by Father Patrick Longalong
Once in a while, we are reminded that our life is heavily conditioned by expectations. Parents expect their children to apply themselves and study properly. We expect our friends to support us unconditionally.
We expect our employers to treat us properly and pay us on time, and we expect that they expect us to do our jobs properly in return. We expect our children to obey us and our spouses to be faithful.
And when these expectations aren’t met, situations begin to get complicated. It is reasonable to say that a negative reaction is partially because of an unpleasant feeling that comes with accepting that many things in life are beyond our control.
This weekend is about expectations and the necessity of faith. Expectations not met, outcomes exceeding what was hoped for, the consequences and benefits received. But the ultimate wisdom being taught here is having faith that will transcend preconceived ideas about how things should be. And in the process of holding onto that unwavering faith, there is a deepening of our relationship with God and a broadening of our awareness of life’s mysteries.
We know that it isn’t easy to start over. The first reading is about the people of Israel starting over. For 400 years, they have lived as slaves in Egypt. Their prayer on this first Passover was a recounting of their expectations to be saved by the Lord and for justice for what was done to them.
Despite their excitement about being free, however, they didn’t know what it was like to be free. It must have been frightening to wander in the desert not knowing what is going to happen and experiencing the helplessness of being in an unfamiliar environment.
Maybe they woke up in the morning wondering if God would continue to provide their daily sustenance. Can we expect God to be there every time? I hope so.
Jesus offers us the parable this week as an insight about having faith during times when God seems to be absent. The foolish servant in the parable represents the person without faith.
Once the master left on his journey, it is as if he was never there and would never come back. The servant was free. Free to do anything he wants. Unfortunately, he was irresponsible and made life horrific for those people under his care.
We don’t know why or how the servant lost his faith or if he had faith to begin with. Sometimes, some people lose their faith when their prayers seem to go unanswered or when they are subjected to unfair treatment.
An extended experience of suffering becomes their proof that God doesn’t exist or perhaps had nothing to do with their life. They become cynical and pass on that sense of despair to people around them. It may become difficult for them to experience a meaningful existence or relationship. What is there to look forward to beyond pain and suffering?
For the person who has faith, the reality of freedom is entirely different. Like the servant in the parable who was ready to serve his master whenever he returned, the person of faith endures trials while remaining hopeful and life-giving. He may have many questions but is strengthened by his faith that God is always present.
Life teaches us that we cannot impose our own will on a broken and imperfect world. But if we allow God’s will to permeate our mind and heart, fully trusting, fully committing to God’s presence each day, we will achieve “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Each of us should not ask, “Where is God?” but reflect on how God is making his presence known.
Readings for the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 33: 1, 12, 18-19, 20-22
Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino immigrants.