Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or 1-2, 8-12
Luke 12:32-48 or 12:35-40 [117C]
The Gospel reading for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time concludes with a sobering warning: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Jesus directs this saying to his disciples, encouraging them to be faithful and prudent stewards to their calling until the Parousia (the second coming of Christ).
The Gospel reading for today is actually a collection of Jesus’ sayings, vv. 32-34, 35-40, 41-48. The first saying is Jesus’ invitation to nurture a relationship with God and ends with a pithy wisdom line: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” The second saying offers a more directed warning to disciples to be ready for the return of Christ: “Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” Since many distractions and challenges of daily life can put a follower’s “house” at risk, Jesus implores his disciples to “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Peter’s question to Jesus (“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”) sets the stage for the third saying. Here Jesus speaks to the disciples of “the faithful and prudent steward” who God “put in charge” of his servants and his property. With this divine charge comes an awesome responsibility that can sometimes be neglected or squandered. In Jesus’ concluding remarks to the disciples, we see Luke’s perspective on the end-time and the divine judgment that follows: the demands of discipleship cannot be subject to benign neglect or misuse as the faithful await the return of Christ.
Over the next four Sundays, the second reading is taken from final section of the Letter to the Hebrews, chapters 11 and 12. Scholars debate about the historical context of Hebrews. The author is anonymous. The date of composition is plausibly anywhere between AD 60 and 90. The place of composition is unknown, although Hebrews 13:24 suggests Rome. And the writing’s title, “To the Hebrews,” implies a Jewish audience (as does much of the writing’s content) but plenty of scholars see a mixed community of Jews and Gentiles as its target audience.
The second reading opens with a general definition of faith: “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Expanding upon this basic idea, the author cites many figures from the Old Testament who bore witness to their faith in God (for example, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Moses, and Jacob). In today’s reading, we hear specifically about the faith of Abraham. Through his trust in God, Abraham received both land and descendants. And even when tested, Abraham’s faith never wavered. Yet Abraham and all the other faithful figures from the Old Testament, “died in faith,” not receiving “what had been promised.” In citing these many Old Testament exemplars of faith, the author of Hebrews drives home the point of the privilege of the Christian community of believers to whom he is writing—they have seen and received the “promise” of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He urges his fellow community members, who have apparently become “sluggish in hearing” (Heb 5:11), to realize anew what they have hoped for when they first came to faith in Christ.
Disciples in every age are challenged to remain faithful to the call that first brought them to Christ. The duty—and privilege—of each generation of believers is to remain faithful until Christ’s return.
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz
Studying God’s Word