19th Sunday in Ordinary time – Year C

by Fr Wiseman Nkomo

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In the past two weeks Jesus has been teaching his disciples that they need to live lives completely dependent upon God. He has reminded them that since even the smallest things are beyond their control, they should not be anxious about anything. In simple terms Jesus says you cannot change anything by worrying about it. In teaching the “our Father” Jesus taught us that God knows everything we need and only through prayer can we come to know what we need too. He has already taught us his disciples that we are to seek his kingdom and all these other things will be given to us as well. This is where today’s gospel reading begins. Jesus tells his “little flock” not to be anxious or afraid. He promises them that God is pleased to give them “the kingdom.” But what kind of kingdom did Jesus have in mind? And who makes up the “little flock”? This week’s gospel reading addresses both of these questions this week.

Luke wants us to know that the “little flock” are Jesus’s closest associates. They are his “little flock” because they have totally surrendered all their lives to him. Now he makes a demand to test their detachment from worldly things “sell your possessions and give alms” (v 33). Now the question remains who deserves our alms? In the time of Jesus alms-giving differs from giving money to someone. An alms worthy recipient was someone with a recognisable physical challenge that your generosity can help alleviate. God put that particular alms worthy person in front of you that day. So today please try to always respond to the needs of a physically challenged person that comes your way because his/her presence before you is an assistance for you to accomplish your religious duty.

In giving alms in this way the disciple will acquire a money bag that will not wear out, one that is eternal and filled with the blessings of God, who will reward him/her for their generosity to others. Dear sisters and brothers we all would agree that having a money bag will not wear out gives us sure security that whatever is in the bag will remain in there. What better security is there than the knowledge we belong in heaven and nothing will ever deprive us of that sure place we have with the father.

That treasure will be on deposit in heaven where no thief or moth can destroy it. Jesus reminds the twelve that their hearts will be where their treasure is. The biblical “heart” is equivalent to the “mind” in our vocabulary. I smile as I reflect on this phrase of Jesus because I can recall that one moment when my wallet had that amount of money and I recall very well how difficult it was for me avoid touching my pocket to check if it’s still there. How lovely would it be if we could find it difficult to avoid checking heaven just to double check if our place is still guaranteed? We would really remain ever vigilant and awaiting the return of the master.

If your treasure is in heaven, your heart is in heaven and your thoughts will be of heaven. This is the mindset Jesus demands of those who will serve others as leaders in the new community of faith, the church. The twelve then are presented with a parable that challenges their understanding of leadership and service. Jesus begins with a common image, a wedding. The wedding day has arrived and the groom leaves his father’s house to collect his bride in another part of the village or region. No one knows how long he will be gone but they are all certain of one thing: the groom will return ready to celebrate. It is the responsibility of the household servants to greet him when his arrival is announced. They are to be both vigilant and ready to spring into service at a moment’s notice. This parable reminds me of our disposition when it comes to the weddings that takes too long to begin because the bride takes her time preparing for her big day and how we wait impatiently grumbling and murmuring at passerby relative or friend of hers. Weddings have proven to be the best tester of patience. In the parable the Lord Jesus calls us to be patient with the bride and the groom at the weddings that we attend as quests for this proves whether we are patient enough to await the second coming of our Lord who is not delayed but who is preparing everyone who is to be present at the wedding.

Then Jesus delivers a surprise. In the parable this groom arrives and shocks everyone as he girds himself and invites them to recline at table. The groom serves the servants at his own wedding feast! How can this be? What can it mean? Jesus will eventually demonstrate this kind of servant leadership at the Last Supper when he will rise from the Passover table, gird his loins, and wash the feet of each apostle. Then it will be Peter who will refuse this act of service. Now it is Peter, the recognised leader of the twelve, who asks Jesus about the intent of his teaching. “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” (v 41). The coded answer is that the parable is meant for them; for the twelve. They are expected to remain vigilant and ready to serve until Jesus the groom returns, unannounced and at a time they least expect. It will go well with the twelve if he finds them serving dutifully and not abusing anyone in the household while he is away. If they pass the test, they will be put in charge of all his property and receive the honour associated with that position. If they fail, they will be punished most severely. To those to whom much is given much is required.

Jesus directs the apostles to sell their possessions, rely upon God, and give alms. It would be a fair inference to say that Jesus today makes alms-giving a duty for every person of faith. Since finding an alms worthy person is the work of God it is also our duty to pray at all times. Therefore for the sake of our Faith let us pray always and through prayer let’s find that special person deserving our alms and give to them what they need to become people of faith too.