BE READY AT ALL TIMES!
Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19; Luke 12:32-48
The parables of today’s gospel focus on the unpredictable return of Jesus and our need
to be prepared for his return. It is interesting that most of us believe in preparation for
many uncertainties, but not with the most important event of our lives? We carry a
spare tire in our car as preparation for a flat. We have insurance in preparation for a
theft or accident; we have fire trucks in preparation for a fire. Airline stewards provide
pre-flight instructions in preparation for turbulent weather; and we seek education in
preparation for a good job. People carry life jackets in the event of a boat accident.
Preparation in our society is a sign of wisdom. But think about this! Of all the
preparations that we make for the things we have just mentioned, not a single one is a
certainty, yet we feel compelled to prepare ourselves for them.
The gospel of today tells us that the return of Jesus is A CERTAINTY. We can never
know precisely when he will return or when we will die, but his return is certain. We
must constantly watch, being always faithful and ready so that we may be found worthy
to share in the heavenly banquet he has prepared for us. So the question today is not
whether or not Christ is coming again, or when he is coming, or even how he is
coming. The point is about being prepared for his coming and ready to receive him
whenever he comes, now or later.
1. THE THREE PARABLES IN THE GOSPEL OF TODAY
Today’s gospel emphasizes preparedness and having our priorities straight. St. Luke
gives us three parables which highlight the wisdom of preparedness.
a) First there is the Parable of the Watchful Servants where Jesus encourages his
disciples to be vigilant and ready for action as they wait for the coming of the Master.
Here, the servants are seen awaiting their master’s return from marriage feast
(Lk12:35-38). Since in the culture of the Jews, marriage lasts for several hours,
excluding the late hours, so is the master’s return often delayed. But the servants must
keep their lamps alight, ready at all times to receive him (Lk 12:35). The master will
reward such vigilant servants by taking their role and serve them.
b) The second parable continues the idea of preparedness (Lk 12:39-40), but now the
householder must be extra-vigilant to prevent the thief from plundering his house.
c) The third parable (Lk 12:42-48) is about faithful and unfaithful servants. They are
classified based on their response to assigned responsibilities: those who wisely and
faithfully fulfill their tasks (Lk 12:42-43) and those who foolishly exploit their
assigned tasks (Lk 12:45). The day of reckoning comes with the master’s return. The
faithful ones are rewarded and the master punishes the counterparts.
2. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE READY?
Preparedness is the beginning of true wisdom. “It will go well with those servants
whom the Master finds watching on his return,” Jesus teaches. “Living wisely” is not
concerned only with our present day-to-day needs but also preparing for our ultimate
end in death. Therefore, basically to be truly ready for the coming of Christ we need
to be living such a life of consistency and integrity that should Christ return at any
moment we would be without shame or fear.
a) This preparedness would be measured by our readiness to serve the people we meet.
Jesus said: “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do this unto
me.” We have to complete the task entrusted to us every day and be at peace with and
at the service of our neighbour now.
b) Being faithful to the life and mission of Jesus to proclaim God’s reign to all, as we
await the end time, His second coming. Despite criticisms, rejection, pain and
suffering, we are called to remain faithful to the Love of the Father, as Jesus did. God
loves faithfulness and rewards those who are faithful to Him. This faithfulness means
keeping one’s word, promise and commitment no matter how tough or difficult it gets.
Faithfulness is a character trait of God and one that he expects of us.
c) To be prepared is to be in a state of grace. At the moment of death, the state of our
soul will remain basically what it is for the rest of eternity. If we are in the state of
grace, that is to say, we are in the friendship of God and we have renounced sin, which
separates us from God, then we are ready to face the eternal judgment of God. But if
we are in the state of sin, which separates us from God, if we have not been reconciled
to God by the sincere contrition and confession of our sins, then we have much to dread
at the moment of death.
d) Preparing for the second coming would entail some practical steps:
❖ It should positively change at least one call we make this week.
❖ It should influence or change one email/text message we send this week.
❖ It should modify some priorities in our personal calendar.
❖ It should lead us to repair a relationship with someone we have been having
❖ It should cause us to hold our tongue in some situation.
3. JESUS MOTIVATES US TO LIVE IN A STATE OF READINESS
Jesus gives us positive and negative motivation for living in a state of readiness, for
continuing in the faith.
a) Positive Motivation: In Lk 12:37-38, Jesus twice begins a sentence with “It will
be good for those servants.” “It will be good for those servants whose master finds
them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve,
will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good
for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second
or third watch of the night.”
If we are ready, it will be good for us. If Jesus finds us, his servants, waiting for him
(even if it is very late at night), he will be so pleased that he will have us sit at the table
and he will serve us! We will be honored by the Master. This is a very beautiful picture
of the heavenly banquet where Jesus is serving and not BEING SERVED. This is the
same thing he did to his disciples when he washed their feet at the last super.
b) Negative Motivation: Jesus goes further to give us the other side of the coin. He
tells us that the return of Christ will be unexpected; and it will catch many by surprise.
“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief
was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready,
because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Lk
12:39-40) Jesus reminds us that what makes a robbery successful is the element of
surprise. If someone knows that someone is going to rob his/her house, he/she is going
to be ready for the robber.
Jesus understood human nature very well. He knew that a perceived lack of
accountability generally leads to a greater recklessness in our actions. Think about
students in a classroom when the teacher leaves the room. Think about how employees
tend to leave early and cut corners when the owner of the business is gone on vacation.
Think about workers in a plant; if they know the one with authority is going to make
rounds at a certain time all the employees will look diligent at that time. However, if
the owner has the habit of making random appearances, they will have a greater
incentive to be productive all the time. People are less diligent when they believe they
can disobey (sin) without consequence.
Jesus warns us that He will return at a time when people do not expect. This is not
because the Lord wants to see who is faithful and who is not. No! Jesus already knows
those who are faithful and those who are not. He will come at an unexpected hour
because He wants everyone else to be able to see clearly who is faithful and who is
not. He wants the world to see the justice of His judgment! No one will be able to plead
that he/she has been unfairly treated because the truth will be obvious.
4. THE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE UNFAITHFUL SERVANT
The unfaithful servant in Lk 12:41-48 was acting on two erroneous assumptions:
a) He assumed that he could do what he wanted when the owner was gone. He
assumed that absence means no accountability. He is like those who view their lives
as compartments. There is “Our Christianity”, “Our family”, “Our business”, and
“Our friends” and we believe these compartments are separate. They are not! We are
accountable before God in every situation, and at all times!
b) He assumed he would have time to “get things right” before the Lord returns.
How many people live their lives with the idea that they will “get right with God
before it is too late” only to die before “their time”! Preparation cannot be a
“sometime” thing, but living each moment of our life for Jesus.
Jesus has gone to Heaven and left things in our hands. He has given us His instructions
in the Bible, and explained these instructions through the living teaching of the Church
(Magisterium). When He returns He will hold us accountable. You will not be able to
use the excuse that you did not read the instruction manual, for it was your
responsibility to read it. You will not be able to excuse yourself by saying you did not
have time, for there is nothing you could possibly have been doing that was of greater
significance. You will not be able to excuse yourself by saying, “I always intended to
get right with God” for if this was your intention you would have done so or you
would do so today. There is coming a day when the Lord will call us to account and
many will be unprepared.
5. THE CATHOLIC TEACHING ON PURGATORY
Talking about reward and punishment, Jesus makes it clear that there are two groups
in which disciples will be separated on judgment day: the sheep on the right and the
goats on the left, the blessed and the accursed, the faithful and the unfaithful. But,
curiously, in Lk 12:48, Jesus gives an extra teaching when he talks about those who
will receive “a light beating?” Certainly, it is not the blessed in heaven who merit such
“lighter beating” because they receive no beating at all. And it is not the accursed in
hell for they are said to receive a severe beating. Who, then, are these people meriting
a “lighter beating”? Where does that take place? This passage, among others, leads one
to the conclusion that beside heaven and hell, there is an in-between state of remedial
punishment. Catholic teaching calls it PURGATORY, a state of temporary, remedial
punishment for believers who die in venial sin. They cannot be admitted to heaven
directly because they have guilt and yet they cannot be consigned to everlasting
punishment in hell because their sin is not mortal. The Evangelist, John points out:
“All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death”. (1 John 5:16-17).
Many Protestant Christians have a problem with the doctrine of purgatory. One reason
for this is that the Reformation Bible does not include some of the books in the
Catholic Bible, such as 2 Maccabees, which clearly support this doctrine. But the
doctrine of purgatory makes sense, especially in light of Biblical passages, such as
today’s gospel, that provide a third alternative to outright blessing and outright
The doctrine of purgatory satisfies God’s mercy as well as God’s justice. It is good
news to the struggling brother or sister who never quite seems to make it to the
Christians ideal which every true Christian aims at. It is a great source of hope for us
to know that even if we die in this imperfect, struggling state we may receive “a light
beating” but we will still be admitted to the eternal happiness of heaven.
CONCLUSION: The best way to prepare for death is to live a good life. The problem
with many of us is that we forget our exit, because we are so engrossed in our
entrances and performances. Nobody stays at the center stage forever. Nobody stays
in the limelight forever. Try as we might, the curtain will someday fall, and the light
will someday dim. That day will be a day of great grief or a day of unbounded joy.
Everything will depend on whether we are prepared and waiting or whether we are
unprepared and so caught by surprise.