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 him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful(Luke 12:45-46).
It is that time of the year again. Autumn is upon us and the end of the liturgical year is in sight. So once again the Scriptures point us to the “end times.” Luke’s parable about the unprepared servant is just one example of Scriptures which we call “apocalyptic.”
The translation from our Lectionary for Mass is certainly ominous enough. However, I believe the words that are here translated as “punish him severely” have been softened a bit to accommodate our delicate sensibilities. Other translations render this as “cut him to pieces,” a severe punishment indeed.
However, perhaps it would do us more good to concentrate on the flip side of this coin. Instead of focusing on the punishment given to the servant who is irresponsible, let us ask ourselves about those who have been given to our care. How are we caring for our responsibilities? Peter elicits the comments about punishment when he asks: “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” (Luke 12:41b) Rather than answer Peter’s question directly, Jesus illustrates his meaning with this example of the unfaithful and imprudent servant.
We are all servants of the Lord. Some of us have been given much. In my own case, I am aware of the great gift of faith that I have been given. I am also grateful for the gift of my vocation. Even though it pales when compared with the gift of my faith and my vocation, I am also grateful for the gift of my “job.” The list of gifts which God has given me (education, community, friends and family, etc.) goes on and on. Because I have been given much, much is expected of me.
I actually look forward to the day when God calls me home. I am not anxious to exit this world, but this world is not my goal. Because I look forward to the beginning of my new life, I hear these words of Jesus as a fulfillment of the promise I have received through my faith. Jesus has saved me; God loves me; the Spirit urges me onward. I care about my responsibilities not because I will “earn” a place in heaven by fulfilling them, but because it is my way of expressing my gratitude to God for what Jesus has done for me.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator