Opening reflection (taken from Magnificat magazine, www.magnificat.com): It is the typical method of God to come to us in unexpected ways. That is why we must expect it. The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers – so that “they might have courage” – but not the particular ways that God would rescue them from their enemies. In the Gospel, Christ is readying us for our Passover. We must be prepared, for the Lord will come when we do not expect, namely, at precisely those moments when we feel farthest from God. Do not be afraid; be ready to open to Him. Blessed are those who live expecting the unexpected. By such faith we receive the power to generate new life. As the Last Supper proves, Christ will reward our vigilance by waiting on us.
(This weekend's Scripture readings are available in the New American Bible translation at the Vatican’s English website at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM.)
First Reading: Wisdom 18:6-9 (Revised Standard Version)
A reading from the Book of Wisdom.
The night of the passover was made known beforehand to our fathers,
so that they might rejoice
in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted.
The deliverance of the righteous
and the destruction of their enemies
were expected by thy people.
For by the same means by which thou didst punish our enemies
thou didst call us to thyself and glorify us.
For in secret the holy children of good men offered sacrifices,
and with one accord agreed to the divine law.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: Faith is the overarching theme of this weekend's readings (as if one could not tell by peeking ahead to the next reading from Hebrews). This first reading may be less familiar to non-Catholic readers, since it comes from the “deuterocanonical” Old Testament books accepted by Catholics but not by Protestants. Because it refers to the first Passover, however, one need only recall the early chapters of Exodus to put oneself in the place of the children of Israel and understand the point the writer wishes to make.
When Moses returned to his people from the desert, Israel's leaders were slow to trust in God's promise that He would set them free. They slowly came to believe in God and in Moses as the 10 plagues progressed in Egypt. But when it came to the final plague – the killing of the firstborn by God's “angel of death” – God told Moses exactly what He would do and exactly what the Israelites needed to do to be spared. Even so, they hardly could have imagined the succeeding events that culminated in the miracle at the Red Sea. True, they soon would lose faith once more – and how often do we fail in our own ability to trust? But the true wisdom lies in trusting the promises God makes to His faithful people – for He has never broken one yet.
Second Reading: Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
A reading from the letter to the Hebrews.
Brothers and sisters: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: It was just last month that the Church reviewed God's promise of an heir to Abraham and Sarah (not to mention the remarkable event when God Himself took human form – a foreshadowing of His own Incarnation – to personally deliver and reinforce the promise). The writer of Hebrews, unquestionably a Jewish Christian with great knowledge of Judaism and the Temple sacrifices, goes farther and recalls the entirety of God's choosing of and care for “our father in faith.” He makes his point with direct, penetrating rhetorical force. Abraham lived in Canaan as the leader of one household, as did his descendants Isaac and Jacob; they knew they could not claim the entire land by themselves, but they trusted that God would keep His promise.
Because they had “the conviction of things not seen” – not to mention the tangible evidence of God's faithfulness during their own lifetimes – the patriarchs kept at their journey of faith and passed its promises down to their descendants. Even when God seemed to contradict Himself in ordering Abraham to sacrifice his miraculously born son, Abraham didn't hesitate. He indeed was right that God would have raised Isaac from the dead if necessary to keep His promise. God, of course, stayed Abraham's hand – for His purpose had been fulfilled. Because Abraham was willing to obey and Isaac was willing to be sacrificed though he was an innocent firstborn son, they completed their roles in foreshadowing God's sacrifice of His Only-Begotten Son on Calvary – the ultimate destination of the patriarchs' journey of faith, where God kept His promise to redeem Jews, Gentiles and all of humanity. May our faith be as strong and unshaken as that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
Gospel: Luke 12:32-48
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke. Glory to You, O Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
"Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour."
Peter said, "Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?" And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, `My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.”
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditation: For His part, Jesus here urges His disciples to surrender everything that would hinder them in their “conviction of things not seen.” As He urges them, so He urges us – for we face even greater challenges in keeping our lamps of faith burning.
The disciples, who had seen their Lord perform quite a few miracles by this point, had yet to pass through the searing, painful fire of seeing Him tortured and crucified – a pain enhanced for all of them (except John) from the memory that they all failed Him in His moment of greatest need. But they would experience His Resurrection. They would be blessed with the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Though all (again, except John) would die a martyr's death, they had more proof for their faith than humans have a right to ask for. But … what about us?
Peter unknowingly asked this question on our behalf when he asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” Jesus seems to evade the question on its face, but truly the parable is meant for us. In some ways, we must journey like Abraham, knowing only that we have been promised a glorious homeland but not knowing how we will get there or how we will suffer along the way. But we do have our Lord with us. He made us part of His Mystical Body in baptism and renews us with His body, blood, soul and divinity every time we partake of the Eucharist. He bestowed His Holy Spirit upon us in baptism and confirmation. He nurtures us with His Word as well as through all the sacraments. How then can we lose faith and conduct our lives as though we can do as we please, no matter how it harms our fellow men and women?
Even so, the journey is long. Listen to our Lord with the ears of faith. He will lead us home!
Close with individual prayer, followed by Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be