19th Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Reward Is Worth the Work

User's Guide to Sunday, Aug. 7


Sunday, Aug. 7, is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass Readings: Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12; Luke 12:32-48 or 12:35-40.

The message of today’s readings is: Do what you’re supposed to do as if your life depends on it — because it does.

One of the monks at St. Benedict’s Abbey here had great advice for a college student I know who is trying to discern his vocation. Father Jeremy told him to start doing what he was supposed to do, excellently, every day.

The results were transformational. He was a student, so he started trying to be a great student, by studying hard and asking questions. He was a friend, so he started showing more kindness and caring to his friends. He was a son, so when summer started, he helped out more around the house and engaged his parents more. He was a brother, so he started interacting more with his siblings.

In doing so, he discovered huge caches of untapped potential in his life. “It’s amazing how much changed just by doing the basics,” he said. Not just his GPA, but his enjoyment of learning, too. Not only his relationships, but his peace of mind, as well. He was happier than he had been in years.

Jesus in the Gospel reminds us that even more is at stake: eternal happiness.

“Gird your loins and light your lamps, and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,” says Jesus in the Gospel. To “gird your loins” means to tuck your robe into your belt so that you can get more done.

“Blessed are the servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival,” says Jesus. “Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”

If we do what we are supposed to do, not only will the waiting be better, but the reward at our judgment will be astonishing.

The other two readings support this idea, with examples from Jewish history. First is the Old Testament reading about the Passover: “The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.”

Next is epistle to the Hebrews: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”

Notice the difference there. At the time of the Passover, the Jews were told exactly what would happen and what they were meant to do. But Abraham had no idea what was going to happen to him.

God asks us for both kinds of obedience. We know very specifically what God wants from us in our religious life: He wants us to go to confession, go to Mass and to say our daily prayers. But we also have “Abrahamic” duties. He wants us to be open to his will and go wherever he wants. He wants us to have the “fiat” attitude of Mary, who does what needs to be done, not knowing what is coming.

Like the second reading says, we have the “assurance of things hoped for.” We know what is coming, so we do what we are supposed to do. When the master comes back, his rewards will be amazing. But the satisfaction we feel will already be worth it even while we wait.

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

His book What Pope Francis Really Said is available for preorder at Amazon.com.

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