A Reflection on the Readings for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I: Wisdom 18:6-9
Responsorial Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22
Reading II: Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or 1-2, 8-12
Gospel: Luke 12:32-48 or 35-40
Our first reading this week is from the Book of Wisdom, which is one of the seven “Deuterocanonical Books,” not recognized by Jews and Protestants as sacred writing. The Jews had four criteria that had to be met for a book to be considered sacred: 1) It had to have been originally written in Hebrew; 2) It had to have been written in the Holy Land; 3) It had to have been written before the time of Ezra (5h century B.C.); and 4) It could contain nothing that was contrary to the books of the Torah. Wisdom was originally written in Greek in Alexandria, Egypt, and probably in the 2nd century B.C. Consequently, Wisdom does not fit the criteria above. The other Deuterocanonical Books are: Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch, and 1st and 2nd Maccabees.
The main themes of Wisdom are the splendor of God’s wisdom, the futility of idolatry, and the events of the exodus which led the people to the Promised Land. Our reading starts out by declaring that: “The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers,” referring to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and implying that, because of their faith in what God had revealed to them, they believed in the salvation that would come to the Israelites through the exodus. And when the Egyptians were punished, those who were called out of bondage were glorified because of the promises of God to the patriarchs and their faith in those promises, and the faith they passed on to the “holy children of the good.” So the theme of our first reading is faith, and particularly the faith that we inherited from those who came before us and passed that faith on to us (the holy children of the good.”)
As our first reading makes reference to the Passover (known beforehand to our fathers), it also makes reference to the Exodus which was initiated by the first Passover. The Exodus was a forty-year journey through unknown desert land to reach the Promised Land. Our reading tells us that the patriarchs foresaw the Passover and Exodus, and, even though they did not participate in those events, they had faith in the salvation that would come to their descendants once the Promised Land was reached. In other words, they had faith in what God revealed to them even though they could not see what was revealed.
It doesn’t normally happen that our second reading follows the “golden thread” that binds the Old Testament reading to the Gospel, but it sure does this week. Our reading from Hebrews reminds us that faith is the longing for that which we cannot see. As St. Paul says in one of his letters, we do not hope for what we can see; we hope forthat which we cannot see. But faithtells us we will eventually receive that which we hope for. Hebrews reminds us of the faith of Abraham who was told by God to leave his homeland and make a journey (i.e., and Exodus), even though he did not know where he was to go. Abraham trusted totally in God’s promises, even to the point of offering his own son in sacrifice because he knew that God was able to raise even from the dead. And so, the promise to make a great nation of the descendants of Abraham would still be fulfilled even if Isaac was sacrificed; because God can raise even from the dead.
Notice our Responsorial Psalm also carries this theme of hope through faith: “The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness.”
And the golden thread of hope through faith weaves its way into our Gospel as well. Jesus tells us: “Do not be afraid.” We are to have faith that: “the Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” We cannot see the kingdom, but we may hope in faith that it will one day be revealed to us. And it will not be revealed to us through earthly wealth, which will only be left to someone else after we are gone. It will only be revealed to us through faith in the salvation and forgiveness of sins Christ has made known to us. In a parable, we are reminded to be like the servants who are vigilant even though they do not see the master because he is not present. “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” We must hope and have faith in the return of the master because the Son of Man will return at an hour we do not expect. And if the servants (WE) are vigilant and prepared for the return of the master, then the master will “gird himself and wait on the servants.”
But there is also a warning in this Gospel. Those of us who have received the blessing of hope through faith have been entrusted with much, and more will be demanded of us. The punishment will be severe for those who have fallen away from that blessing and have disregarded the gift of faith. That person will be assigned “a place with the unfaithful.” Those who are ignorant of the masters will – those who have not heard the Gospel – will be punished less severely because of their ignorance.
Hope of our eventual union with God through faith is the golden thread for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We live in a world full of evil distractions. If we don’t have hope in our eventual union with God in that condition we call heaven, then every tick of the clock brings us one second closer to oblivion. Without hope, what is there to live for?
Author: Ric Cross