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08/11/19 Nineteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

These parables paint a vivid picture of who Christ is and what the Church is.

The clearer that picture is in our minds, the better we will be able to live as true Christians.

In these parables, Christ portrays himself as the master of the house, the head of a grand estate. We can picture a huge mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens, full of visitors and family members and bustling servants. In the parable, the servants are Christ's disciples, and the head servants, or stewards, are his specially chosen Apostles. This is the picture he wants us to have of his Church: not something vague, cold, and impersonal, but a household, a place of life and communion, work and relaxation.

Even when the Master is absent from the estate, the servants are still meant to keep the household going responsibly and energetically. This is an image of the Church in this world, in the midst of human history, before Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead and to make a new heaven and a new earth. During this period, Jesus has delegated his authority to the stewards, to the Apostles and their successors, our bishops, who are in charge of overseeing the work of all Christ's disciples.

This tells us a lot about Christ's leadership style.

He wants us to be his co-workersfriendsreal members of his household - not just mindless robots or slaves.

And yet, Christ remains the Master. He is the creator, redeemer, and owner of the universe.  The universe is not a democracy. Christ is not an elected official who we can vote out of office. No, the Lord is Lord by nature, because he is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving.

And we are his followers.

This is the reason that, as Christians we often kneel when we pray - for example, during the Eucharistic Prayer, at the heart of every Mass, when Jesus becomes truly present in the Eucharist.

The mere act of kneeling is really a prayer in itself.

When we kneel in front of someone, we acknowledge two things about our relationship with that person. First, we acknowledge our dependence. Kneeling says that we need the help and support of the person we are kneeling in front of.It acknowledges that person's superiority and strength.

Second, by kneeling we express our trust.

Kneeling is a position of vulnerability

In medieval times, when a knight pledged his loyalty to a king or a baron, he would kneel in front of him, and the king would lay a sword on the knight's shoulder. This was a risky move for the knight to make. When you are kneeling, you cannot defend yourself from an attack. You are literally at the mercy of the other person. And in those violent times, knights and nobles were constantly striving for power and position, often taking the law into their own hands. By kneeling in front of a powerful lord, therefore, a knight was expressing his trust in the goodness, fairness, and faithfulness of that lord. Kneeling has never been the only posture Christians have used for prayer, but it has always been one of the most eloquent. Christ truly is our Lord and Master, just as he asserts in these parables. We are dependent on him for our existence, redemption, and happiness.  And he truly is worthy of our trust, as he proved by dying on the cross for us.

He is the all-powerful, all-good Lord of life and history.

APPLICATION: Obeying the Church

One of the ways we can apply this to our lives is through humble obedience to Church teaching.

Christ is the Lord, the Master of the Household, and he has promised to continue guiding us through the ministry of his Stewards, the popes and the bishops in communion with him.

As a result, being faithful to Christ includes being faithful to the Church. It would be a contradiction to say we believe in Christ, but then to pick and choose between the teachings of his Church. The Church is not a cafeteria; it's a householdChrist's household. It just wouldn't make sense to say we believe in the Father and the Son, but not in the Holy Spirit, or to say we believe in the Incarnation, but not the Resurrection. Jesus left us the teaching Church to make sure we wouldn't fall into those kinds of distortions. It wouldn't make sense to accept the Church's teachings about honesty and charity, but reject its teachings about chastity and respect for life. And yet, this is the exact temptation we are faced with every day in a society that has elevated individualism and individual opinion to sacred status.

Today, Jesus is reminding us that we are not just individuals floating through the universe. We are members of his household. He has wonderful things in store for us. But he needs us to be humble, to do our best to study and understand Christian doctrine, and above all, to obey.

In a few minutes, we will pray the Creed. Today, let's really mean it.

Let's pray it from the heart, renewing our faith in this God who loves us so much that he continues to give us his only Son, over and over again, in every Mass.

 

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