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Jesus is coming: Look busy

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Redemptoris Mater Seminary

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during a Mass with the seminarians and faculty of the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary in Hialeah. He celebrated the Mass Oct. 21, 2020, Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time.

There’s a story about what happened one day when a disheveled, perhaps homeless man, showed up at the chancery of a bishop one day saying that he was Jesus Christ and he wanted to see the bishop. The secretary went to the bishop and described the man and said that he was Jesus Christ. What do we do, she asked? The bishop calmly replied: Well, look busy.

In the Gospel parable today, Jesus talks about a farsighted steward who, when the Master comes, is found doing his job. It’s a parable about the end times – when Jesus will return in glory. We know from our Scripture studies that people living in New Testament times expected that Jesus would come soon – in their lifetimes. We also know from what Jesus tells us about “not knowing the time nor the hour,” and from almost 2,000 years of history, that they were wrong. At least partially wrong. For while Jesus is yet to return in glory, we cannot say that Jesus does not come to us – here and now.

Jesus does come – but, in the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he does come today – but often in disguise, often in the “disagreeable disguise” of the poor. And, of course, we know of Jesus’s presence among us today – when the community gathers in his name, when we share in the communion of his Body and Blood, when we encounter him in his Word. And, of course, he is present, as Mother Teresa reminded us, in the least of his brethren.

To recognize his presence, we have to be like that farsighted steward who is ready to meet his master because he is busy doing his job. So, “look busy.” This, of course, is more than just “activism.” Activism would have us “being busy about many things” like Martha – and failing to choose the “better part” as Mary did when she was content to sit at Jesus’ feet.

As Christians who await Jesus’ final coming in glory, we find ourselves between the “already” and the “not yet.” The Kingdom of God is already realized – thanks to his passion, death and Resurrection which obtained for us salvation and the forgiveness of our sins – but the full glory of that Kingdom is not yet fully realized as we continue on our early exile “mourning and weeping in the vale of tears.”  

“Looking busy” means being prepared, doing our jobs, so as not to miss Jesus’ real presence among us. After all, even before he was taken up to heaven on the day of his Ascension, he assured us that he would be with us always.

And so, as we live in the between the “already” and the “not yet,” we would misunderstand Jesus’ parable if we thought that parable is meant to scare us. That would be like that street-corner preacher that holds up a sign that says “Jesus is coming” – and then preaches that “boy, is he mad...” Rather, we await the final coming of Jesus with great hope – and joy. And joy should be the basic characteristic of the Christian. You may remember how Pope Francis in his exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel, talks about the counter witness of those he would describe as “sourpusses.” Joy is evidence that we have met the Lord.

And so, being ready is about learning how to live in a joyful way to live in his presence despite the trials and tribulations we face in this life as we share in his suffering. As St. Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1: 24).

So, it is not just a matter of being ready just in case the Son of Man comes today like a thief breaking into a house – or like that disheveled man knocking on the door of the bishop’s office. Rather, it is a joy to be ready today because there is really no other way to live. This is the way to be “faithful and prudent servants” – and passing from this life to the next will not be some kind of rude awakening for us but rather a deepening of the joyful experience that is ours because we are his disciples.

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