The Wisdom of Vigilance

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Thursday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time


Matthew 24:42-51 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me true vigilance of heart, not out of fear, but out of love.


Encountering Christ:


  1. The Power of Contemplation: In these verses, Jesus was calling his listeners to consider life from an eternal vantage point. For those who refused to keep the vision of eternity in mind and prepare their hearts accordingly, Jesus offered powerful imagery of the consequences: “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Like Jesus, St. Ignatius also thought it important that we face the harsh reality of death. In his spiritual exercises he suggested a contemplation of Hell where the retreatant asks for an “interior sense of the pain which the damned suffer, in order that, if, through my faults, I should forget the love of the Eternal Lord, at least the fear of the pains may help me not to come into sin” (Spiritual Exercises, #65). We conquer our fear with a confident awareness that God’s mercy is much greater when we open ourselves in preparedness for it.
  2. Hopeful Anticipation: Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man. The early Christians anticipated an imminent return of the Lord, when he would bring all to fulfillment and all would be under his reign. Rather than a fear of condemnation, it fostered a vigilant hope of the promise to come. They anticipated his coming like waiting for a friend to return after a very long absence. Two thousand years later, we need to tap into this same expectation, living with greater faith and hope in the mystery that Jesus promised to fulfill. St. Paul exhorted, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:7-9).
  3. Recapitulation, Now and to Come: The promise that we await is one in which Christ will unify everything and everyone by reigning supreme. In this life, we strive to participate in the realization of this plan by being vigilant in our own hearts. Does he reign there? Is charity the guiding principle of our life? Does our friendship with Christ inform all that we think, say, and do? St. Paul reminds us of the graces we possess now and the gift which is to come. Until then, we live the tension of allowing God to work out his redemption in us. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in Heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:8-10).


Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, grant that you may reign in my heart and, reigning there, that you may sustain me in hopeful anticipation of your coming.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will consider whether charity is the guiding principle of my life.


For Further Reflection: “Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting” (Mother Teresa).


Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala and Nine Days with Mary Magdalene.”

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