Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Freeing Severity

Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
(Luke 12:41-48)

Today’s Daily Office lesson from the Gospel according to Luke should make us take notice.

Nothing—not the Church, its mission, its members, its reputation, buildings, or contents, not even our own bodies—belong to us as Christians. Everything has been given to over to God in our baptism. All has been offered to and received by God, and the Christian can no longer pretend that we may dispose of our relationships, our choices, our priorities, or our imaginations as we wish. All aspects of our life now must shine with the radiance of Christ, and to betray this trust is to betray Christ himself.

For the World, this makes authentic Christianity profoundly threatening. The World wishes to turn our gaze from the loving purposes of God to the manipulations and pollutions of materialism and purely transactional relationships. The mutuality and sacredness of life in Christ is a threat to the World, and to the worldliness in our still incompletely converted selves.

The severity of this passage in the Gospel is no accident. Christ is speaking to a temptation so serious that it must be rebuked with no uncertainty. Christ speaks with an honesty that clarifies the significance of the relationship between God and humanity, between master and disciple. It is for this reason that we must call him  not just teacher but Lord. Our loyalty to him frees us to become like him, and thus to share in his freedom to dwell in the will of the Father. Our deepest freedom as Christians is at stake in this issue. If we reject this attitude, we remain chained to the world, to death, and to sin.

Only if we realize that lives, hearts, consciences—whole existences—depend on our knowing that we do not own anything as disciples, can we carry out the extraordinary task set before us in the proper humility, and with both the necessary gentleness and strength for such service. Anything less than this humility will result in the mutilation of the precious message of the Gospel, something unimaginable to the true lover of God.

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