A Cycle – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
I don’t know if you noticed this or not but during the month of October, we had a series of parables focused on the failings of the Pharisees. Those who depended on the law for righteousness were told by Jesus they were losing the promise of God because their hearts were not centered on God. They were depending on the law for righteousness. Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us the law can only point out sin, but it can do nothing to keep us from sinning. The issue was once they found perfection in the law, they lived in fear of breaking the law. Yet in each of those parables we were given a glimpse of someone who was doing what God expects of us and that was to know him and allow him to help us grow in love of God not fear of God.
This week and last week Jesus changed his focus from the Pharisees to us, ordinary people who seek to do the will of God. Yet if you take the time to look at each parable those who are being chastised by God were making the same mistake as the Pharisees. They were striving to please God but because they did not know him, they are not capable of pleasing him. So, the question we should be asking ourselves is do we know about God or do we know God.
Within the Vatican II documents we are told “we should hunger for the Word as much as we hunger for the Eucharist.” I think we understand the Eucharist for we have been taught for a very long time it is the “source and summit of our faith.” But the scriptures are a different story. A few years ago, there was a study published that measured each Christian denomination knowledge of scriptures and Catholics were the least knowledgeable. Vatican II recognized that failing of ours 55 years ago and they encouraged us because the scriptures are Gods revelation of himself. In them we discover his desires for intimacy with us, his plans for us, his willingness to forgive and restore us. In them we can learn how to respond to his invitation to find in him all we seek. We also get a clear picture of what happens if we fail to respond.
Yet intimacy can only happen if we are desire intimacy. Intimacy with anyone, God included, follows the heart not the mind. Intimacy with God grows in the same why human intimacy grows by spending time with God, talking and listening to God, revealing our doubts, fears, hopes, dreams, and anger. Intimacy builds trust because through intimacy we discover God’s heart is always focused on us, showing us who we are destined to become because of his desire for intimacy. Yet it seems we are not sure how to respond to God’s desire for intimacy. We feel inadequate because we have failed to live up to a standard of holiness, we believe is acceptable to God.
How can we ever accept the invitation to come to him if we are not sure we did enough to please him. We are challenged by Jesus to trust him and do things we would not ordinarily do. Peter was challenged to walk on water, the disciples to cast their nets into the deep, Mary to the mother of God, Moses to free the people and part the Red Sea. Can maintaining the status quo of our faith help us to do anything like that? If we are not willing to be intimate with God, we will never trust he will fulfil his promises to us, we miss out on living in the kingdom of God.
In today’s parable we have an example of someone whose image of his master is founded on fear not intimacy and because he does not know him his focus is on avoiding making the master angry. Think about those three servants for a minute. They were trusted servants of this prosperous man. Because they were with him for a long time, they should have learned what he expects of them. At the heart of this parable is us, you, and I.
We see in the parable what these three did with what the Master gave them. Yet, we hear in the parable how one servant was so fearful of doing anything that would jeopardize what he had been given he decided to maintain it. He holds onto it and would not do anything to risk losing what he had been given. That is the position many take with God. We find a place where we are comfortable with God and instead of seeking to grow in intimacy we stay where it is safe and comfortable. Not a bad plan if the master had indicated the status quo was all that was expected.
This parable should make you wonder why that one servant feared God and the other two did not. It seems his relationship with the master was founded on following his commands to avoid his wrath. But we have a God who tells us all the commands are wrapped up in one law to love God with our whole being – our whole being means intimacy with God.
Jesus promised us a life full of joy, peace, and fullness of life in the Spirit knowing God loves us and is pleased with us, even when we fail. God desires us to live a life feeling His presence, HIs love, and His delight and that can only be experienced when we choose to embrace Him instead of working to please him.
The church encourages us to hunger for the scriptures to help us grow in intimacy with God. This parable is showing us what happens when our relationship with God is built on trust instead of fear. God made you and I a promise to send us the Spirit who would teach us and to change our hearts so they would burn with a desire to be intimate with him. As Advent approaches, pray for the Spirit to come into your hearts and prepare the way for you to become intimae with the Lord.