The Motivations of Responsibility and Expectation
Saturday September 3, 2022, 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Year CII
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:1Corinthians 4:6-15; Luke 6:1-5
Reading in 1Corinthians 4:6-15 the description of the way Paul was treated and the hardships he endured, we wonder what kept him going. Did he have something we don’t have? If so, what? It wasn’t just “grace.”
It all depended on grace, of course, but God will give us all the grace we ask for. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given you.” “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” “If you… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” He “gives the Spirit without measure.” God “gives to all generously and ungrudgingly.” He “will not let us be tested beyond our strength, but… provide the way out so that we may be able to endure it.” It isn’t grace that we lack.
Paul gives two hints about his motivation. He says, “Granted, you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you have only one father. It was I who begot you in Christ Jesus through my preaching of the Gospel.” Paul felt responsible for those he had converted. Do we have this same sense of responsibility for one another? As much as fathers do for their children? That is stewardship. Responsibility motivates.
Paul ends the description of his hardships with, “That is the present state of affairs.” This invites us to think he may have been motivated by looking ahead to what follows this “present state”; namely, the return of Jesus in triumph. That also is the spirit of stewards: “waiting for their master to return….” Expectation motivates. If we believe “The Lord is near to all who call him,” the nearer we believe he is, the more we will be moved to call.
In Luke 6:1-5 Jesus meets his deadly enemy — the Pharisee party. They are the “managerial type,” all right, but they are “unfaithful stewards,” because all they know how to manage is the law. And their motive is not love.
It would be impossible to condemn vigorously enough this deadly, vicious virus in the Church. This is the only group that, together with the “chief priests and scribes” (the “power structure” in Judaism), Jesus excoriates with fury in the Gospels. Their sin? Focusing on externals; blindness to their own and others’ interior attitudes; “camouflage” devotions that distract them and others from the essentials they ignore; vicious defense of their established status quo; and above all, focusing on the law instead of on the Lawgiver, on the literal meaning of God’s words instead of on the loving light of his heart that clarifies them. They are stewards of a system, not of the living God. They are not “awaiting their master’s return.” They hope he will stay away forever so that nothing they are entrenched in will change. If Jesus blasted us as he blasted them, we would wither up and die!
Their sin is idolatry. But Jesus had to spell it out for them, “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Initiative: Be a responsible steward. Do “all and only” what Jesus desires.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry