wealth, but true riches which are the things that matter to God.
Ultimately, the disciple knows that life entails more than this world has to offer. True life is our life in God, our life in Christ, a life that will have no end. Our greatest treasure is Jesus Christ, who became poor that we might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9) This is the wisdom that allows us to live by faith, not in fear. This is the wisdom of the disciple who seeks the Kingdom of God first, knowing that everything else will be provisioned by God. (Luke 12:31)
Today’s Gospel picks up where we left off last week. Jesus tells us: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32) For us as disciples, our motivation rests not in fear, but in faith in Jesus Christ. Our charity is rooted not in the things of this world, but by the promise of an eternal kingdom. The glimmer and glamor of this life fall woefully short of the treasure that is stored up for us in heaven. But, we must be honest now about where our treasure presently resides if we are ever going to be capable of the kind of conversion that saves our soul and provisions us to work for the salvation of others.
Such faith and wisdom call us to be vigilant and persevering in good works. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of a wedding, of a master and the master’s return. Those who are blessed are the ones who are busy about the work of the master. Juxtaposed to the master, Jesus speaks also of a thief who comes to steal the master’s possessions. If the master knows the hour the thief is coming, he will not let his house be broken into.
This is great imagery on the part of Jesus. How many of us have awakened in the night, thinking someone is in the house? Talk about fear! In light of this further development of the instruction, Peter asks Jesus for clarification. Jesus goes on with his teaching by indicating that the master places stewards in charge of his household who will distribute food at the proper time. The true steward or disciple is the one who faithfully fulfills the tasks entrusted to her by the master and receives a bountiful reward. Likewise, the servant who knew his master’s will but did not act accordingly will be severely beaten.
This is more than an instruction for us. This teaching of Jesus anticipated the passion and death of his own life. Jesus is the Good Steward who knew the Master’s will, and acted accordingly. Jesus is the Good Steward, who gathered his disciples around the table at the Last Supper to begin the eternal wedding feast – to distribute the food of eternal life. Jesus is the Servant who knew the thief and the hour of his arrival, and acted in a manner to protect the ‘little flock’ entrusted to his care. Jesus did not respond in this hour in fear. He trusted in the Love of the Father and moves directly from the banquet to the altar of sacrifice – the garden of Gethsemani, to the tribunal of Pilate, the way of suffering and the cross, where he laid down his life for us.
The faith of Jesus in the Father was rewarded in the resurrection. Everything was entrusted by the Father to the Son, (Matthew 11:27, John 3:35, Luke 10:22) and Jesus gave everything in return. Thus, Jesus is highly qualified to teach today’s Gospel: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Luke 12: 48)
Despite the many legitimate realities that elicit fear in our world today, we must wisely ask: “Who is the real thief?”
Despite the many philosophies and ideologies at work today that promote a worldly and limited view of life, do we allow ourselves to be rooted in faith and the wisdom that knows true life stretches well beyond this world?
What dominates and motivates my life and yours? the fear of this world or the faith of a disciple?
Our creed tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord of Life, and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. Part of how we live our faith is to live each day in the knowledge that the Master of all Life is returning – and will do so at an hour we do not know. As disciples, the only fear this draws from us is the biblical fear of the Lord – a fear that wishes to do nothing that would offend God, and stirs a longing within us to do all things pleasing to God.
As true servants and stewards, and faithful disciples, we acknowledge our fears, but we respond with faith in Jesus Christ. As true servants and stewards – we acknowledge all that God has given us and take up today’s instruction with faith and resolve. We will make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for us. We are blessed, and we will be a blessing to others. Much has been entrusted to us, indeed, in the person of Jesus, all has been given to us, and we will make a worthy offering of our life in return!