On Forsaking Fear By Remaining Ready. A Homily for the 19th Sunday of the Year

081013In the Gospel for this weekend (Luke 12:32-40) the Lord Jesus presents a “Recipe for Readiness.” He gives this recipe so that we can lay hold of his offer that we not be afraid. But he is not simply saying, “Be not afraid.” He is explaining how we can battle fear by being ready.

It is frequent problem in the modern experience of the Christian life that many remain vague about what is necessary to be ready to meet God. Many also make light of the day of Judgment and consider it all but certain that they and most of humanity will be found approved.

Jesus does not however adopt this posture. In fact he teaches the exact opposite and consistently warns of the need to be ready for our judgment. As such, He does not counsel a foolish fearlessness rooted in the deception that all or most will be saved. Rather he counsels a fearlessness based on solid preparation for the day of judgement. Jesus tells us at least five things to do in order to be ready, and therefore not afraid.

If we are not ready by these sorts of preparations, Jesus warns, later in this text that He will come when we least expect and, like a thief, take away all that we wrongly call our own. Jesus says elsewhere, But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap (Lk 21:34) And the apostolic tradition adds, that to those unprepared, disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. (1 Thess 5:3).

Thus, while Jesus begins by saying that we ought not fear, (for the Father wants to grant us the kingdom), he also warns that being free of fear is contingent on embracing and following a plan that he (Jesus) sets forth for our life.

 So lets look at this plan and see how we can forsake fear by becoming and remaining ready. Jesus gives us five specific and concrete things to do that will help us to be ready when the Lord shall call us. It is not an exhaustive list, for no one passage of Scripture is the whole of Scripture. But here are some very practical and specific things to reflect on and do.

I. REASSESS YOUR WEALTH. Jesus says, Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. In effect the Lord is giving us here a triple teaching on wealth. First he says that we ought to

  • Fore-go Fear. In the end it is fear that makes us greedy and worldly. We grab up the things of this world because we are terrified of not having enough for tomorrow. But what if we could receive the gift to trust God more and know and experience that he will give us our daily bread? He has given us the Kingdom, why not everything else besides? He may not give us everything we want but we can learn to trust that he will give us what we really need. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be given unto to you (Matt 6:21). If we can just allow God to diminish our fear we will be surprised how easy it is for us to be generous with what we have and not hoard it.
  • Forward your Fortune– We store up treasure for ourselves in heaven when we are generous to the needy and poor. Treasure is not stored in heaven by way of a rocket ship or balloon. It is stored there by generously distributing our wealth to others in wise and creative ways. This was discussed in last week’s reading more substantially see here: Instructions on Income While it may not be appropriate for us to sell everything and go live on a park bench, the Lord is surely telling us to be less attached to and passionate about money and things for they root us in this world. And where our treasure is, there also will our heart be.
  • Fix your focus – Our focus is wrong and worldly because most of us have our treasure here. But once we become less fearful and more generous, our obsession with worldly treasure subsides and our joy in heavenly treasure grows. And this fixes our broken focus. For now our heart is where our treasure really is and ought to be: in heaven with God. So simplify, be less rooted in this world and come to experience that your greatest treasure is God and the things waiting for you in heaven.

So, reassess your wealth. What is it and where is it? That will tell you a lot about your heart too.

II. READY TO WORK – The Lord says Gird your loinswhich is the ancient equivalent of “roll up your sleeves.” The Lord has a work for us and wants us to get about it.

Surely the Lord has more than a worldly career in mind. He has in mind things like raising kids in godly fear, pursuing justice, and growing in holiness. The Lord wants us to work in his Kingdom. We must commit to prayer, Sunday worship, the reception of the Sacraments, to obedience and holiness.

And the Lord has a particular work for us based on our gifts. Some can teach, others are good with senior citizens, still others are good entrepreneurs and can provide good work for others at a just wage. Some are skilled at medicine and the care of the sick. Some are called to priesthood and the religious life. Some are called to suffering and to offer that suffering for the salvation of souls. Some serve in strength, others in weakness. But all are called to serve, called to work.

So work with what the Lord gave you to advance his kingdom. Part of being ready means doing our work.

III. READ THE WORD – The Lord says, light your lamps.”

At one level, the phrase “light your lamps” is simply a symbol for readiness (eg. the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matt. 25:1-13)

But in another sense “lamp” is also a symbol for Scripture. For example, You Word O Lord is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Ps 119:105). Or again, We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).

So here we can also understand that the Lord is teaching us that an essential part of being ready is to be rooted and immersed in the Scriptures and the Teachings of the Church. It makes sense of course. There is just too much stinking thinking in this increasingly secular world hostile to the faith to think that our mind is going to be anything but sullied if we are not reading Scripture every day. How will our minds be sober and clear if we are inebriated by the world?

Clearly, being ready means reading Scripture each day and basing our life on it.

IV. REMAIN WATCHFUL – The Lord says, “And be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks…..Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come

Now there are different ways to watch and wait. There is the passive watching and waiting that we may do when waiting for a bus. We just sit there and look down the street. But there is another way of waiting that is more active. Consider the kind of watchfulness that one has who waits on tables. This is an active waiting and watching. It observes what is necessary and what will soon become necessary and moves to supply what is needed.

There is also an eager sort of waiting intended here much like the eager waiting of a child on Christmas Eve. The Child does not wait in dread for the coming of “Santa” but with eager expectation.

And so it is that a watchful waiting and an eager waiting are what the Lord has in mind here. It is like that active waiting when we have invited a guest to our home eagerly prepared the house, and all is readiness. We know that his arrival is imminent and so we joyfully prepare and place all in order.

And to set our house in order is to sweep clean our soul of sin and all unrighteousness by God’s grace, and to remove all the clutter of the worldliness. Regular confession, daily repentance, sweep clean the house, and simplifying our lives and freeing ourselves from worldly attachments de-clutters the house of our soul.

Have you prepared the home of your soul for the Lord’s arrival? If not, the Lord says, you may experience him as a thief. Now the Lord is not really a thief for everything belongs to him. But if you and I have not renounced our worldliness and greed, if we have not de-cluttered our lives of attachments to this world, the Lord WILL come to and take back what is his, but he will seem like a  thief because we think it is ours.

It’s never a good idea to call God, the Lord and owner of all, a thief. Bad move.

V. REFLECT on your reWARD The Lord says, Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. –

The Lord is clear that he has a reward for those who are found ready!

It is prefigured in the banquet of the Eucharist wherein the Lord prepares a meal and feeds us. The Lord says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). And again, And I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom (Luke 22:30). We have so much easy food today but in the ancient world one of the most pleasant things they looked forward to was a hearty meal in the company of good friends and family.

The Lord offers us the magnificent blessing of heaven wherein we will be with him and those whom we love forever in unspeakable joy and peace.

Do you meditate often on heaven and long for its rewards? One of the stranger aspects of the modern world is that, even among believers, we talk so little of heaven. True, it is not a place any of us have been yet so it’s hard to fully understand what it will be like. But reflect often on the joy waiting for you in heaven.

Part of being ready to go home to Lord is to long for that day to come. When we want to do something we eagerly prepare for it, we are motivated and make sacrifices to do it.  When we desire it we will more naturally get ready and lay aside whatever is necessary to make the passage there.

So here are five elements constituting a recipe for readiness. Better set your house in order ’cause he may be coming soon!

32 Replies to “On Forsaking Fear By Remaining Ready. A Homily for the 19th Sunday of the Year”

  1. Well said, as usual, Msgr. Pope. You always prepare your readers for Sunday Mass. And prepare we should! Many blessings on you and your flock…

  2. Father really appreciate that you post your Sunday reflection early to enable people to read it in different time zones in the world before going to church. I write this from India & I personally like to be prepared before attending mass. Your reflections are truly wonderful & today I particularly liked the thought of being prepared for the heavenly kingdom. I connect strongly with it as we in India are preparing to celebrate our Independence Day on Aug 15 (yes the very same day we celebrate the Assumption of our Lady).

    Thank you Father.

  3. But what if one fears the collecting of the heavenly treasure? What if a life consisting of 30 years of hopeless self destruction of every worldly benefit has only been overcome a few years ago and a person is only beginning to experience having a secure home where the price of living there is always fully paid and how wonderful it is to still have money in the pocket on payday?
    Another could respond that the heavenly treasure is so much greater than the worldly but, that’s like applying a logical answer to an emotional need; or feeling of need. Like wanting a payback here and, not wanting to get the payback handed over but by earning the payback by trading for it with work that has value and by being a dependable employee who shows up at start time with no “morning after the night before” dragging behind and detracting from work ability. By declining temptation to indulge in the false and vicarious revenge of such things as pecking order because it has become blatantly apparent that it is two victims, of the same evil, attacking each other. Clinging to the joy of truly living – rather than just surviving. Hpoe of being lifted up? Sure, but memories of play time ending so soon as one is called home to a wonderful supper and the indoors. At least one could (and does) thank God for that instead of a shameful death in the filth behind a dumpster but … still logic applied to emotion.

    1. To Peter, It’s wonderful that you now have a basic foundation. Now your work has begun. You need to build your spritual life and that takes time and effort. Bible reading, church attendance, spiritual reading, fellowship with Christians, and especially prayer. Go deep, the kingdom of heaven is within you. You may have to plow your way through a lot of junk before you find it, but I guarantee it is there. A lot of people are praying for you

      1. Peter….Also remember the parable Jesus told about the workers hired in the vineyard. Those who came in
        at the last hour were paid the same wages as those who entered the vineyard earlier in the day.( Matt 20: 1-16)
        As Diane points out, now that you have discovered life in Christ, you have certain obligations of fulfill in
        order to receive the reward you desire. Not that we *earn* heaven; Jesus has already paid the ransom for
        us but we need to accept this wonderous gift by fulfilling his commands to love and obey.

        1. I have been somewhat concerned that I may have done a little “hostage taking” of this ‘blog page for a personal matter that would probably have been better addressed through my support group of other Christians in Recovery however; two benevolent responses have helped me to accept that, being responsable to take care of myself properly in the here and now, is not necessarily an obsession with the worldly.
          Very grateful.

    2. I once heard it explained this way:
      It’s like a little Kid who wants a bicycle, and who, belatedly, realized he should begin to save up for one. But summer has come up before he realized it, and he looks into the piggy bank and realizes he just doesn’t have enough to buy a new bike. All the other kids in the neighborhood are whizzing by his house, and he is despondent. Very despondent.
      His dad comes home from work one afternoon, and finds the kid sitting on the sofa, with a very long face. Dad asks, “What’s up sport?”, and the Kid tells him.
      Dad says, “Well, let’s see, how much have you got, you never know.” The Kid shows him, and sure enough, the amount he saved is too little for a bike. But Dad says, “Tell you what sport, we’ll go down to the store and see what we can find.”
      The Kid isn’t sure, but he says, “Ok.”. They go to the store, and even the cheapest bike is far beyond what the Kid had saved. Dad looks at the fanciest, most expensive bike and says, “How about this one?” The Kid gets angry. Dad is teasing him. But Dad says, “Give me all you’ve got, and we’ll see what happens.” The Kid hands Dad all his paltry savings, and Dad puts it in his pants pocket. They go to the counter, and Dad tells the clerk, “We’ll take That one, the fancy one.” Dad pulls enough money out of his pocket to pay for the new bike, and the Kid is overwhelmed.
      What the Kid had wasn’t enough, but Dad has a Big pocket.
      The point is rather obvious, but one which we so often miss when staring at our deficiencies. We all are deficient. Not one of us is good enough. But, Dad has big pockets.
      (Full disclosure here, this isn’t MY story, but is adapted from “The Parable of the Bicycle” by Stephen Robinson from his book, “Believing Christ”.

    3. Perfect Love casts out fear. Let God Love you, He will you know, Love you Perfectly and guide you Perfectly… you need only to follow.

  4. When our Love is sincere our lives point to Christ, not to ourselves… thank you Monsignor.

  5. I, too, love your Sunday gospel reflections. They are very enlightening and enriching. Any chance of getting them around 3:00pm CDT, any I typical attend the Saturday Vigil Mass here in lower Alabama. Thank you Monsignor for all you do.

  6. Monsignor, I thank you for your wonderful posts. I make it a point not to miss your posts as I print them and re-read them. You represent one of the few who still continue to present the Truth with boldness. Your Sunday reflections help us to understand and live the Gospel life throughout the liturgical year. I pray for you.

  7. Good morning, Monsignor… I agree with Pete and Phillip. I love to read your blog before Sunday Mass. It really helps me to get more out of the readings.

    What an outstanding, PRACTICAL piece! I’m sure I’ll refer to it often!

  8. Thank you, Monsignor! I had already written my lectionary lesson today for the RCIA groups, but I enjoy reading as much ‘other’ commentary as I can.
    This sentence of yours in particular I am writing down for future reference: “How will our minds be sober and clear if we are inebriated by the world?”
    More and more I personally feel a profound disconnect to the world — but I am still ‘curious’ enough about the world to still jump around the internet for news of it. I pray very hard to not be tarnished by what I see, hear, read. Daily prayer, daily rosary, daily scripture, daily reading of the lives of the saints — they keep us in the proper perspective. How rich our Church is!

  9. In these times when men had drawn himself to the precipice of self destruction in indulging in hedonism, materialism and relativism, we who are in the Church must in turn indulge in faith in action and deep prayers. We must stand our ground of forsaking fear and abide in our trust that GOD is in control and indeed HE is. Yes, Monsignor, we must be steadfast and remain ready to serve HIM in the littlest of our brethren and defending our faith. A priest and a laity were talking and they saw JESUS coming over. The laity cried out to the priest what must we do? The priest said, ‘ Get busy!’ Baruch HaShem

  10. The world will pull with its enticing set of rewards for doing.. but it is like the woman in Proverbs7:6-23 At the window of my house
    I looked down through the lattice.
    7 I saw among the simple,
    I noticed among the young men,
    a youth who had no sense.
    8 He was going down the street near her corner,
    walking along in the direction of her house
    9 at twilight, as the day was fading,
    as the dark of night set in.

    10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
    dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
    11 (She is unruly and defiant,
    her feet never stay at home;
    12 now in the street, now in the squares,
    at every corner she lurks.)
    13 She took hold of him and kissed him
    and with a brazen face she said:

    14 “Today I fulfilled my vows,
    and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
    15 So I came out to meet you;
    I looked for you and have found you!
    16 I have covered my bed
    with colored linens from Egypt.
    17 I have perfumed my bed
    with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
    18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
    let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
    19 My husband is not at home;
    he has gone on a long journey.
    20 He took his purse filled with money
    and will not be home till full moon.”

    21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
    she seduced him with her smooth talk.
    22 All at once he followed her
    like an ox going to the slaughter,
    like a deer[a] stepping into a noose[b]
    23 till an arrow pierces his liver,
    like a bird darting into a snare,
    little knowing it will cost him his life.

    Here is the harlot we face everyday. Which will we choose? life in Christ or death? I choose life and place all my hope and longing in Jesus Christ, understanding the world is transitory and filled with delusions.

  11. Yes, I agree with all those who said that this is an excellent reflection.

    “We have so much easy food today but in the ancient world one of the most pleasant things they looked forward to was a hearty meal in the company of good friends and family.”–I heard a podcast that claimed that a hearty meal, a feast, enjoyed in the company of good friends and family is the purpose of society. Of course, that presupposes that people are doing things like getting married, staying married and raising children.

    One thing I like to reflect on concerning the heavenly reward is that, if we make it, our bodies will be spiritualized. I am not even sure how to begin understanding that.

    Concerning the video, if you consider the population nightmare being brought on by abortion and artificial birth control, combined with the way Western nations are wrecking own their economies, it is as though we have had a huge nuclear war, except without the visuals and the lingering effects of radiation.

  12. Dear Monsignor Moss,
    I once asked Fr Levis of EWTN whether few or many Americans would be saved. He replied that he was very pessimistic because of the worldly, libertine lifestyle lived by so many Americans including most Catholics. What is your opinion?

  13. About 7 years ago a group of friends and I were shooting the breeze, a buddy of mine asked each of us to use 6 words to describe ourselves. I don’t remember mine, but his was “Prepared for Life, Prepared for Death”. This had a profound affect on me and eventually led me to RCIA and become Catholic on March 22, 2008. The readings today at mass reminded of that quote. Msgr. Pope’s article really drives home the meaning of that quote…. just beautiful to read.

  14. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    Your posts are inspired treasures (so be on guard! You are in my prayers, for what they are worth), thank you for them. But I must say that, I just busted out laughing at the “Who is Msgr. Moss?” question above. The perfect answer. First we get guidance and truth then…well…those. First you insipre then you just crack me up.


    P.S. If you do know how many Americans will be saved, please don’t tell us. It’d spoil the surprise. Besides, maybe it’s just safer to assume maybe only a few then do our beast to be in that group.

  15. Dear Monsignor
    I am a regular reader of your posts on new advent and take to heart much of what you write about,but I have a problem Below is a statement by John Stuart MIll. What he say here makes perfect sense. Our sense of free will and autonomy and the dignity that comes with these qualities shine clearly through. How does such a statement square up with the churches understanding. I understand it so that mere servility is not expected but there seems to be a tension that I seem to be missing here between my creaturehood and my dignity rooted in my own self assertion /autonomy/free will. Does God wish to ,to put it simply,di i have to justifyevery and all my dealings in and with life. Must I justify’ all’that I do? where does the boundary go between me choosing in the dignity of my own choice and autonomy and Gods designs and will.
    , John Stuart Mill ‘it is incumbent upon the individual to never ‘let the world, or his portion of it,to choose his plan of life for him’. Is not this a noble sentiment? Your comments would be welcomed.

  16. Dear Monsignor Pope (sorry about that!),
    I once asked Fr Levis of EWTN whether few or many Americans would be saved. He replied that he was very pessimistic because of the worldly, libertine lifestyle lived by so many Americans including most Catholics. What is your opinion?

    1. OK, I thought you were referring to a particular commenter. I agreed with Fr. Levis. We have to be urgent to preach conversion. Ralph Martin’s book “Will many be saved” is an important contribution in this regard.

  17. Monsignor, thank you once again for taking us back into a time warp and returning us to pre Vatican II days. I am sure you have many followers on this website, I am also sure that 90% of them still think the world is flat. Perhaps you could benefit from a healthy dose of Jesus’ love and care for the poor as you do for the fire and brimstone sermons you remember from your childhood.

      1. Huh?! I am one of the 90% of whom you said still think the world is flat. Do you know the diameter of the earth? Do you know the circumference of the earth? Do you know the distance of the earth to the moon? To the sun? Do you know how the earth moves around the sun? Do you know how big our sun compared to the other stars? Do you know how all of these are measured? Hehehe. Learn more you arrogant ignorant of a low life human person, if you can call yourself a human person. May GOD bless you in spite of your iniquity.

      2. Well, it does appear that some of us are incapable of receiving instruction, or perhaps of entertaining different ideas from our own.

        Pity, really.

  18. Thanks for that gospel music piece. It was perfect for your post. We all need to be reminded to be ready for Jesus’ call. If we have a genuine relationship with God, doing our best to follow what Jesus asks of us and giving Him place in our lives, if we are always ready to go where He tells us to go and do what He tells us to do for our neighbor, we need not fear. Our Abba loves us so much and wants us to be with Him forever. If we just close our eyes and ears to everything else we will enjoy His company forever. But that relationship has to start here and now, or we will not be ready.

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