19th Sunday C
Sunday 7th August 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Fear not, tiny little flock: the Father delights in giving you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms. Make yourselves purses that will not age, treasure in heaven that will never default or devalue. There, where no thief can reach it or moth destroy it. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be.
See that you are dressed, ready for work with your lamps alight. You, yourselves, be like people anticipating the return of their master from a wedding feast. When he comes and knocks, they open immediately. Happy those slaves if the master finds them alert. I tell you truly, he will get to work, sit them at table and serve them. If he comes late, or even very late, and finds them ready, they will truly be happy. And know this, if the householder was aware of the time that a thief would break in, he would have been watching and not would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you, be ready, for you do not know when the Son of Man will be coming.’
Peter then said to him, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone.’ And the Lord said, ‘So what type of faithful and wise steward does the master make administrator of his household, with the responsibility to distribute the rations appropriately. Happy the slave whom the master finds doing just that on his return! I tell you truly, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that servant had said to himself, “Mmmmm, my master is taking his time,” and started throwing his weight around, abusing the men and women servants, eating and drinking and getting drunk, well, the master will come at a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. He will then cut him off and he will have the same fate as unbelievers.
The slave who knew his master’s wishes and didn’t even attempt to carry them out, will be lashed many times. But the slave who was ignorant and who acted wrongly will receive fewer lashes. For, of the one given much, much will be expected and of the one given a great deal, even more will be expected.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 32:1, 12, 18-20, 22
Rejoice in the Lord, O you just
for praise becomes all the faithful.
Happy the people who are God’s,
those chosen as his own.
Behold! God watches over those who worship,
who wait upon his kindness,
to deliver them from death,
to sustain them in time of famine.
Our soul waits upon the Lord,
our help and our shield.
Let your kindness come upon us, O Lord
as we wait upon you.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, send us your Spirit to enliven our hearts and minds to the coming of your Son in every event of our lives. As we live, ever alert to his presence, may we be faithful to your law of love and serve you in the people amongst whom we live.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
There are three sections in this Sunday’s Gospel. The first section is really a conclusion to what goes before it in Luke’s Gospel, namely the beautiful passage calling the disciples to trust in the providence of God, taking their inspiration from the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Seeing how God cares for them, the disciples are to believe that God delights in caring for them. Only on the basis of this providential care can the disciples divest themselves of their possessions and give alms. Their true possessions lie in another realm.
The second section offers a parable of faithful committed servants awaiting their Master’s return from a wedding feast. Such feasts in Jesus’ time were unpredictable affairs, often going on for days. The servants, who were ready for their master, received something far more surprising than his return, namely being waited on by the master himself. This is one of those parables where Jesus reverses utterly the expected order. In no way would this happen. In this very surprising image from the human realm we have an insight into the all-encompassing providence of God: the servants who had only been doing their duty are to be lavishly rewarded.
Peter’s question initiates the third section and can be understood as Luke application of the principle of watchfulness to the leaders of the church. The expectation placed on them is clear. They, who have received so much, will have much demanded of them.
Throughout all these sections, there are eschatological images, which are firmly planted in the reality of this world. While the disciples experience the Providence of God, their true possessions actually lie in another realm. The image of ‘coming’ occurs eight times. Though these have no direct parallels to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark here, the way this image is used parallels the eschatological sections of those Gospels. Though the disciples are waiting for the coming of the Son of Man, they are also to be alert and ready for his coming in their daily lives of service.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Virtually all personal self-help books are a riff on two simple ideas that Jesus teaches in this Gospel: what do you treasure and what are you alert to. The two do go together – we are alert to what we treasure. We want many good things and our desire for these things makes a lot of money for the authors of these books of advice – but how much really changes? We have our desires, we evaluate what is best for us, we decide on a programme of transformation, we make resolutions…and then, small changes and a few months later we go looking for another self-help book. Maybe this is the one? So what’s wrong?
Maybe we don’t really take the time to recognise what we already ‘treasure’, what we are already investing our time, energy, even self in? We have to look at our foundations. If they are sound, we can build on what we already have. If they are not, we have to do some serious work or our change will be built on sand. So how do we determine where we stand? – by being alert to what we do, not what we talk or fanaticise about.
For example, I live in an area where many of the population work away at the mines. This is commonly regarded as undermining family life….but not for many miners I know. Because they really want to love and support their families, they find ways and means to do that in spite of the time away. These people act out of love and by building on that love they will grow in the image of God in which they have been made.
But what about more destructive behaviour? Waste of our gifts and talents, perhaps even abuse of drugs, alcohol, gambling, TV or internet. Often at the base of such behaviour is a desire for forgetfulness, for any variety of reasons, but most often from shame. Unless that shame is faced, the desire to forget will override any programmes for change. This is when we need to become alert to the love of God for only in that love will we find the power to wipe away our shame.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
In the Parable of the Master’s return, Jesus is not warning us to remain alert in case God catches us slacking off. Rather, we are to remain alert, so that we can experience God constantly at work, serving us. How else are we to understand the extraordinary reversal of imagery in this Sunday’s Gospel? The Queen does not return from a tour, enter the palace and serve its many attendants. No, when she returns, she expects them to be ready for her, even though she may have little knowledge of what that actually entails.
God, in sublime contrast, is constantly at work, shaping our lives for our best good. We struggle to see this for a variety to reasons. Sometimes, the presence of sin, our own and others, in our lives can be oppressive. God, respecting free will, allows sin to happen but God is not weak in the face of such. Rather grace comes to help us overcome sin. Still, such transformation often does not appear obvious or easy. We need to be alert to the place and the pace of grace. At other times, we simply do not understand what is happening in a situation. Here, we have to work to try and understand how God may view the situation. This entails a radical shift from the assumption we seem to have been born with: that what is easy and pleasant is what is best for us. Rather, we need a Copernican revolution in our attitude asking ourselves, frequently and attentively, how am I being called to grow in the various situations of my life. One way to enter into this attitude is to assume that God is serving me, working for my good in every situation of my life. When we take that stand, we have to open our minds and hearts and imaginations to be alert to the coming of God in the most ordinary and the most surprising of ways. It is in this very practice of alertness, that we will come to the amazing realisation that all things do work together for our good.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- Etching of the Faithful Steward by Jan Luyken. (Click red text)
- Mammon by George Frederick Watts. (click red text).
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
Mull on how alert you are to the coming of Jesus in the events of your life. What practices could you do to allow you to ponder his presence in your daily life?
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father delights in giving us the Kingdom. Ponder on what you find delightful in your life. Ponder on what you think the Father finds delightful in your life. When you have relished the delight that exists in your life, ask yourself what attitudes or actions could increase your sense of delight in the Kingdom of God.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- In Faith and Hope and Love by James McAuley
- My Soul in Stillness Waits by Marty Haugen
- Where Your Treasure Is by Marty Haugen
- Holy Darkness by Dan Schutte