What do you desire?
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
"Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master's return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."
Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?" And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master's will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."
“Where there is love, there is the eye.” This axiom of the ancient world nicely sums up for us the intention of Jesus’ words in this weekend’s Gospel. It might not seem at first like this is the case. When we hear the warnings given today, that we be vigilant, watching for our master’s return, this might immediately lead us toward considering the end our lives, or the end of the world. Surely, the Lord is telling us to keep our behavior in order at all times, so that if we suddenly meet eternity, we will be prepared. The stern nature of the warning seems clear: Be ready, keep the commandments without fail.
While this is certainly part of the Gospel message contained for us in the passage, it is hardly the entirety. We know that the rewards of heaven do not follow mere moral excellence, and that the obedience the Lord commands is not possible without his indwelling help. So, what else might unravel the passage’s further meaning? We learn more what it means to watch carefully for the Lord when we consider the full context of this week’s Gospel.
Immediately before speaking of the master’s return and the servants’ rewards, Christ gives another teaching, with a rather different tenor. He tells his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” This encouragement completes the picture of the master mentioned later. He is not merely a hard and exacting man, watching for the mistakes of his servants. Rather, he desires to give them his own kingdom from the beginning. The task he gives, of caring for the other servants and remaining watchful, is a necessary preparation for handing on the kingdom. The servants cannot possibly care what is their master’s, joyfully sharing lordship with him, if they do not do their very best even in his seeming absence.
Further on, Christ gives another command that deepens our understanding. “Provide for yourselves an inexhaustible treasure in heaven … for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” The Lord, then, does not simply command the disciples to remain on their best behavior as servants, nor does he merely offer them the reward of the heavenly kingdom if they can become capable of receiving it. Rather, he commands them to make heaven, and the one who lives there, the very treasure of their hearts. He commands them to love the Father and his kingdom.
This brings us back to the ancient axiom: “Where there is love, there is the eye.” We will watch for whatever it is we love. We will look for whatever we desire, and we come to desire whatever we look at long enough. If the servants of the master do not remain watchful and miss his return, it is because they do not love him or his kingdom. They cannot receive the kingdom he wishes to give them because they do not want to. The question we must answer is, where do I set my eyes in my own life? What do I spend my time looking at? What do I desire? Is it God and his kingdom? Is it something less than God? Is it even something worthy of my human dignity? If we wish to inherit the kingdom, the Lord shows us the way. With his grace and presence within us to guide us, we can learn to love and desire him, even belatedly, and receive the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.