Wednesday of Week 29 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 12:39-48

Today we have some further warnings on readiness. The unpredictability of God’s coming for the final call is compared to a thief breaking into one’s house. If one knew when the thief was coming, one would be prepared and have everything well locked up. Many people have had the experience of being burgled or of having their pocket picked. The point is that we do not know the day or the hour. And “Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”. Peter asks if this image is just for the disciples or for the whole world. Jesus answers by telling a parable.

A faithful and farsighted steward is one who is found doing his job for the household whenever the master returns. The ‘steward’ was one who had responsibility over the other servants, and Jesus could be referring here to his apostles and other leaders of the Christian community. A trusted slave (‘servant’) too could sometimes be put in charge of an estate.

But if the steward feels that the master is “delayed in coming” and sets about abusing the rest of his staff and wasting his time in debauching himself, he will be severely punished when his master returns unexpectedly. We know that the early Christians believed that Jesus would return during their lifetime but, as time went on and there was no sign of Jesus, Christians could be tempted to become less vigilant and begin to ‘live it up’. It was a dangerous thing to do.

But then Jesus makes a distinction. Those who know their master’s wishes (like his disciples), but are found misbehaving when he returns, will be severely punished. Those who do not know (non-disciples, outsiders) will still be punished for doing wrong, but their punishment will be less than those who have received their master’s teaching and instructions:

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required, and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

We as Christians, with the guidance of the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church, bear far greater responsibilities for the wrongs we do than others, such as non-Christians or non-religious people, who have less guidance.

Within the Church, there are people who are better formed and better informed and they too bear greater responsibility before God. At the same time, it might be worth pointing out that those who could avail themselves of such formation and information and fail to do so may be also liable to greater accountability. We need to distinguish between nescience and ignorance. Nescience is simply not knowing or not being aware of some truth or value. Ignorance is not knowing what I ought to know and have every opportunity of coming to know.

Ignorance may sometimes be bliss, but not where knowing Jesus and the Gospel is concerned. And wisdom, far from being folly, is a gift to be treasured.

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