29th Week in Ord. Time, Wednesday – 21st October 2020 — Gospel: Lk 12,39-48
Certainty of Surprises
In this section, Jesus draws out two different images. In the owner-thief image, we are the owner and Jesus is the thief. In the master-servant image, we are the servants and Jesus is the master. The owner-thief image is a warning to those who do not expectantly await the Lord’s return. This metaphor is common in the New Testament (1 Thess 5,2; 2 Pet 3,10; Rev 3,3; 16,15). The master-servant image was intended as an encouragement to those who act faithfully and responsibly. In the first, Jesus comes as a thief, who is not welcomed, whose arrival spells disaster and he enters by digging through the wall. In the second, Jesus is portrayed as the master who is welcomed, and comes with a reward. If the servant doesn’t behave well, he is punished severely and removed from his responsibility. In both, neither the owner nor the servant know the time when the Lord would return. Through these images, Jesus teaches about the preparation for his second coming.
Why would Jesus compare himself to a thief when preaching about his second coming? Why did he use the example of a harsh master who punishes his servants for not being ready? For those who have neglected their relationship to God, this imagery can certainly be a wake-up call. But for those of us who have been trying our best to follow him, it is really surprising. Certainly Jesus doesn’t want to frighten us into the kingdom. But there is surely an element of mystery regarding his second coming. No matter how spiritual we are, it’s going to surprise us. But we don’t know exactly what that will look like or when it’s going to happen. We can only expect that when the infinite enters the finite, the status quo of everyday life will be disrupted. His delay and the uncertainty of his coming can be a test of our faithfulness and a stimulus to our expectation.