Stay Awake!

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
(Matthew 24:42-51)

Scripture Study

24:42. Stay awake Jesus himself draws from this revelation about the future the practical moral that a Christian needs to be on the watch, living each day as if it were his last. The important thing is not to be speculating about when these events will happen and what form they will take, but to live in such a way that they find us in the state of grace.

24:43–44 When it finally arrives, the hour when the Lord comes will catch many by surprise. His arrival will be “like a thief at night” (1 Thess 5:2). The danger is that disciples will be lulled to sleep, like the master of a house who settled down to bed, only to discover in the morning that a nighttime burglar made off with his valuables. Preparedness for the Lord’s return requires spiritual alertness and vigilance.

24:45 The first of the three parables contrasts opposite responses of a servant who is put in charge of his master’s house during his absence. The master is Jesus himself, a point more obvious in the Greek text, where the same term kyrios is rendered “Lord” in the preceding section (24:42). The household is presumably the Church, the community of disciples that Jesus embraces as his spiritual family (12:49–50; see 1 Tim 3:15). Within this ecclesial frame of reference, the servants are naturally viewed as spiritual shepherds, and the distribution of food probably alludes to their ministry—the proclamation of the word and the administration of the sacraments. The question is whether the Church’s leaders will prove faithful and prudent.

24:46–47 Crucial to the storyline is the day of the master’s return, which is unknown to the servant in charge. Blessed is the one who proves responsible in discharging his duties while his master is away. Such a one is prepared to meet the Lord and to render an honorable account for his actions. Notice, however, that readiness is not reduced to standing lookout. The faithful servant is not praised for sitting by the window, peering out at the horizon for the first glimpse of the master’s homecoming. Preparedness is a matter of doing the work of the Lord.

Should the master find his servant faithful, he will put him in charge of his entire estate. Fulfillment of one’s responsibilities is thus rewarded with greater responsibilities. The servant is thus promoted to a higher level of service.

24:48–49 Jesus then considers the failings of the wicked servant. The servant’s initial misstep is the unfounded confidence that his master is long delayed when, in fact, the day and hour of his return is simply unknown (v. 50). Obviously the servant is dishonorable, for he exploits the lack of supervision by setting aside his duties to engage in some harsh and profligate activities. He misuses his authority by roughing up fellow servants who are subordinate to him; then he indulges in food and drink in the company of drunkards (see 1 Tim 3:1–5).

24:50–51 When the unexpected day arrives, and the master returns to discover his trust and his servants abused, he will punish the wicked servant severely. The Greek is more graphic, indicating that the master “cuts him in two.” The seriousness of the servant’s mission is underscored by the severity of the retribution meted out for non-fulfillment. The wicked servant is assigned a place among the hypocrites of the world. This is where the damned spend eternity wailing in torment and grinding their teeth. Frightful indeed is the prospect of Christian leaders failing the master by pleasing themselves and abusing the authority entrusted to them.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus says that “no one knows” the day of his glorious return. It is enough for us to know that his coming is certain, even if we cannot mark it on the calendar. Of course, from time to time we hear of people who claim to know when the Second Coming will occur, as if somehow they’ve been privileged to pry into the mind of God and discover the undiscoverable. Apart from the impossibility of penetrating a mystery kept secret by God, these misguided efforts miss the whole point of what is revealed for us to know.

Instead of trying to predict the future, Jesus wants us to prepare for it. The former is a waste of time; the latter is an exercise of wisdom that every disciple should take to heart. The Lord is calling each of us to a state of readiness. Had he revealed the timing of his return, we would surely become complacent in serving God, in ministering to the needs of others, and in making continued efforts at repentance. Christians must keep awake, spiritually speaking, if they are to secure their inheritance as sons and daughters of God (24:13). The sober reality is that Jesus’ coming “could be accomplished at any moment” (Catechism 673).
– Edward Sri

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.