What are you waiting to hear today, little flock, you who take your place among the disciples of Jesus? Waiting is probably one of the least enviable activities of human beings, if it can in fact be described as an “activity” rather than a “passivity”. How much time is wasted standing in queues, not knowing how long the wait will last, and having only the smartphone for company? The Lord offers us three parables today, all of which turn on the image of waiting. On a deeper level, however, they consider the tension between absence and presence, between hope and fulfilment, and between home and away.
People who seriously try to lead lives of prayer sometimes complain that they feel little or nothing of God’s presence: formerly, it seems, he was with them, now they feel nothing. The waiting in the night for the return of the master is tedious and humdrum, but it has its purposes and its motivation. The servant must evince stamina and faithfulness and reliability, qualities that God himself manifests towards us, and must be driven by desire and hope. If you like, respect or admire the master, the waiting and the trust are easier. When at last he comes and knocks (notice his discretion), and you are ready, the text three times proclaims you blessed.
The second parable begins without a pause and God enters our life like a thief in the night. There are no parameters of expectation here, so there must be a naked readiness, a constant anticipation, and not even the assurance that he will in fact come. Can we live on the alert, never falling into the deadly sleep that suffocates vigilance? Only, maybe, if we practise the patterns of Christian formation, the spiritual and moral disciplines (prayer, kindness, self-sacrifice, etc.) animated by grace, that enable us, in the words of St Paul, not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed.
In the third parable, Jesus takes up again the image of the household. The first parable had used the phrase, waiting for their master to come home. In the third also, the master is coming home. Home for him is where his servants and stewards are, his disciples and followers, all of us. Among us, he can truly be himself. But once again, he does not treat us as children, he does not impose himself. He expects a responsible and generous contribution on our part, an eager welcome. To whom much is given … will much be required.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. So where is your treasure? At home, the true home, of course. Through our dedication, detachment and patient vigilance, through our steady fidelity and our hope even when it is dark, household becomes home and the Lord returns laden with blessings.
Fr Edmund Power, OSB