Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
Though in life, we know we are inevitably amid much uncertainty, we still feel uneasy and disturbed. For not a few of us, such uncomfortable uncertainty may draw us to the terrifying boundaries of hopelessness, beyond which there can only be hatred, anarchy and violence. That is why much of what we do in this world, are attempts to mask this uncertainty in a pretentious cloak of certainty, because we typically cannot and will not live the rest of our lives, not knowing what we are supposed to know. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know what we need to know, but a misplaced trust in our capacity to try to know everything, unfortunately closes us to and disengages us from the God of surprises.
What is it like to place our trust instead in the Mystery? Our conditioned responses to realities which we cannot and do not want to comprehend, defaults us to a transactional way of relating to God, “I will agree to do what you are telling me to do, only if I can be sure of your promised returns.” It is amusing to note that we may be demanding from the Spirit, what we normally cannot demand from our own economies and governments.
However, God strangely operates in the reverse. Regardless of what and how we think about him, he is the Mystery that must be trusted; whatever he offers us, he is offering not only in his omniscience, but in his eternal love for his creation, which he intends to simply breathe and die within the extraordinary wonders and unpredictable dynamics of space, as well as within the peaceful rhythms and orderly cycles of time. If we are still uncomfortable enough to want to satisfy this uncertainty, then we should look at what the Scriptures teach us, “Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith, our ancestors were approved. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead, and had rejoiced in it, from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travelers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove, that they are looking for their own country. For, if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one.” Thus, “knowing in what promise they trusted, they could rejoice in all surety.”
We will always be uncertain about what we pray for, but we can always be certain that he will lovingly bless us with the unexpected.
Therefore, in this sense, the Christ exhorts us to prepare for the unexpected, to lovingly prepare for the Mystery. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom,” and so, “be ready” by offering the sacrifice so that we can “share alike both blessings and dangers.” “Sell what you have and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, and an inexhaustible treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Ours must not be a passive preparation, but an active preparation, “wide-awake” and “doing his work,” perhaps even remaining oblivious to whether or not the Master is “watching.” And we must also remember that our duties to serve and give is in proportion to how much was received, “Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one who has been entrusted with more.”
We must always perform our Christian service in spite of the unknown hour of our certain passing, in spite of the uncertainty of the coming of the Master.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.