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Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community

An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

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“(The unfaithful) servant’s master will come on


an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and
will punish the servant severely” (Luke 12:46)

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time


August 8, 2010

Reading 1: Wisdom 18:6-9

The night of the passover was known beforehand to our fathers,


that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith,
they might have courage.
Your people awaited the salvation of the just
and the destruction of their foes.
For when you punished our adversaries,
in this you glorified us whom you had summoned.
For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice
and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.

Reading 2: Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

Brothers and sisters:


Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
Page | 2
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
—and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was
trustworthy. So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead, descendants
as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

All these died in faith.


They did not receive what had been promised
but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac,


and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,
of whom it was said,

“Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.”


He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,
and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

Gospel Reading: Luke 12:32-48

Jesus said to his disciples:


“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Page | 3
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“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.
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, the master will put the servant
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

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 Page | 4
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.”

Homily

These are very powerful readings today and we have to reread them in light
of both Jesus’ time and our own. On one level, they may seem very strange
to us and we wonder what in the world (or what in heaven’s name) can they
possibly mean to us today? They are quaint stories but haven’t they lost
their relevance? Do they have any meaning for us now? This is a longer than
usual written homily but I pray it will pull together some deeper
understanding for you.

There are a number of directions we could go, but I will focus on a theme of
living out of faith. The idea of faith has been much bandied about, and
abused by those who smugly consider themselves to have a corner on the
market of what it means to be “faithful.” And it is also abused by those who
ridicule and denigrate the faithful as somehow believing in “pie in the sky”
and out of touch with the real world. There are errors in thinking at both ends
of this continuum. Some define “faithful,” or “having faith” as a belief
system, adhering to a set of doctrinal beliefs with which they identify and a
particular tradition that is observed. And this approach has its merits and its
place in our spiritual path, as we shall see, but it also has its limitations. I
would also suggest that there is nothing whatsoever that is “pie in the sky”
in what Jesus has to tell us, because he lived in the real world and what he
had to say is still relevant.

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

In Christ we have the freedom to think through and choose our life pathways
in the light of scripture. Our biblical interpretation is informed by history and
linguistics as well as today’s empirical knowledge base and our experiences
during lectio divina – the process of meditating on and praying from
scripture. We are not bound to a magisterial authority to demand that we are Page | 5
obligated to accept its interpretation. No, we are responsible to study and
form our own conscience but in humility! We don’t know it all! We can pray
for deeper understanding. But as we shall see, when we come to the limits of
our human wisdom and understanding, there is a jumping off point for faith.
It is not a jump into irrationality as the New Atheists contend! For most of
us, it is a jump past hyperrationality, because a main barrier to faith is our
tight hold on to the notion that we can and will understand everything by
virtue of the power of our own intellect.

Faith is not belief in a set of propositions. Faith is a process and today’s


readings can give us a window into that process. Jesus said, “Do not be
afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you
the kingdom.

What can we learn here? First of all, we are told not to be afraid. We are
addressed as his “little flock.” Thus, we are bonded to Him and dependent
on trust in his providence or as Jesus says, he is pleased to give us the
kingdom. In our modern day, we should be aware of our risk for accepting
substitutes in lieu of bonding to God and other intimate relationships. Such
diversions will lead us down dead-end paths. We know today from a
psychological standpoint that there are many common substitutes for true
bonding where people get stuck – an array of “addictions” or “compulsions”
which we can all name. We can each identify our “favorite” one! This is
common knowledge in our world today. But even in ancient times, this
problem was recognized. Certain preoccupations were a sure sign that one
had diverted from commitment to bonding and loving. Because trust is first
necessary for bonding to occur, where trust fails, people get stuck in dead-
end paths. In Jesus’ parables, these substitutes for bonding are depicted as
thieves that come in the night and rob us of our first love.

And notice the conceptualizations of time. Last week, we spoke about how
the rich man wasted his time, entertaining himself with make-work of tearing
down perfectly good barns to build bigger ones, and this idea is again
apparent in today’s readings. One must watch and place one’s primary trust
in God, and not allow events of the moment to distract us. Those distractions
include wasting our time in trivial pursuits. But note, the disciples asked

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

Jesus if his parable was intended for everyone or just the disciples. He
answers them with yet another parable. It is instructive to compare them.

He switches from a focus on the servants awaiting their Lord’s return and
whether they are using their time wisely and making good choices to talking Page | 6
about the good steward. The servant steward is explicitly responsible for
feeding and nurturing others. And Jesus tells us that where we act out of
ignorance, our punishment is lighter than the one who deliberately misuses
the gifts s/he has been given. Perhaps the less mature disciples sometime
act out of ignorance. Jesus allows for such careless errors, but the steward
who has assumed a higher level of responsibility cannot appeal to ignorance
so easily. And Jesus also tells us, Much will be required of the person
entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person
entrusted with more.”

Just as his disciples in the first century were entrusted with more
responsibility for others, we have also been entrusted with so much. We are
called to be watchful and ready, that is, to be alert and sensitive to our
opportunities to be in one accord with God’s kingdom which he has said is
his good pleasure to give us. To live out his pleasure, we give up whatever
will harm those who are vulnerable. Waiting for Christ to return means that
while we wait, we are engaged in building social structures that respect the
dignity of all humans. We are not to become waylaid and distracted from our
goals by temporal distractions. In our generation, the urge to be constantly
entertained can deflect us from building the kingdom. We are given a day to
set aside for rest, which is important to health and well-being, but the other
six days are to be considered a precious resource to be invested wisely. The
achievements we aim for are greater realization of God’s kingdom here and
now.

In the 2nd Reading in Hebrews, we learn more about what faith is and isn’t.
“Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction
about things we do not see.” Fr. John Kavanaugh1 described faith as “…an
act of seeing in trust.” He told the story of spending a month with Mother
Teresa in Calcutta years ago. After Mass one morning, he met with her and
she asked what she could do for him, and he requested that she pray for him
to “have clarity” about his future. But in response, she said ‘No.’ When he
asked her why, she reportedly said that “…clarity was the last thing I was
clinging to and had to let go of.” In surprise, he told her that she had always
1
The Word Engaged. 8/8/10. The Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis University.

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

seemed to him to exude clarity. She laughed and said, “’I have never had
clarity; what I’ve always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust.’”

Sometimes we are led in faith to envision what seem to be impossibilities


and yet we are called to trust in their fulfillment, if not in our own lifetimes, Page | 7
in the future, as we carry out our particular ministries. Sarah laughed when
told she would have a child in her old age and that she and Abraham would
have many descendants. I take this to mean that even on the downhill side
of my life I can still ‘give birth’ to new hope by how I live my life. So another
part of faith is learning to trust that God will still fulfill his plan through us
even when it seems so unlikely. We can take a risk for the kingdom, even
when we are as good as dead! Biblical heroes did not always live to see their
hopes fulfilled in their lifetimes. Moses died and did not cross over into the
Promised Land. As our reading in Hebrews tells us, they saw it and greeted it
from afar.

Faith, then, does not necessarily ease or end our confusion, quell our pain in
this life or even turn out “happily ever after.” Those of us who are less than
certain about the reality of the “sweet bye and bye” are not going to accept
faith as a narcotic as its many critics of religion have suggested. No, faith
does not bring any final clarity. Many died in faith, not obtaining what had
been promised, but they are the very ones that give us courage to build the
next stepping stones for those who follow us. In ancient thinking about time,
we are in a caravan, with those in front of us who have passed on and those
behind us, who look to us to lead the way. We look to the saints for our
inspiration and later generations will look to us.

John Pilch, a Georgetown University scholar in the ancient eastern biblical


cultures, commented that the peasants in Jesus’ time were intensively
preoccupied with the present moment and their immediate survival needs
while today, Americans tend to so future-oriented that they discount the
present. Thus, as we look at his parables, we can see that Jesus stressed the
proper use of the moment but also anticipation of the future. Some people
held to the past, and some clung to future resolutions. And this is still true
today.

Those whose faith is defined in the past will emphasize tradition. Those
whose faith is defined in a future life will emphasize heaven beyond earth. It
seems that with each new generation of believers, Jesus’ statements tend to
be interpreted as in the past by those who hold on to tradition as the source

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

of their identities. Or some look for so-called “eschatological” interpretations


and are more concerned about an indeterminable future; one’s actions of the
present are evaluated mainly in terms of the hope of future reward. Pilch
suggests that in his time, Jesus confronted the assumptions that people held
about what is important by proposing an emphasis that ran counter to his Page | 8
culture. It is in thinking outside the box of our own culture where we may be
gifted with new awareness and insight about our use of time.

Reginald Fuller has suggested that we can see at work in today’s passages
the process of re-working of understanding across subsequent generations.
For example, the author of Wisdom speaks of the salvation history of Israel
and retells it in light of his own era several hundred years later. There is
reference to the first Passover at the first Exodus, which the patriarchs
received and passed down to us -- God’s promise is carried forward in the
future Exodus. And the promise of Easter builds on Exodus. Thus, the
promise of Exodus foreshadowed the promise to future generations. In the
communion of Saints, all generations are embraced to carry the hope
forward.

Hebrews suggests that we have hope in Christ, and as we discussed in a


previous homily, hope is not something where we wait passively for
something to happen – “God’s will” to be revealed to us. You may recall on
Ascension Sunday (7th Sunday in Easter, 5/16/10)2 we talked about hope:

So what is this hope? The Greek word is not a simple noun or verb, “to
hope.” It is never used in that way. A composite word of “hoping” is
used, “to be the first to hope.” Subjective hope is not ruled out here as
a gift of the Holy Spirit but there is a different level of inference, hope
+ discernment: Paul prays that God grant the saints discernment to
decide which hope among various forms of hope will be
decisive for them. There is one hope, not simply inside us, but the
hope of our calling, or “…the hope to which you have been called.”
(Ephesians 1:18, 4:4) It is God who calls, and calls forth to us in an
act of creation and election: God elects us, and we choose to
be his people. The Gospel calls us forth to be created anew, where
non-being becomes being, not beloved becomes beloved, not shared
becomes shared.

2
Should you ever desire to review any of our previous homilies, they are on the website in
pdf files by date.

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

Thus, in today’s readings, we are called upon to become aware of the


aspects of our time on earth that we each are prone to ignore or discount.
We are each unique in that regard. Our first priority is our bond with God and
his people, discerning which among many goals or forms of hope will be
decisive for how we live our lives. Page | 9

Are you one who thinks that the past is more secure and a “sure
foundation” from which we should not deviate? Perhaps you think that we
must accept scripture and the understanding of it that has been passed
down to us and that it is dangerous or sacrilegious to interpret in the light of
our present-day understanding? Then Jesus may be calling you to become
more fully aware of his ongoing creation in you and in the world which is
unfolding before you this very day. He may ask you to reexamine your
premises, to take into account how our spiritual forebears who gave us so
much insight but to discern their core message which still holds true for our
own day. We see how the early Christians shed certain Jewish practices as
not essential for new gentile believers. So, too, we become responsible to
respond to the Holy Spirit, to flow fluidly – to live out Christ’s salvation in our
world today wherever that takes us -- not to stay frozen and immobile in the
face of needs of others around us.

Are you a “be in the moment,” a “what’s-happening-now” person?


Then Jesus may be asking you to anchor yourself more solidly with wisdom
from the past which we can access in scriptures. He may be asking you to
live out a hope that goes beyond your own life where you may not be
immediately “rewarded” with a visible outcome. He may be asking you to
think about the limits of spontaneity. Is it hard for you to seriously study to
understand the hard-earned wisdom of the faithful who lived before us? Are
you lacking in self-discipline to plan for future goals that will enhance God’s
kingdom?

Are you a “live for the future” person? Then Jesus may be asking you to
become more fully attentive and aware of all that is going on around you
right now, to become more spontaneous and sensitive to the needs that you
see right now – not to be the rich man who was unable to see and thus to
ignore Lazarus during their lifetimes on earth as we considered last week.

Are you one who remains skeptical, a “doubting Thomas” as to the


necessity of faith? Are you more trusting of what is “empirical,” avoidant
of taking risk, or disparaging of hope for what cannot be seen or maybe not
even realized? Your first step may be to acknowledge your limitations and to

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org
Saint Junia’s House ~ A Sacramental Christian Community
An Ecumenical Catholic Communion Ministry

recognize that you don’t have to know everything. You don’t, as Mother
Theresa said, have to achieve certainty before making a commitment of
hope, a hope that chooses which hope among various forms of hope
will be decisive for you. We can only act on what is right in front of us,
and we must step out and risk in this present moment that we are given. Page | 10
Then, and only then, will the next step become apparent to us. And only
after taking this first step toward faith will our awareness enlarge.

O Beloved, help us to open ourselves to you, to trust that you will


show yourself to us as we take that first step toward living out your
hope in our day and time. We pray for discernment of your will for
us today, not for clarity . Amen.

Announcements

We have enjoyed Deacon Carol from Texas with us this past week. Another
old seminary friend, Bp. +Nina Paul, will be visiting over the weekend, 8/13 –
8/15/10, and she will be at our Sunday Mass next week.

I will be out of town from Sunday night, 8/16 through Friday night, 8/20, but I
will be back on board for Sunday, August 22nd – so I’m not missing a Sunday
due to this trip. I will be going back to NC to visit with my 90 year old
parents. Please pray for me, as there are many family complexities.

And please remember that I will be at the St. Matt’s Women’s Retreat in Lake
Arrowhead over the weekend of 8/27-8/29. Please attend Mass at St. Matt’s!
For you sleepy heads, go to the 10:30 AM Mass instead of the 8 AM Mass! On
your way out today, please pick up one of the blue sheets with map and
directions to St. Matt’s if you haven’t already taken one and put it in your
car. The blue sheets are on the 2nd shelf on the cart by the front door.

Rev. Martha-Junia+ [Martha Rogers]


Phone 714 606 4365
Rogersmartha@sbcglobal.net
www.Stjuniashouse.com
http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org