Today’s gospel is an excerpt from Matthew’s longer version of the end times as described by Jesus. The recurring theme is that we won’t know the day nor the hour when the world (or our lives) will end and so we should be prepared at all times for this foreseeable and certain event. I remember priests over the years offering grim and somewhat frightening homilies on the suddenness of death and the need to be prepared by being in a state of grace, at the risk of being sent to hell or to an extended stay in purgatory.
When I reflected on this excerpt for today, though, another possible interpretation presented itself by focusing on just the first two lines with a slight recasting of the language – “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day you will encounter the Lord.” This helps me concentrate more on living than on being prepared to die.
Being alert to when I might encounter the Lord in my daily life, and being prepared to be the “faithful and prudent servant” turns my attention to how I interact with and treat others. If I am awake to all the possible ways I can see the Lord, I will recognize Jesus in those who suffer, and will act differently than if I am insensitive to them and their needs. If I do not know when I will encounter the Lord, then I should react to everyone I meet as if I were meeting the Lord. If I am a faithful and prudent steward, then I will be generous with the gifts God has given me and will distribute them “at the proper time” to the other members of my household (realizing that my household is the broader family of other people and not my limited biological family).
I like this gospel reminder that I don’t know when I will see God. I like the challenge to be prepared for the many ways I can encounter the Lord. My prayer today is that I can stay awake, and that I can be a faithful and prudent servant!
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