Daily Reflection
August 31st, 2000
Carolyn Comeaux Meeks
Grants Administration Office
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

First Corinthians 1:1-9
Psalms 145:2-7
Matthew 24:42-51

Transitions are happening all around me in my household and my world right now.  Little ones are off to school, older ones are off to college, I am soon off to a new job in a new environment, the campus here at Creighton is receiving a new president and a new crop of students whose second home this will become for at least four years.  There is a lot of newness, a lot of change going on all at one time.  

Today’s readings from Paul and Matthew are about households.  Households are about the web of life, about nesting and moving on, about birthing and living and dying and transitioning, about nurturing and training for life, about becoming known intimately and loved passionately for life.  For Paul, the start of his letter to the Corinthians is to a particular community of Christians, and at this time in our history we Christians were more centered in households than in institutional settings.  We were “house churches,” households of faith that included several families and individuals who met for shared prayer and reflection in the intimate setting of one family’s living quarters.

Matthew’s gospel was being compiled during the time when it was dawning on the early Christian house churches that the second coming was likely not imminent.  How then to explain and describe what Jesus was asking of these believers as they started to consider the “long haul” of the faith through another generation (which has become for today’s readers a third millennium)?

For Matthew, the image of “end times” or “ultimacy” or “the long haul” that he uses is that of a householder who has left a servant in charge, and comes back “like a thief in the night” to check on things.  As a homeowner myself whose home was burglarized twice in two years, the “thief in the night” imagery at first makes me think of the need for security, for locks and bolts and strong boundaries between those “outside” and those “inside.”  It occurs to me that, perhaps because of my burglary experiences, this gospel feels at first read that it’s about security…that God, the absent householder, by analogy, wants us to be really strong in the structures of our faith, in definitions of dogma and delineations of what makes us different from everyone else, because the “thief”
could steal away the treasures inside our church “home.”

But on second reading, I realize this is not the imagery at all.  The householder comes “LIKE a thief in the night,” not “like the THIEF in the night.”  The emphasis is on the suddenness, the surprise, the “pop quiz” nature of the householder’s arrival.  And when the householder comes, what is the content of the quiz?  What does the householder want to see?  Strong locks and bolts?  Secure treasures left untarnished or brightly gilded?  Fancy artifacts?  A museum of words and things?

No.  When the householder returns, what will make him the happiest will be the servant who is “dispensing food at need” in other words, the servant who is still focused on the mission of the household!  The wise servant is actively engaged in positive, forward-looking mission that is oriented toward Life (in both its intimate and its ultimate purposes), rather than focused only on preservation and security.  And this responsible servant is “plugging away” at the basic needs addressed by a household, rather than slacking in the mistaken sense that all the needs are being met or that the householder is far away in space and time. 

The “servant-as-guardian” imagery, laden with boundary images and locks and secrecy and “ins” and “outs,” has yielded to a true “servant” image, a subversive term as always for Jesus.  This servant-who-dispenses-food-at-need is the type of servant the Lord wants in place.  The “servant” of the house is less about being in charge of locks and safety, and more about being responsible to see that the house’s stash of food meets the hungers of the human heart.  By analogy, for a household of faith, the servant is meeting deep spiritual needs (these include the needs of the whole person).

Paul and Matthew both wrote in Greek, and the term in Greek for “household” is the same as the root word for “ecology.”   Matthew’s gospel seems to be saying that any “household of faith,” whether a family or an institution, is most in tune with its divinely-gifted mission when it, in trusting faith, is aware of and responsive to the needs of all in the web of relationships that we call
“life.”  In the very core of our call as Holy Spirit-inspired people, we are most like the servant of this gospel when we live the message of this thief-in-the-night story:  when we “dispense food at need” the life-giving “beans and rice, meat and potatoes” that is the good news of salvation, that fills the hungers of the human community.  This good news is about ultimacy AND intimacy, about the imminent AND immanent coming of Christ that “takes us by surprise” in the midst of our everyday lives.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.
Online Ministries
Home Page
for Sunday
Online Retreat
Daily Readings Texts
from the
New American Bible
Daily Readings Texts
from the
RSV Bible
Spirituality Links
Saint of the Day
Collaborative Ministry Office 
Home Page
University Ministry
Home Page
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook