August 7, 2016
WIS 18:6-9 PS 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22 HEB 11:1-2, 8-19 LK 12:32-48
LK 12:32 – “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”
Today’s Gospel immediately follows Jesus exhorting his followers to put their dependence on God the Father. He tells them do not worry about what to eat or what to wear; to look at the birds of the air and flowers of the fields and see how God cares for them. How much more, then, does He care and love each of you, Jesus says. Seek first His kingdom, and then all that you need will also be provided.
He tells them “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock…”, in the way a parent might tell his child, “Don’t be afraid, sweetie pie”. An affectation, a diminutive, a term of endearment. Jesus doesn’t call us little flock to insinuate we’re a bunch of dumb sheep (although we can be, more often than not), but to assure us that He is always there to guide and protect us.
What are some signs and characteristics that show we’re part of the little flock? I can think of three.
1. Trust. We can trust in Christ’s guidance and protection because He is dependable. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote in the 2nd reading, Abraham obeyed out of faith, venturing to a foreign land he knew nothing of, but because he knew God was trustworthy, he did as he was asked. He trusted that God would provide for him, and accomplish all that He proclaimed. Jesus has promised the same for us, and since we know He is trustworthy, our faith in Him will never be in vain. This doesn’t mean that we become idle and let God do everything for us – not at all! We’re to remain vigilant and be prepared. We’re to be found toiling in the vineyard upon His return. Trust in God doesn’t mean we’re exempt from working. It just means we can trust Him to guide us along as we strive to do His will.
2. Patience. We want things as we want them, when we want them. But God’s timetable is not ours, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. Much of our journey with Christ, as members of his flock, is spent being patient – patient that He will bring about a great work in us, in His time. We may not even see the fruits of our labors – neither did Abraham. Nor the apostles. We also have to be patient with our own shortcomings and weaknesses, as we allow ourselves to be transformed by grace. We have to be patient with others’ imperfections, as well, because they too are being transformed according to God’s will. Patience, along with mercy and forgiveness, is trust in action.
3. Joy. Jesus commands us to give away our possessions, and store up treasures in heaven. What He’s saying is, the things of this world cannot give you joy – only the kingdom of God can do that. It’s only through relying on Christ that we can experience true joy in this life. Then, when He returns in glory, if we have been vigilant and prepared, we will have eternal joy with Him in heaven.
The world doesn’t understand what it means to be a member of Christ’s little flock. They think it’s a put down – heck, I even know of some Catholics who bristle at being compared to sheep! And yet He calls us to be like sheep – to trust, to be patient, and to follow Him to have real joy. And since we don’t know the day or hour of His return, being in the little flock seems the safest place to be.
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