Wednesday, Week Thirty-Three
The Responsorial (Psalm 17) expresses the attitude of those who “await the blessed hope and the
coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”: “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”
In 2Maccabees 7:1-31: a mother asks her seven sons to have “mercy” or “pity” on her by being faithful to God, by accepting torture and death.
“Pity” comes from pietas, the Roman virtue of loyalty to family, country, and religion. To have “mercy,” (from the Semitic root for “womb”) is to “aid another out of a sense of relationship.” They are both the same family virtue.
Going deeper, the mother tells her son:
I do not know how you came into existence in my womb. It was not I who endowed you with breath and life... It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of human birth and presiding over the origin of all things.
She recognizes life as a gift, one entrusted to us to be used for the Giver’s purposes as inscribed in our nature. We don’t use a valuable clock to pound nails. And we don’t use a valuable body in ways destructive to body and soul. She assures her son that if he will “lose his life to save it” (as Jesus said later) God “in his mercy” (based on the relationship that comes from giving existence to the womb itself) “will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.”1
She is urging the “faithful stewardship” that acknowledges all we have and are as the ongoing work of God. A gift that cannot be simply given, but has to be constantly renewed and sustained by God’s continuing creative act. One, therefore, that cannot be separated from God, and for whose use we are accountable to God, who must “concur,” “run along with,” everything we do by giving us the power to do it. This involves God in our free acts. To involve him in something he doesn’t want to do is “sin.” The mother adds:
Look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them. Acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that the human race comes into being in the same way.... Make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.
“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”2
Luke 19:11-28 is the classic “job description” of stewardship. All we have— life, talents, the time and energy to use them, all our possessions, and human relationships—belong to God. What he gave us through creation we gave back to him at Baptism. When we joined Jesus on the cross, the world was “crucified to us, and we to the world.” “Crucified” doesn’t mean suffering as such, but a stance of renouncing the world and “all its empty promises” in order to live only as Christ’s body on earth, dedicated to use and manage everything for his mission as “faithful stewards” while we await his return.3
1 See Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24.
2 Cp. Wisdom 13:1-9 (see Friday, Week 32).
3 See Galatians 2:19; 5:24; 6:14.
Action: Look at the heavens and earth and give your being back to God.