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Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

1 Cor. 1:1-9 & Mt. 24:42-51

In the port of Corinth, which was known as 'Sin City' around 50 AD, St Paul founded a Christian community. He admitted that he approached his work with trepidation because of the city's moral depravity and its pagan worship. With God's grace he made converts but later, when he was preaching in Ephesus, he received disturbing news that they had fallen into serious errors both in doctrine and practice.

Throughout his letter to them he was uncompromising in his correcting false doctrine and his insistence on correct practice. And yet he began his letter on a note of optimism based, not on the ability or goodness of the Corinthians, but on the grace of God. He was convinced that they could become like the good and faithful servants spoken of in today's Gospel reading. He wrote, “God will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to His Son, Jesus Christ and God is faithful.”

This optimism was typical of St Paul who did not despair of human nature. He knew that truth and goodness were the result of God's grace and not of human industry. In fact, he delighted in pointing out that God chooses the weak and poor of this world, to manifest His power and goodness. Some people think that virtue is its own accomplishment and they consider themselves better than others because they believe that they work harder at their religion. We must never forget that all the good we achieve is a gift from God. If we pray, it is because God moves us to pray. And we pray because we are weak and we need God. We receive the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment because we require God's strength. We do not depend on ourselves. We rely on God because He is always faithful.

A key teaching of Christian revelation - often ignored, misunderstood or even ridiculed – is revealed in today's Gospel reading. The teaching is that the return of Jesus is imminent: this means that it could happen at any time but, like a householder surprised by a thief in the night, we may be totally oblivious to this reality.

We tend to think that only extreme sects or groups of slightly unusual Christians live with a real sense that Jesus is coming again. If that is your view then you are in for a surprise. The Church has been longing for, praying for and urging Jesus' second coming since He ascended into Heaven almost 2,000 years ago. Struggling with this truth? Here is the clear teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Since the Ascension Christ's coming in glory has been imminent, even though 'it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority.'"

How often have we recited the words, ‘Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again’ at Mass? These are central pillars of Christian revelation, about which Jesus clearly wanted His followers to be in no doubt.

The key ideas of today's parable are faithfulness, obedience and the reality of judgement. Jesus told us this parable so that we would be like a wise and prudent servant ready for His return. The servant lost sight of the fact that his master would in time come back - his profligate behaviour and harsh treatment of his fellow servants brought judgement on him. The gift of life and the gift of love are awesome responsibilities - one day we will have to give an account of our lives and one day Jesus will return at a given moment in human history. Are we ready?

Lord Jesus Christ, we want to be good, faithful and wise servants, ready for You whenever You return. Help us to make this wish a reality today and for the rest of our lives.

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