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Archbishop Follo: By Faith we Live, Follow and Await the Lord

August 09, 2019. With the invitation to wait for Christ who is coming, as a mother who is waiting for an encounter with the child whom she bears in her womb.

Roman Rite

XIX Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C- August 11, 2019

Wis 18:6-9; Ps 33; Heb 1:1-2.8-9; Lk 12:32-48

Ambrosian Rite

XII Sunday of Pentecost

2 Kings 25:1-17; Ps77; Rm2:1-10; Mt 23, 37-24, 2

1) Be ready.

 The liturgy of the Word of this XIX Sunday of Ordinary Time invites us to vigilance (see the Gospel) and to faith (see the first and second reading). Three times the invitation of the Redeemer is repeated: “Be ready”. For what? For the splendor of the encounter with the Lord of life and not with the threatening God, thief of life. It is not a meeting with a God who is the projection of our fears and our violent moralism, but with a God who makes himself a servant of his servants, who “will make them sit at the table and serve them”. What a wonderful God is the one who bends before man with esteem, respect, and gratitude. Man has created a God who is a Master, Christ reveals us a God who is Father, rich in mercy and love. No human mind could and can conceive that the Lord becomes the servant putting himself at the service of our life.

The servants are not required to wait and be vigilant until dawn for the coming of the master. It is “something more” not dictated either by duty or by fear. One keeps watch only if he loves, desires, and is impatient for the moment of hugs to come: “Where your treasure is, there it will also be your heart”. A master (that of the parable) who is a treasure, a treasure of a Father towards whom the arrow of the heart points straight as if he were the beloved of the Canticle: “I sleep, but my heart watches” (5: 2).

Accepting the pressing invitation to vigilance, typical of the evangelical context reported in today’s Gospel, we must always be ready for the ultimate and definitive encounter with the Lord: “Blessed are those servants whom the master will find awake when he returns. . . And if he arrives in the middle of the night or before dawn, he will find them like this, lucky them!”. Life is a journey towards eternity; we must deal intensively with all the talents, without ever forgetting that “we do not have here the stable city, but we go in search of the future one” (Heb 13: 14). Every moment becomes precious precisely because of this perspective. We must live and work overtime, carrying into our hearts the longing for heaven. God created us to make us partakers of his eternal and absolute happiness. We fail to understand what this supreme and total joy is, but Jesus makes us understand it saying that the situation will then turn upside down and God himself will put himself at our service: “Truly, I say to you, he will put on his garments, sit them at the table and serve them.” The thought of paradise must make us rejoice in the joy of love (Pope Francis) and must stimulate all to a constant commitment to their own holiness.

2) Providence: God’s loyalty that supports us always.

The second common thread of today’s Roman Liturgy is faith1 as confidence in God’s loyalty.

In the first reading, we are told that in the night of the liberation from slavery God gave to his people a column of fire as a guide for the unknown journey. Showing in daylight a column of clouds and at night a column of fire, God never abandons his people. The memory of God’s gifts and of His actions to liberate and guide the chosen people invites us to have faith in the Lord who guides his people from slavery to freedom.

In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews shows us that faith is inside the history of a people that has strongly believed in God. Abraham is such a great example that he is called” our Father in faith”. He believed not because he had seen God but because He has listened to Him and started a journey towards an unexpected future. We are also called to live the same faith that has pushed Abraham to live on earth as a pilgrim. The history of salvation, that has in Abraham a stronghold, is like a pilgrimage that gradually is fulfilled revealing more promises towards the full communion with God: from earth to progeny to live in God’s home.

Like Abraham, we believers are always “on the road”, eternal pilgrims towards a homeland that is not a place but a state. It is not to live with God but to be in Him like the shoots “into” the grapevine. Paraphrasing the Letter to Diognetus (ii, 5, 1-16) we can say that we Christian inhabit a land, but we are there as pilgrims: every foreign land is a homeland for us, every homeland is a foreign land. We live our life on earth but we are a citizen of Heaven (Heb 13-14)

We find a true testimony of this situation in the consecrated Virgins who live in the world but are not of the world. With their consecration, they have given their heart to the Spouse for whom they wait intensely to welcome him with devotion, to love him in chastity and to serve him constantly (see Rite of the Consecration of the Virgins, 25). Consecrated life shows the truth of the experience of giving oneself to God. In the continuous conversion to the Lord, the person finds a solid road that makes him/her free.

3) The vigilance: our loyalty to Christ always

Let us now complete the reflections proposed in the first paragraph (point [1]).

In today’s Gospel passage (Lk 12: 32-48), Jesus, in addition to the invitation to trust in providence, also speaks of the importance of vigilance in the waiting of his return.

The subject to whom Jesus turns to is the” little flock”: a flock loved by God, chosen and intended for the Kingdom, but a little flock. This small number could raise doubt and discouragement in the heart of many. It is a discouragement to push away: the history of salvation is ruled by the law of the “remainder of Israel” that is the small group of true believers in whom the Kingdom is realized for the benefit of all.

The small flock is invited not to be afraid.” Do not be afraid” means watch, readiness and commitment, all in a spirit of great faith. The Kingdom is donated (the Father” was pleased to give us the Kingdom”) and rests on his love, not on our performances. We must not be afraid.

The small flock is also invited to give away its assets. “Sell all that you have and give the money to charity” This is the richness that never fails compared to the “have more” that we find in the parable of the unwise rich man. This is the orientation for our heart: “Where your treasure is, there is your heart”.

4) Blind to evil to see good.

The evangelical story carries on with a language full of imagery (verses 35-40) whose meaning is however very clear. “Gird your loins and light your lamps”. The image of the lamps reminds us of the parable of the wise and unwise virgins. The belt recalls the way the laborers lifted and rolled their garments at their waist to be free in their movements and the way the travelers lifted their garments to walk faster. It is advisable to have the wandering and vigil attitude that doesn’t allow being inactive. Too many things can obstruct the spirit and make us inactive at the expenses of hope. (Hope is not only waiting for the afterlife but also the ability to transform things on this earth keeping in mind that first, we need to convert. Otherwise, Tolstoy would be right when he wrote “Everybody thinks about changing the world, but nobody thinks about changing himself”).

After the short parable of the Owner that comes back from the wedding and the one of the Lord that comes suddenly like a robber, there is one of the loyal administrator (verses 41-48). In this way, the theme of the watch is enriched by a new attitude: loyalty in the administration of the owner’s assets and sense of responsibility. What are the owner’s assets to be administered with loyalty and responsibility? The text doesn’t say it clearly, but we can think at the use of all the goods (wealth, relationships, all) that God gave us, and that we must administrate and not kept only for us.

Loyalty and a sense of responsibility are requested in proportion with the knowledge that everyone has of the owner. The bigger is the knowledge the bigger is the responsibility. Loyalty and responsibility are above all requested to the believers so that they can do the true work in God’s wine yard, the Church.

The important thing is to grow in faith to “see” that God is Father and that he can be called owner because he is omnipotent. In Jesus, the Father puts omnipotence to the service of his charity making it good and lovable by everyone. In Jesus faith makes us “blind” to evil and able to see Good, Charity, Sainthood and Eternal Life. Acting in this way we can guide our brothers in Christ to Peace and to the Father.

Let’s not be tired of looking at Christ on the Cross. The more we put our eyes on Him and the more we will see the light through his chest open to love, and we will believe because faith is born from the light of love.

Let’s become poor in spirit making all assets servant of Justice and using them with the justice that consumes in charity and reveals itself in mercy (see Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, 7 and 13).

Faith is the light of love

In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope. Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope, and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God. (LF 7)

Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call.