24 October. Tuesday, Week 29

Saint Anthony Mary Claret, bishop (opt. mem.)

1st Reading: Romans 5:12, 17-21

Through Adam, sin and death came to us all; through Jesus Christ, grace far surpasses all sin

Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel: Luke 12:35-38

Good for those servants whom the master finds wide awake at his return

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.”


Grace abounding

By the time Luke wrote his gospel, his early Christian readers were no longer obsessed with the idea of Jesus soon returning in glory to bring history to its end. The idea of being ready for the Day of the Lord was no longer focussed upon his coming-in-glory to end the present world and usher in the everlasting kingdom. As with the Our Father, Luke rather emphasises a daily presence of the Lord Jesus in our neighbour and in contemporary events. We must be waiting, yes, ready to open the door of our heart, and to share our possessions, no matter when Jesus may come to us. Whatever happens anytime, anywhere, must be received as though Jesus were here in person.

In his parable of the master’s return, Jesus overturns oriental custom and sends us back to the drawing board of our theology and organization of life. Normally, when a wealthy person comes home his servants must attend on him or her. Now the reverse is to happen: The master will put on an apron, then seat the servants at table and proceed to wait on them. Paradoxically, when we do service to others, it is we ourselves who benefit most. When we generously serve others, it is they who heap good gifts on us.

No one can form deep ties, even with one’s own flesh and blood, without some carrying of the cross with Jesus. But our sacrifice is inspired by his, for his goodness calls us to follow his example and his Holy Spirit supports us in the process. Our lives, like his, become a sacred temple, a dwelling place for God. The love of Christ forms us into a world family, such as God wants. This thought flows through Paul’s letter to the Romans. We are all one through Adam and still more so through Jesus. Through Adam we share in the sins, prejudices and weaknesses, inherent in human nature, but through Jesus there is “overflowing grace” to change our lives. Paul writes, “grace far surpasses sin, leading to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The one who serves

Today we have the unusual image of the master of a household putting on an apron, sitting his slaves down at table and then waiting on them. The kind of picture Jesus was painting there had no place in the culture of those days. But the picture in the parable that Jesus speaks there does put us in mind of the scene in John’s gospel where Jesus puts a towel around himself and washes the feet of his disciples. The Lord, it seems, wants to serve us; the Lord wants to be our servant. Normally, the role of Lord and the role of servant are at opposite ends of a spectrum, but in Jesus they are combined.

In the parable, the master offers loving service in response to his servants’ faithfulness and vigilance. The Lord expects us to be faithful and vigilant, so that we are ready to open the door when he comes and knocks. It brings to mind that saying of the risen Lord in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” The Lord is always knocking at the door of our lives; he comes and knocks every day. If we respond to his daily coming, he will help us forward in ways that will surprise us.

Saint Anthony Mary Claret, bishop

Anthonio Maria Claret (1807-1870) was a priest-missionary from Catalonia, Spain, founder of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, called the Claretians. He was appointed as Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba in 1849, but after eight years was recalled to Spain by Queen Isabella II, to be her confessor and serve as rector of the Escorial monastic school. In 1869 he went to Rome to prepare for the First Vatican Council, but soon afterwards, in failing health, he withdrew to the Cistercian abbey of Fontfroide, in southern France, where he died in 1870.

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