The story of Abraham and Sarah is a story that should begin, “Against all odds….” It is a pretty amazing story of perseverance, endurance, and life lived for a mission greater than one’s self. Abraham and Sarah persevered and endured the long journey from modern-day Iraq to Israel on to Egypt and back to Israel. Even as they reached their older years, they continued to hope for a child of their own. They believed in the Lord’s promises even when his timeline was a whole longer than their timelines. They bore the hopes and expectations of all the people they led. Certainly, they lived out St. Paul’s message from 1 Cor 13:7 “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
Love was the engine that powered their life, but as the second reading from the Letter to Hebrews makes clear, it is by faith that they made choices. It was by faith that they put the engine in gear to live out the love that believed, hoped, bore, and endured all the twists and turns along their life’s journey. All along the journey, that faith and love were lived out in the world by a life of service, of stewarding the gifts that they had been given by God. Three weeks ago, our first reading was an example of how Abraham and Sarah welcomed three travelers with hospitality – and this just another example of Abraham’s service – to his family and clan, to Lot and his family, to the King of Salem, and so many others. The story of Abraham’s life is a story told in the outlines of faith, love and service.
That should be the outline of all our lives. Our lives should give evidence of those underlying gifts and graces. Here on the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, let’s consider some themes from the recent Gospels:
- 14th Week – sent in mission to the world to proclaim the kingdom – trust and unburdened
- 15th Week – the Good Samaritan – compassion and the universality of neighbor
- 16th Week – Martha and Mary – the burden of anxiety, the time for service, the time for prayer
- 17th Week – The Lord’s Prayer – praying persistently, boldly and be open to the Spirit
- 18th Week – Parable of the Rich Fool – gratitude for God’s gifts to us, nurturing them, using them justly, and returning them to God in service – storing up what matters to God.
- 19th Week – The Returning Master – being the good steward who is prepared
These are just some of the elements that describe the life of Abraham and Sarah. Even though they were “in charge,” their gifts of time, talent and treasure ever put them as servants to God and neighbor. They were good and faithful servants.
Even though Jesus was “in charge”, consider how he used his gifts of time, talent and treasure. Was he a good and faithful servant? Of course, as believing Christians we automatically say “Yes!” But let me ask you for a story that you would tell someone to back up your answer.
For me it is the story that we proclaim each Holy Thursday when Jesus wraps an apron around him and as a sign of what a good steward should be, kneels before his disciples and washes their feet. He was the Lord of Time, Master of Talent, and the King of Treasure – and yet he knew when, where, who, and how to serve in the most humble of ways. When we can answer the questions of “when, where, who and how” to serve – then we begin to understand what it means to be a good and faithful servant.
As Jesus tells us in the Holy Thursday gospel, we are called to be servants to others – that is part of our stewardship as moms, dads, older brothers and sisters, younger siblings, godparents, grandparents, teachers, people in business, firefighters, police officers, first responders, doctors, nurses, salespeople, …. Yes, everyone.
We have the story of the life of Abraham and Sarah. The stories of saints like Paul and Francis of Assisi. We have the gospels about Jesus. But, what would our story read like? What would it say? Well… guess what? Each of us is mid-project writing that story. Do we have an ending in mind? Do we have a good idea of where we are on the journey and the progress we have made?
Some hear the ending words of today’s gospel as warning or threat. Not so much for me. I hear the call to pause to reflect upon the gifts I have been given: am I grateful? Do I nurture them? Am I using them justly and sharing them? Am I returning them to God in service? Am I well serving the people of God? “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (v.48). A reminder to be busy about the things that matter as we write the story of our lives.
Do I have an ending in mind? Sure, resurrection to eternal life with God. But hopefully all of us have the same ending in mind. Maybe another way to think of it, is what will be the stories that your loved one tells of you when you’re gone? Or maybe if someone wrote the introduction to your life’s story what would it say? I would be well satisfied if it simply said, “He loved, had faith, and figured out when, where, how and who to serve. He was a good and faithful servant.”
It would be a good life, a good ending.