08 Nov, Tuesday of Week 32
Wis 2:22ff. Those who have passed on may seem to be dead, but their souls are in peace; for God has tested them and found them worthy of himself.
Lk 17:7ff. Having done what is commanded, we ought to reckon ourselves as merely servants who have done no more than is our duty.
Curriculum Vitae Aeternae
A theme for today’s meditation is provided in Wisdom, that God formed us to be imperishable and in the image of the divine nature. Each of us, regardless of nationality or race, gender or wealth, is equally created to image God’s divine nature. In the end our reward will so surpass our expectations and all our endeavours, that we will exclaim, “We are useless servants, who have done no more than our duty.”
We begin this mortal life, created to the divine image; we end it by discovering the fullness of that image in Jesus Christ, when he appears in glory. In between, we pass along a human path of life. Human life on planet earth, somehow or other in God’s mysterious ways, helps to bring out the full glory of our divine image, even to “perfect” it, if our understanding of Hebrews is correct.
The reading from Wisdom, the latest of the Old Testament books, reinforces this understanding of life. It praises those who have paid for their ideals with their lives, “As gold in the furnace, God proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them himself.” Then follows a phrase difficult to grasp and accept, “God tried them and found them worthy of himself.” Earthly life provides the furnace that tries and refines the divine image within us. Similarly we read in Hebrews, “after being chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed.”
The trials we face are the normal jolts of life, faults of ignorance and impetuosity, the result of human frailty. Yet we are told that – on another level – it is God who is trying us and making us worthy of himself. We can never adequately explain this, not even with the cross of Jesus before our eyes. Yet there is consolation in realizing that somehow God is writing straight with crooked lines and that our unavoidable sufferings have a life-giving place in God’s plans. The Book of Wisdom is so certain of this that it adds, “Those who trust in God shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love… for his care is with his elect.”
In today’s gospel Jesus seems to accept cultural structures which are not acceptable today; but he is simply drawing his parable from the realities of life about him. He refers to slavery and to what a master can expect from the slave. For work well done the master would not necessarily show any gratitude, because the slave was only carrying out his orders. Jesus is not endorsing slavery, though he was preparing the way for its abolition by emphasizing the dignity of everyone. At the end, if we trust, we will not only understand truth, as Wisdom promises us, but we will also be absorbed within a joy and glory far surpassing our human merits. Everything will seem useless by comparison.
First Reading: Wisdom 2:23-3:9
God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.
Gospel: Luke 17:7-10
“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”