29th Wednesday in Ordinary Time (II)
Readings: Ephesians 3:2-12; Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6; Luke 12:39-48
We’re nearing the end of the year: for many, a time of major exam preparation… and also a time for exam Masses. At a tertiary institution the other day I was told that attendance at exam Masses usually far exceeds the average attendance at weekly Masses. This is quite natural, I suppose. When should one pray most fervently if not at times of most intense testing?
And yet, in trying to fulfill our daily responsibilities, we might wonder how much to rely on God and how much on our own efforts. Among students, for example, there will be some who seem to depend 100% upon God… and not much else. These help to make up the large numbers at exam Masses. At the other extreme, there will be those who seem to rely 100% on their own efforts, such that they may even stop going to Mass to have more time for study.
Of course, the right approach is somewhere in the middle. Our readings seem to support this view. In the gospel, Jesus gives Peter and the disciples a very stern warning. They should be like the servant who carries out what his master wants, or receive many strokes of the lash otherwise. Contrast this with the first reading, which ends by saying that we can approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him. And in the psalm we hear the psalmist say: I trust, I shall not fear. For the Lord is my strength, my song. Clearly, we are being asked to both work hard and trust in God. But does this then imply an approach of division? Does it mean that we should somehow divide our time, our efforts, our heart – somehow rely 50% on God and 50% on self? Those who have tried this can testify to how difficult it is to accomplish.
Is there not another way? Not an approach of division but one of integration: trust totally – 100% – in God, and let this trust move us also to give 100% of self. This sounds mathematically absurd. But the gospel is less about arithmetic than it is about a divine-human relationship. How does Jesus expect the disciples to carry out the master’s wishes if not by coming gradually to understand that everything they have and are – 100% – is a gift from God, entrusted to them and destined for the service of others? And is it not by approaching God in complete confidence – is it not by trusting totally in the God who alone is their strength and their song – that they can live out this responsibility of stewardship to the full?
A saying attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola (and often misquoted) comes to mind. If memory serves, it goes like this: pray as though everything depended upon you, and work as though everything depended upon God.
On what or whom do we depend this day?