Homily 33rd Sunday OT 19th Nov 2023
This weekend the scriptural readings begin to sort of prime us, lead us into the coming Advent experience of waiting. And the readings do this by drawing on part at least of the strong scriptural theme of end times, the second coming of the Lord, the end of the world.
And it is a very complex, a very mysterious picture of that even that the scriptures draw, any number of different images and emphases are used. Powerful, eloquent images, drawn from daily life of the Hebrews. Images of warfare and a great show of power. Images from farming. The end times will be like a field coming to full fruit, a vineyard that finally bears, or like a shepherd that goes out into the countryside, separates his own sheep from the rest, and brings them back into his own fold.
But from all of that confusion of imagery there does emerge a consistent pattern. There are qualities to that experience that are clearly revealed.
One of these qualities is unpredictability. It will be something that happens on God’s terms, in his own time. St. Paul in the second reading, echoes that strong Gospel theme. When and where and how are simply not ours to know.
And that leads to another of the qualities that is revealed, that of clarity. The ‘not knowing’ that we have to bear in so many areas of our life will be eased. In one of his letters, St. Paul writes, “we see now as though we are looking through a dark glass…but then we shall see everything clearly, as it is.”
And that points to a third quality of the end times that is so clearly scriptural, the quality of judgement.
The simple fact is that we have been created by God to be accountable creatures, accountable to him and to one another and that we shall one day be called to give that account, and be held to it.
The Gospel today is one of a couple of scripture passages that deals with the reality of judgement. And here, as elsewhere, the standard that is used, the yardstick by which a person’s life is judged, is not merely so much the amount of evil he/she has done as it is the amount of good he or she did or did not do.
The master who returns to judge his servants does so really on the basis of their creativity, their fruitful use of what he has given them, their ability to leave a situation better than it was when they entered it.
When our master left, he gave a commission to each of his servants, “Go out into the whole world and bring it to me, better than it was”. Perhaps the clearest image of all the end times is simply the question, “How well have we done that?”