The text of the Gospel presented to us today looks like a mish-mash of different sayings by Jesus put together because they are all on the general theme of watchfulness. The Evangelists didn’t go around with notebooks writing down whatever Jesus said. In the case of Luke, he most definitely didn’t go around following Jesus because he wasn’t there at the time. The first we hear of Luke is in Antioch where he became a disciple of Paul.
So, it is clear that Luke was not an actual eye-witness, but this is not to denigrate Luke because in compiling his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles he carried out a very great service to the Church. Probably the way he went about writing his Gospel was by interviewing as many people as he could who were actual eye-witnesses to the various incidents in the life of Jesus. He would also have spoken to many other people who though they were not direct witnesses themselves had met others who were and so could speak with some authority about the actions and teachings of Jesus, if only at one remove.
Luke then must have taken this mass of material and put it together in what he himself called ‘an ordered account’ of the life of Jesus. There is a theory that Matthew, Mark and Luke had access to another text which has somehow been lost. This is conjectured because there are a lot of similarities between their accounts of Jesus’ life. This possible source is called ‘Q’ which comes from the German word ‘Quelle’ meaning source.
While there are many similarities between the three Synoptic Gospels, as we call them, there are also many differences. And these differences surely arose because the various Evangelists had access to different witnesses. Sometimes, as in our text today, we get a series of sayings and parables bunched together simply because they are on the same theme.
I suggest that the theme of the various sayings set before us today is watchfulness. Firstly, we get the saying about ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ Then we move on to the short parable about being like men waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast. If he finds them faithful the master will reverse roles and put on an apron and wait on his servants while they eat a meal. We move on to a mention of the householder being ready to intercept the burglar. And we are told that we disciples should be like him and stand ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
We then get a longer parable similar to the first one but which contrasts the behaviour of two servants or stewards put in charge of the household while their master is away. The first carries out his duties correctly and is rewarded, but the other abuses the other servants and is duly punished by his master on his return.
Jesus then draws a distinction between those who know what their master wants but don’t do it and those who misbehave yet don’t actually know the master’s wishes. These will be punished but less that the one who really did know his master’s wishes. The passage concludes with the words of Jesus, ‘When a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’
So, we can see how Luke has ordered the material at his disposal all roughly on the same topic but he has put it together starting with a very simple parable, then going on to give a slightly more complicated parable and then coming to a conclusion which is applicable to any serious follower of Jesus. The main point that Luke is leading up to is that we have been inducted into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, therefore we are not in ignorance and so a higher standard of behaviour is expected of us.
A lot of us grew up in Catholic families and ingested our faith with our mother’s milk so to speak, And, this might lead us to feel that we had no choice as to whether we would be Catholics or not. We might assume that we absorbed Catholic culture because we grew up in Catholic families and if things had turned out differently, we might have just as easily been Moslems, Jehovah’s Witnesses or have no faith at all. And this might lead us to think that it is a bit unfair that a higher standard might be expected of us by God from those who are not Catholics.
Let me suggest that this assumption might not be actually true. Because over the course of one’s like we reach certain turning points, certain moments when we make a choice in life. There are built in such moments in the life of any Catholic, the most obvious of which is the Sacrament of Confirmation. A positive decision is required of us when we are about fourteen or fifteen about whether we choose to seriously commit ourselves to the Catholic faith and go ahead with the reception of this important Sacrament. At that point we decide to accept the truths of the faith and the teaching of Jesus. We are given the opportunity to clarify what we believe and have things more fully explained to us. We choose at the moment of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation that we will be one of the Lord’s disciples in the world of today.
This means that we are like that first steward in the parable; we really know what Jesus wants, we have certainty about how we should behave as Christians and so we realise that a higher standard will be expected of us than from people who are completely ignorant about the things of God. But we do not regard these higher expectations as any sort of burden. No, we accept these extra responsibilities with great joy because we know that they are in conformity with the will of God.
We realise that carrying out God’s wishes is a cause of great joy for us. We realise that by living the way God wants us to live is both a high privilege and a great blessing.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket