Wednesday (October 24): "Be ready to answer - the Lord draws near"

Meditation:  What lesson can we draw from Jesus' parable about a thief in the night and the parable of the rich master who returns unexpectedly to reward or dismiss his servants for how they have served his estate while he was away? Both parables confront us with the possibility of losing everything we possess and treasure now as well as  the future inheritance that is saved up for us. 

The thief in the night
Jesus' story (parable) of the thief in the night brings home the necessity for careful watchfulness and staying alert to avert the danger of plunder and loss of livelhood (all that we need to sustain us now and in the future). The thief comes uninvited, especially under the cover of darkness and secrecy! While no thief would announce his intention in advance, nor the time when he would strike, lack of vigilance invites serious loss for those who have not kept their home and treasure secure at all times! The intruder strikes when he is least expected!

Don't lose the treasure of God's kingdom
What kind of treasure does the Lord Jesus expect us to vigilantly guard and protect in this present life? It is the treasure of his kingdom and the gifts and graces he has won for us - the gift of salvation purchased by the blood of Christ who died for us on the cross to free us from slavery to sin and Satan, and the gift of abundant new life which Christ won for us through his resurection victory over death, and the gift of the Holy Spirit who comes to live in us and empower us with supernatural faith, hope, and love that endure forever. The Father and the Son come to dwell in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit who makes his home with us. But we can lose the treasure and gifts of God if we do not guard our hearts and minds and hold to the truth of God's word and live according to his wise precepts, teaching, and just laws. Whose voice and counsel do you trust and follow?

Satan comes like a thief in the night to rob us of our faith and to draw us away from God's will for our lives. Satan works in the "world" (that society of men and women who are opposed to God and his commandments) and with our own "flesh" (those sinful inclinations within us that tempt us to do what is wrong and evil). And Satan wispers to us false promises to make us believe that we can find happiness and joy apart from God and his will for us.

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that our hearts apart from God are easily deceived (Jeremiah 17:9). How easily we put off for another day what God requires of us today - to walk humbly, repent sincerely, forgive quickly, and to trust in his merciful love and grace at all times. God offers us his mercy and abundant grace (his divine presence, power, and wise counsel) to turn away from sin, deception, and disobedience. But we must not presume that we can put off for another day what must be done today.

The Lord Jesus reminds us that the "Day of the Lord" will come unexpectedly like a thief in the night. Will we be ready to receive the Lord when he comes to speak to us today, and when he ushers us to stand before his throne and meet him face-to-face to hear his final verdict on the Day of Judgment. Which verdict do you wish to hear? In Matthew's Gospel account, Jesus opens the curtain of the heavenly court room and gives a glimpse of his verdict on that day:

34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' ...41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' - Matthew 25:34-36, 41-43

The Lord rewards those who are faithful and wise
Jesus ends his teaching on watchfulness and vigilance with another parable about a master and his servants (Matthew 24:.45-49). The storyline is similar. There is an element of surprise - the master suddenly returns home unexpectedly, probably from a long journey. He rewards one servant for his faithful loyalty and devoted service to his master. He has performed his service dutifully and has done all that the master required of him. 

He punishes the other servant who was disloyal, disobedient, and acted shamefully. This servant was not only irresponsible - he was frequently absent from his work and misused his master's money for personal gain by throwing lavish parties (eating and drinking) for his friends. The disloyal servant also abused his fellow workers with physical force and violence - probably to make them do the work he was supposed to do for his master. When the master returns and discovers the unfaithful servant who has wasted his master's goods and mistreated his fellow servants, the master gives him what he deserves. He dismisses him from his service and throws him out of his house - and sends him to the worst of possible places - a prison of no return where there is nothing but torment and misery. Should we be surprised to see the master acting with such swift judgment? The master rewards his faithful servants with honor, blessing, and promotion in his service, and he gives to his disobedient and unfaithful servants the just punishment they deserve - the loss of honor, privilege, and joy of sharing in the master's good friendship forever.

Are you ready to meet the Lord?
The Lord Jesus calls us to be vigilant in watching for his return and to be ready to meet him when he calls us to himself. The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit so that we may have the wisdom, strength, and help we need to turn away from own sin and to embrace God's way of love, justice, and holiness. The Lord's warning of judgment causes dismay for those who are unprepared, but it brings joyful hope to those who eagerly wait for his return in glory. God's judgment is good news for those who are ready to meet him face to face when he returns. Their reward is God himself, the source of all truth, beauty, goodness, love and everlasting life. Are you ready to receive his grace and help today to walk in faithfulness and obedience, trust and hope, steadfast love and mercy?

"Lord Jesus, you have captured my heart for you. Make me strong in faith, steadfast in hope, and generous in love that I may seek to please you in all things and bring you glory.  May I always be watchful and ready to answer when you draw near."

This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/