Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sos'thenes, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day, our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I will bless you day after day,
and praise your name for ever.
Great is the Lord and highly to be praised;
his greatness cannot be measured. (R./)
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendour of your glorious majesty
and tell of your marvellous works. (R./)
They discourse of the power of your terrible deeds
and declare your greatness.
They publish the fame of your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your justice. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples,"Keep awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
"Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves 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 possession. But if that wicked slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 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. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
People in the local churches founded by the apostle Paul were encouraged to eagerly await the glorious return of Christ as saviour and judge of the world. The apostle prays that their hearts be strengthened for that day, and that they be "blameless on the day, our Lord Jesus." Today's gospel also captures this sense of urgent expectation in the words of Jesus, "Stay awake, therefore. You cannot know the day your Lord is coming."
We need to be prepared for that day, days, but not to the extent of some early enthusiasts who quit their jobs so as to give themselves full time to prayers and spiritual songs. Paul dealt briskly with this tendency by saing that "Anyone who will not work should not eat." The Corinthians are praised as "richly endowed with every gift of speech and knowledge." This encouragement is sincerely meant, yet there is an indirect warning for them too, and it is clear that this community never won the apostle's affection as did the Thessalonians or the Philippians. If Paul praises the Corinthians' cleverness, he sees them lacking in unity and charity, the two most essential virtues.
Jesus praises the good steward who treats others in the household with love and respect, eats and drinks temperately, and always stays alert to his duties. This is a faithful and wise servant . But if our faith does not tolerate idle dreaming, neither are we to become mere busy-bodies, masters of trivia, beaurocrats with no time for contemplation, strategists with no moral principles, manipulators without mercy or concern. We are asked to judge everything in light of the Lord's return "like a thief in the night." Today's texts ask us to be practical and diligent; to be men and women of vision and moral perspective; most of all to be prayerful and personally aware of the presence of our Lord Jesus.
We have become very security-conscious in recent years. The house alarm has become almost essential and we are much more aware of the need to keep doors locked than we might have been in the past. This security consciousness is a sign of the times, in an age of rampant drug-abuse that erodes the addicts' respect for the property of others. But thievery are not a new phenomenon. Jesus was fond of expressing his teaching in images drawn from the experience of the people he was talking to. In the first of the parables in today's gospel we find the image of the burglar breaking into someone's house. Clearly this was an experience that his people could relate to.
He draws attention to the element of surprise in the burglar's tactics. The only way for the householder not to be surprised by the burglar is for him to stay awake all night. Staying awake all night becomes in Jesus' parable an image of the disciples remaining alert to the presence, to the coming, of the Lord. The Lord lives in constant awareness of us; we are called to live in constant awareness of him. We find it difficult to be aware of the Lord all the time, because so many other things fill our minds and hearts. Yet, that is what the Lord asks of us. We are to attend to, be aware of, his constant presence to us. This is what might be termed the contemplative attitude. There is a sense in which we are all called to become contemplatives -- with a small c.