Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday in the 21st Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Awakening to Love

Readings: 1 Thessalonians 3:7-13; Psalms 90:3-5a, 12-13, 14 and 17; Matthew 24:42-59

Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming…

From a literal perspective, it would seem that many of us are pretty good at staying awake. Indeed, if anything, our problem is not so much oversleeping as it is being sleep-deprived. Our busy schedules often mean that many of us can only get to bed late in the night, only to be roused by our alarm clocks hours before we’ve had our required quota of rest. And the sleep deficit then adds up over the days and weeks. Physical fatigue is compounded by other stresses of daily living. Life becomes quite a challenge…

But what Jesus encourages is a wakefulness of another sort. In today’s gospel, it’s quite clear that, for Jesus, to stay awake is to be a particular sort of servant, one who is faithful and wise, one whom the master can count on to feed his household at the proper time. What would this servant look like in our own day? Like many of us, wouldn’t s/he also be sleep-deprived and stressed out? Perhaps. Our readings don’t go into specifics. But they do offer us of an insight that might help to further orientate our reflection.

It is found in the prayer of St. Paul for the Thessalonians: May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. Knowing that the Thessalonians are faced with the considerable challenge of being trustworthy servants, of staying awake, Paul prays for love. Not just any love, but a love that is distinguished both by its scope and its effect. This love is not limited only to one’s relatives and friends. Neither is it merely a kind of vague feeling of warmth towards the mass of humanity without any concrete expression towards particular persons. The love for which Paul prays is expressed both in relations with one another as well as with the whole human race. And the effect of this love is shown in Paul’s own experience. In the midst of all Paul’s troubles and sorrows – perhaps we might also include stress and sleep-deprivation – he finds comfort and even joy on account of the Thessalonians. His love for them leads him to rejoice. Isn’t this a foretaste of the reward that the master will bring with him when he comes and finds his servant at his employment?

When we find ourselves struggling to stay awake, perhaps this the love for which we too need continually to pray. In the words of the response to the psalm: Lord, fill us with your love that we may rejoice.

How might we awaken to love today?

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