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19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle C)

Sunday's readings:
Wisdom 18:6-9
Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20, 22
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Luke 12:32-48

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Faith and Trust in God Gives Us Hope
Faith and trust in God gives us hope for a destiny beyond our earthly existence. How tragic it would be if earthly life was simply a destiny in itself. To have meaning, life must be a journey that is fulfilled in an eternal destiny, and it is faith in God that makes the journey meaningful. Today's Bible readings address the journey of life and how we prepare for what lies beyond. In the opening prayer, we ask God our Father to increase His Spirit within us and to bring us, at the end of our journey, to our promised inheritance in the heavenly Kingdom.

In the First Reading, the Israelites' obedience of faith on the night of the tenth plague led to their salvation. The same obedience of faith resulted in their willingness to remember and relive the events of the Passover salvation according to God's command for every future generation (Ex 13:3-10). It is in the remembrance of the sacred meal of the first Passover that Jesus offers Himself in the first Eucharistic meal of the Last Supper. The reading shows us a contrast between God's judgment on the Egyptians and His protection of the Israelites and foreshadows the Last Judgment when God's gift of salvation is extended to the righteous faithful while the unbelieving sinners reap His divine judgment. The passage should remind us that God's protection of the faithful remnant of the just in the midst of divine judgment is a reoccurring theme in salvation history from the great flood judgment and the protection of Noah's family to the Final Judgment at the end of time as we know it.

The Second Reading is from the "roll call of the heroes of the faith" in Hebrews chapter 11. The chapter begins with the examples of the faith-filled lives of Abel, Enoch and Noah before moving to Abraham who is a model of righteousness and faith in God and the subject of today's passage. The inspired writer of Hebrews says that Abraham was willing to be obedient to God in in the horrifying command to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac because Abraham believed God would raise his son from death to fulfill His promise that it was through this son that God's covenant was to continue. Isaac is a type of Christ not only in being the "beloved son" offered for sacrifice by his father but in his salvation from death.

The Gospel Reading concerns Jesus' challenge to His disciples to make a radical choice and to cast their lives completely into God's hands by selling all they have in order to store up an "inexhaustible treasure in heaven." Then, still addressing the disciples, Jesus changes the topic from concern about earthy possessions to a warning to the disciples about being watchful and faithful servants. Jesus warns that the focus in this life should be on fidelity to Him and being ready for His promised return in glory when He will judge the living and the dead.

For our generation of the "watchful faithful," we remember and relive Jesus' last Passover and sacred meal in which He offered the just assembled in the Upper Room in Jerusalem His Body and Blood in a new sacred meal that established a new and eternal covenant (Lk 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:24-25). However, it is not the blood of lambs and goat-kids that is our sacrifice of salvation as it was on the night of the first Passover; it is the blood of the Lamb of God who died on the altar of the Cross for the sins of mankind. And it is through Jesus' "Passover" from death to life that we renew the covenant and the hope that we are destined for eternal salvation in every sacred meal of the Eucharist.

The First Reading Wisdom 18:6-9 ~ The Salvation of the Just
6 The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage. 7 Your people awaited the salvation of the just and the destruction of their foes. 8 For when you punished our adversaries, in this you glorified us whom you had summoned. 9 For in secret the holy children of the good where offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.

The focus of Wisdom chapters 11-18 is the providence of God during the Exodus. After an introduction (11:2-5), five examples are given:

Our reading is within the fifth example and recalls the night of the first Passover in Egypt (Ex 12:1-36). The passage recalls the event when the Israelites, obedient to the instructions God gave them through Moses, offered sacrifice to God. Every household sacrificed a yearling lamb or goat-kid and smeared its blood from the threshold to the lintel and to each side door post in the sign of a cross. Their faith in God gave them the courage to perform the sacrifice and to eat the sacred meal of the Passover victims within their homes as the angel of death "passed over" and their firstborn sons were spared. Their obedience of faith led to their salvation, and their continuing obedience of faith led to their willingness to remember and relive the events of the Passover salvation according to God's command for every future generation (Ex 13:3-10). Notice the contrast between God's protection of the Israelites and His judgment on the Egyptians. God's protection of the faithful remnant of the just in the midst of divine judgment is a reoccurring theme in salvation history (i.e., the protection of Noah's family in the Great Flood judgment).

For our generations of covenant oath keepers (the word "sacrament" means "oath"), we remember and relive Jesus' last Passover and sacred meal in which He offered His righteous disciples, assembled in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, His Body and Blood in a new sacred meal that established a new covenant (Lk 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:24-25). However, it is not the blood of lambs and goat-kids that is our sacrifice of salvation; it is the blood of the Lamb of God who died on the altar of the Cross for the sins of mankind. And it is through Jesus' "Passover" from death to life that we renew the covenant and the hope that we are destined for eternal salvation in every sacred meal of the Eucharist.

Responsorial Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20, 22 ~ Our Hope is in God
The response is: Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

1 Exult, you just, in the LORD [YHWH]; praise from the upright is fitting.
12 Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD [YHWH], the people he had chosen for his own inheritance.
Response:
18 See, the eyes of the LORD [YHWH] are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, 19 to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.
Response:
20 Our soul waits for the LORD [YHWH], who is our help and our shield.
22 May your kindness, O LORD [YHWH], be upon us who have put our hope in you.
Response:

Psalm 33 is a hymn in which the just are invited to praise God (verses 1-3) who created the three-tiered universe of the heavens, the cosmic waters, and the earth (verses 6-9). Human endeavors, by contrast, count for nothing (verses 10-11). It is the duty of man to have reverence for God, to fear offending Him, and to place their hope in His power to deliver them from evil in the world. The greatness that can be achieved by human beings is through God choosing them as His agents in the unfolding events of salvation history and in their faithful response to His will with the knowledge that He is the hope of their salvation (verses 12-21). The hymn ends with the people proclaiming that they trust in the Lord (verses 20-22).

The Second Reading Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 ~ The Power of Faith that leads to the Heavenly Jerusalem
1 Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. 2 Because of it the ancients were well attested.8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. 9 By faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country. Dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. 11 By faith he received power to generate even though he was past he normal age, and Sarah herself was sterile, for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. 12 So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore. 13 And these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, 14 for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, 18 of whom it was said, "Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name." 19 He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

The previous chapter concluded with a warning from Habakkuk 2:4 (from the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint) in Hebrews 10:38, But my just (righteous) one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him. This warning is followed by the encouraging statement: We are not among those who draw back and perish (Heb 10:39). The inspired writer encourages his audience in 10:39, not only will we "not draw back" but we are among those who have faith and will possess life! This statement is the opening line in what follows in our reading that is a discourse on the history of the hope and the persevering faith of the people of God.

However, the inspired writer's statement in 11:1, Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen, is not meant to be a definition of faith. Instead, his statement is meant to express the unseen hope of the faithful which culminates in the realization of that hope when the faithful come into the possession of the promises of God in the eternal reality of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the city the inspired writer alludes to in 11:16, But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

The Catholic Dictionary defines faith as: "The acceptance of the word of another, trusting that one knows what the other is saying and is honest in telling the truth. The basic motive of all faith is the authority (or right to be believed) of someone who is speaking. [..]. It is called divine faith when the one believed is God, and human faith when the persons believed are human beings. (Etym. Latin 'fides', belief; habit or faith; object of faith.)"

The Catechism identifies "faith" as "a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him" (CCC 153) and as one of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love: "Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself." By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity" (CCC# 1814, quoting Romans 1:17 and Galatians 5:6). Also see CCC# 156; 162; 1815-16

The statement concerning "faith" in Hebrews 11:1, therefore, summarizes what the inspired writer will be covering in this section, beginning with the unseen promises made to a series of faithful men and women who believed in God's promises in Israel's historical past and culminating by picturing the realization of that unseen hope in a future glimpse of God's heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews 12:22-24. These heroes and heroines are the same "witnesses" who surround the audience in Hebrews 12:1, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us... This "cloud of witnesses", the communion of heavenly saints, watches the progression of salvation history and prays for their younger brothers and sisters in faith from the heavenly Jerusalem. See CCC#946-48; 953; 960.

Hebrews chapter 11, often called the "Heroes of the Faith," begins with the examples of the faith filled lives of Abel, Enoch and Noah before moving to the example of Abraham. The inspired writer of Sirach praises Abraham in Sirach 44:19-21: Abraham, the great ancestor of a host of nations, no one was ever his equal in glory. He observed the Law of the Most High, and entered into a covenant with him. He confirmed the covenant in his own flesh, and proved himself faithful under ordeal. The Lord therefore promised him on oath to bless the nations through his descendants, to multiply him like the dust on the round, to exalt his descendants like the stars, and to give them the land as their heritage, from one sea to the other, from the River to the ends of the earth.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
God first called Abraham when he was living in the great Mesopotamian city of Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen 11:28-31; 15:7; Neh 9:7). God told him to go to an unidentified land: Yahweh said to Abram, "Leave your country, your kindred and your father's house for a country which I shall show you..." (Gen 12:1 NJB). The unidentified land to which he was to go was land that was given to Abraham's ancestor Shem but which had been usurped by the descendants of Canaan, son of Shem's disgraced brother Ham (Gen 9:25-27; 10:6-7).

Abram/Abraham continued living with his father and his extended family, journeying westward toward the land of Canaan but settling instead with his father in Haran in what is today modern Syria. It wasn't until his father death, when Abraham was 75 years old, that Abraham took his wife and nephew and completed the journey (Gen 11:31-32; 12:4-7; Acts 7:4). Abram was slow in acting on his faith in the beginning of his relationship with God, but God was patient. We don't need to have great faith that moves mountains to please God. If we, even in small ways, step forward in faith, God is always faithful to reward our efforts and increase our faith.

Abraham had to believe on faith in order to complete his journey and receive the promise God made to him in Genesis 12:1-3. He was evidently unfamiliar with the land to which God had called him, and not having seen it he had to have faith that this land was the place of his destiny and the hope for the future of his family. The place where he was living when he first received God's call was the New York City of the ancient world. Ur was a great pagan cultural center, offering everything that was considered to be the highest standard of living possible in the ancient world. Abraham had no idea what was waiting for him in the unknown land God promised him.

9 By faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.
Abraham did not live to see God's promises fulfilled (Acts 7:5). God's promises to Abraham were repeated to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob in Genesis 17:19; 26:3-5; and 28:14. The inspired writer of Sirach in 44:20 writes that God entered into covenant with Abraham and that He confirmed the covenant in his own flesh through circumcision. Abraham's faith (see Gen 15:6; 22:1; Rom 4:1-25; and Gal 3:6-14) secured the covenant that was passed on to his descendants: To Isaac too, for the sake of Abraham his father, he assured the blessing of all humanity; he caused the covenant to rest on the head of Jacob (Sir 44:22-23a NJB).

Hebrews 11:13-16 answers the questions "Was it really the physical land of Canaan that God was promising Abraham or was there something more? Did Abraham actually ever come to possess Canaan?" In the Old Testament the Promised Land of Canaan was a temporal "type" which prefigured a greater spiritual reality which was the true Promise Land of Heaven. The three promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 of land/a kingdom, numerous descendants, and a world-wide blessing were never fulfilled in his lifetime. It is true that his descendants through his son Isaac and his son Jacob/Israel conquered the Canaanites after the Exodus experience and established an Israelite state but lost their national independence in the 6th century BC with the Babylonian conquest. The independence of the Jews was reestablished briefly under the leadership of the Maccabees and their descendants the Hasmonean kings in the 2nd century BC, but the Romans conquered and dominated the Jews beginning from 63 BC. Israel didn't become an independent nation again until 1948.

The promise of possession of the "Promised Land" and the additional promises of a Kingdom and a world-wide blessing were not realized in Abraham's lifetime. The promise was fulfilled in the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Abraham's heir, Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:1). With the coming of the Divine Messiah, at His baptism, the gates of heaven were opened (Mt 3:16), and all who came to God through Jesus Christ with the faith of Abraham became heirs of Abraham's promise of the Promised Land of Heaven and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Finally, as the disciples of Jesus carried the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth (Mt 28:19-20) God's gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ became a world-wide blessing (see CCC# 536; 1026).

The inspired writer of Hebrews says in 11:9: By faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country... Like Abraham we also sojourn in a land that is not our own while longing for our Promised Land (see 1 Pt 1:16-19). We must renounce this world in order to be saved from it. We must renounce this world in order to inherit the better land which has been promised to us, for we are looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God (Heb 11:10). In the meantime, we are exiles on this temporal earth who long for the heavenly kingdom of which we have been declared citizens by our Priest-king Jesus Christ. As St. Peter advised the Church: Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one's works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb (1 Pt 1:16-19).

11 By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age, and Sarah herself was sterile, for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. 12 So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
Abraham was 99 and Sarah 89 when the promise was made that Sarah would bear a son (see Gen 17:1, 19, 24; 21:2), and they were 100 and 90 respectively when Isaac was born. Isaac's birth was a miracle and from that miracle came a nation, and beyond that nation of Israel came the many generations of Christians who St. Paul identifies and the true progeny of Abraham: And if you belong to Christ then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:29).

In verse 11 the inspired writer is correct in indicating that it was Sarah who was sterile and not Abraham. After Sarah's death Abraham remarried and had six sons in addition to Ishmael and Isaac (Gen 25:1-6). Both Sarah and Abraham had to accept God's promise of descendants on faith. Their common human experience told them that an elderly man and a woman whose period of fertility had come to an end would never produce a child. After attempting to bring God's promise to fruition on their own merits, a plan which resulted in the birth of Ishmael by the slave girl Hagan and the resulting family discord, in their old age both Sarah and Abraham yielded in faith to God's plan, despite the seemingly insurmountable physical obstacles. The result was a miraculous birth of a promised son, Isaac. Hebrews 10:12 quotes from Genesis 22:17: So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore and compares the one man of faith, Abraham, with the multitude of men and women who descend from him.

In Genesis 17:22 (and repeated several other times in Scripture) God promised Abraham numerous descendants using two different metaphors: descendants as numerous as the sands on the sea shore and as numerous as the stars in the sky (see Heb 11:12; Gen 15:5; 22:17; Ex 32:13; Dan 3:36 [LXX]; and Sir 44:21). St. Justin Martyr makes an interesting comparison between these two ways of expressing the promise of numerous descendants as both stars and sand. He compares the offspring of Abraham through the "promised seed" of Isaac and his son Jacob and those other men who were descended through the other lines of the other sons of these men: "Notice how the Lord makes the same promise to Isaac and Jacob." Here are the Lord's words to Isaac: "By your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." And to Jacob: "By you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed." But the Lord does not address this blessing to Esau or to Reuben or to any other, but only to them from whom Christ was to come through the Virgin Mary in accordance with the divine plan of our redemption. If you were to think over the blessing of Judah, you would see which I mean, for the seed is divided after Jacob and comes down through Judah and Perez and Jesse and David. Now, this was a sign that some of you Jews would certainly be children of Abraham and at the same time share in the lot of Christ, but that other, also children of Abraham, would be like the sand on the beach, which, though vast and extensive, is barren and fruitless, not bearing any fruit at all, but only drinking up the water of the sea." (Dialogue with Trypho 120, Justin Martyr (martyred circa 155AD). It was through men of faith that the promise continued, and was fulfilled in the many generations of Christians across the face of the earth.

Hebrews 11:13-16 ~ Promise of the Heavenly Jerusalem
13 All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, 14 for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
All these: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob died in faith without having received their promised inheritance. What was their promised inheritance and why didn't they receive it in life or in death? Did they ever receive the city God prepared for them? With the exception of Enoch, Elijah and perhaps Moses, all the Old Testament Patriarchs and all men and women including Jesus and the inspired writer's ancient and modern audience experienced physical death. However, prior to Jesus' Resurrection no human, no matter how righteous, could enter the gates of heaven (CCC#1026). Heaven had been "closed" since the fall of our original parents. All the dead, both the righteous and sinners in need of purification went to Sheol, the grave/netherworld (Hades in the Greek) to await the coming of the Redeemer.

All the Old Testament faithful and unfaithful waited for the coming of the Messiah who, according to St. Peter, preached the Gospel of salvation to the dead: ...he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark (1 Pt 3:19-20) and For this is why the Gospel was preached even to the dead they, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God. (1 Pt 4:6). Also see Ephesians 4:7-10. With these souls rescued from the grave Christ stormed the gates of heaven: "By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ" (CCC# 1026).

We often see the Old Testament people of God as ignorant of the full meaning of the promised Redeemer but the depth of their faith shows that they had a far better grasp of the future reality than we give them credit for understanding. Origen wrote concerning their understanding of the promise of salvation: "The saints who preceded Jesus' bodily sojourn, who had a somewhat greater mental grasp than the majority of believers, received the mysteries of divinity because the word of God was teaching them even before he became flesh, for he was always working, being an imitator of his Father of whom he says, "My Father is working still." He says, perhaps to the Sadducees who do not believe in the doctrine of the resurrection, "Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' He is not God of the dead, but of the living." If, therefore, God "is not ashamed to be called the God" of these people, and they are numbered among the living by Christ, and all the believers are sons of Abraham, since all the nations are blessed in the faithful Abraham whom God appointed father of the nations, are we hesitant to accept that the living have known the lessons of the living, since they were instructed by Christ, who has existed before the morning star, before he became flesh?" (Origen, On the Gospel of John, 6.17-18).

Hebrews 11:17-19 ~ Abraham's Test of Faith
17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, 18 of whom it was said, "Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name." 19 He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.
Abraham's test of faith came in Genesis chapter 22:1-3 when God commanded him to offer in sacrifice the beloved "son of the promise" (Gen 17:18-21), Isaac: It happened sometime later that God put Abraham to the test. 'Abraham, Abraham!' he called. 'Here I am,' he replied. God said, 'Take your son, your only son, your beloved Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, where you are to offer him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I shall point out to you.' Such a test of faith is also called a "covenant ordeal." It is the same kind of "covenant ordeal" which Adam and Eve faced when confronted by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. But this is Isaac's covenant ordeal as well as Abraham because he also had to submit in faith.

The inspired writer of Hebrews says that Abraham was willing to be obedient to God in this horrifying request because Abraham believed God's promise to him that this son through whom God's covenant was to continue would have as many descendants as many as the stars in the sky. Abraham believed that God was faithful to His promises, and therefore God was capable of raising his son from the dead in order to fulfill His promise. But is there any proof of the inspired writer of Hebrew's interpretation in the text of Genesis 22:1-19? In Genesis 22:5 Abraham tells his servants to stay behind with the donkey and that he and Isaac would return. Telling the servants that both of them will return supports the interpretation that Abraham believed the boy will survive the "covenant ordeal."

What does the inspired writer mean when he says in verse 19 that Abraham received Isaac back "as a symbol"? On the 3rd day after beginning the journey (Gen 22:4), Abraham received back his son back from death. The writer of Hebrews uses the same word to describe Isaac as are used to describe Jesus' relationship to God the Father. He received back from God in His mercy his "only son" (see Gen 22:2 and Jn 1:14), his "beloved" son (see Gen 22:2 and Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22) as a symbol of Christ and the Resurrection on "the third day."

This frightening Old Testament "covenant ordeal" of Abraham and Isaac is full of sacrificial imagery of Christ's Passion and is known in Hebrew as the "akeidah," the binding of Isaac. Commenting on Hebrews 11:19, Theodoret, Bishop of Cry wrote: "Figuratively speaking, he did received him back", that is, by way of a symbol and type of the resurrection. Put to death by his father's zeal, he came back to life at the word of the one who prevented the slaughter. In him the type of the saving passion was also prefigured. Hence the Lord also said to the Jews, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the prospect of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." Interpretation of Hebrews 11, Theodoret, Bishop of Cry Cyrrhus 393-466 AD).

What parallels do you see between Isaac and Jesus? How is Isaac a "type" of Christ?

Isaac is a Biblical "type" of Jesus Christ

Comparisons between the "offering up" of Isaac in sacrifice found in Genesis 22:1-18 and the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ:

How is it that as a result of Abraham's obedience in offering up Isaac for sacrifice that Abraham fills a special role in the lives of all believers? It is a teaching of the Church that in offering up his physical son Isaac that Abraham becomes the spiritual father of all believers. Abraham realized his covenant ordeal had implications beyond what he and his son faced. He told his son, when Isaac first realized there was no lamb for the sacrifice: "Yahweh will provide," meaning Yahweh would provide the sacrifice. And later when Abraham offered up the ram in place of the life of his son, Abraham names the place "Yahweh will-provide" in the future tense. It is a name which looks forward in time to the offering up on that very site the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world by providing the sacrifice of Himself. St. Paul writes concerning Abraham's faith in Romans 4:16-17: That is why the promise is to faith, so that it comes as a free gift and is secure for all the descendants, not only those who rely on the Law but all those others who rely on the faith of Abraham, the ancestor of us all as Scripture says: 'I have made you the father of many nations.' Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into existence what does not yet exist. Now both Jews and Gentiles come to God through His beloved Son, the one Lord, Jesus Christ, and are incorporated into one holy covenant family. See CCC 2570-72

The Fathers of the Church saw Isaac as prefiguring the Christ. Clement of Alexandria wrote of Isaac as a type of Christ not only in being offered for sacrifice by his father but in his name, which means "laughter": "Isaac is a type of the infant Lord as son, and, in fact, Isaac was the son of Abraham as Christ is of God, victim as was the Lord. But he was not cut down like the Lord; no, Isaac only carried the wood of the sacrifice, as the Lord did his cross. He laughed mystically by way of prophesying that the Lord fills us with joy, we who have been redeemed by his blood. He did not suffer but left to the Logos, as is fitting, the first fruits of suffering. What is more, because he was not immolated, he signifies also the divinity of the Lord. For after his burial, Jesus was raised up, thus leaving suffering behind, just as Isaac had escaped the sacrifice" (Clement, Christ the Educator, 1.5.23.1-2).

The Gospel of Luke 12:32-48 ~ In Faith be prepared for the Promises of the Lord
32 Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no their can reach nor moth destroy. 34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." 35 "Gird your loins and light your lamps 36 and be like servants who await their master's return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. 38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. 39 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come." 41 Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone? 42 And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. 45 But if that servant says to himself, "My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. 47 That servant who knew his master's will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

32 Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no their can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."
Earlier Jesus referred to the disciples as His "friends" (Lk 12:4) and now He calls them His "little flock." They are the heirs of the Kingdom and the faithful remnant of Israel that will become the seed from which the Kingdom will grow to claim dominion over the earth. Jesus challenges them in verses 33-34 to make a radical choice and to cast their lives completely into God's hands by selling all they have in order to store up an "inexhaustible treasure in heaven." In Matthew 19:29 He told them that if they were willing to give up everything to follow Him, their reward would be greater than what they gave up and now in Luke's Gospel He offers them that choice. There is probably an echo in verse 32 of the Prophet Daniel's prophecy: Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Daniel 7:27)

Luke 12:35-40 ~ Two Parables on being ready for the Master's return
35 "Gird your loins and light your lamps 36 and be like servants who await their master's return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. 38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. 39 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."
Still addressing the disciples, Jesus changes the topic from concern about earthy possessions to a warning to the disciples about being watchful and faithful servants. Their watchfulness and fidelity are related to the previous teaching that concerned not concentrating the focus of one's life on the material. Now He says that the focus in this life should be on fidelity to Jesus and being ready for His promised return.

To "gird" one's self in verse 35 expresses the condition of wearing a sash or belt to tuck up the long tunic so as to be ready for action. It can also mean readiness for service. Jesus' instruction to the disciples is similar to the instruction Moses was told to give the Israelites at the first Passover when the Israelites were instructed to be in readiness for a hasty departure from Egypt (see Ex 12:11, 22-23). In this parable, Jesus compares Himself to a master returning at an unknown hour from a wedding and expecting His servants must be ready for His return.

38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. In Jesus' time the daytime was divided into 12 seasonal hours (Jn 11:9) and the night into 4 night watches. The 2nd Watch was from 9 PM to midnight and the 3rd Watch was from midnight to 3 AM. The trumpet that announced the change of the watch at 3 AM was called "the cockcrow" (in Mk 13:35 Jesus lists the names of the four night watches). If the servants are vigilant, they will receive a blessing that is also a contradiction according to the customs of the times; instead of the servants waiting on the Master, the Master waits on the servants at a banquet in His house as a reward for their vigilance.

Later, Jesus will identify Himself at the Last Supper as the one who serves when He tells the disciples: "Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves" (Lk 22:26-27, underlining added).

The symbolic elements of the parable:
The Master Jesus
The servants The disciples
The master's house The Church
The wedding The wedding supper of the Lamb prepared in heaven
The banquet the master prepares for the servants The eschatological banquet in the heavenly kingdom in which all of the Master's servants of every age will take part

There are several eschatological overtones to this parable. For the first time Jesus gives a shadowy allusion to His "exodus" from the earth (the word that is used in the Transfiguration event in Lk 9:31 in the Greek text) and His delay in returning. Later, at the Last Supper in the Gospel of St. John, the disciples will learn that He must return to the Father for a time (Jn 13:33-14:3), and at His Ascension the angels promise His return at an unknown time (Mt 24:36-44; Acts 1:11).

In the second very short parable: Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into (verse 39), Jesus speaks of the suddenness of a burglar breaking into an unguarded house and compares that event to His sudden return at the end of the age. When Jesus suddenly returns in His glory it will be to gather all people of all nations of the earth for the Resurrection of the Dead and the Last Judgment. Some will be prepared like the faithful and vigilant servants of the Master's house (the Church), but many people of the world will be unaware and unprepared. Jesus concludes this part of His teaching with the warning: 40 "You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come," using His favorite title for Himself, "Son of Man", an allusion to the prophet Daniel's vision (Dan 7:13; concerning Jesus "Second Coming" also see CCC 366, 998, 1001, 1038, 1038-1041, Mt 25:31-46; Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 1 Thes 4:16; 2 Thes 1:5-10).

Luke 12:41-48 ~ A warning for Peter, the Apostles, and the future leaders of the Church
41 Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone? 42 And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. 45 But if that servant says to himself, "My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. 47 That servant who knew his master's will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."
A steward was the Master's chief servant and exercised the Master's power and authority over the other servants. He was responsible for everything in the Master's house and kept the keys to every door. In the description of the authority of Eliakim, the steward of the King of Judah, Isaiah writes: I shall place the key of David's palace on his shoulder; when he opens, no one will close, when he closes, no one will open. I shall drive him like a nail into a firm place; and he will become a throne of glory for his family (Is 22:22-23). When Simon-Peter was invested as Jesus' chief Steward/Vicar Jesus told him: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you lose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19-20).

What is the answer to Peter's question to Jesus in verse 41? Who is the steward Jesus refers to in verse 42? See Mt 16:13-20. The obvious answer to Peter's question is that the teaching is meant for them. Then, in verse 42 Jesus asks Peter who is the faithful and prudent steward put in charge of distributing the food allowance at the proper time. When have the apostles distributed food? See Mt 14:13-21; 15:32-38; Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10-17. The answer is that Peter is the Master's steward. He and the Apostles distributed the food in Jesus' feeding miracles. The answer is also the future chief stewards (the Popes), and the other servants/priests of the Church who will be responsible for distributing the holy food of the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass just as the Apostles distributed the food in the miracle feedings of the 5 thousand and 4 thousand, which prefigured the miracle feeding of the Eucharist.

45 But if that servant says to himself, "My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. Drunkenness is one of the signs of the Old Testament prophets symbolizing rebellion against God and the abuse of His blessings. The unfaithful servants in this verse that Jesus alludes to are abusing the gift of the Eucharist-—the food allowance that is given at the "proper time" of worship in verse 42.

In describing the fate of Jesus' servants who abuse their authority in verse 45, Jesus is using a common example of the times. His point is if it is expected that an earthly master should punish his servants for bad behavior then one should also expect that the Divine Master will also punish His servants who fail in their mission by abusing their authority. Those professed servants, however, who were not fully instructed and failed in their service, will be punished less severely than those who knew better-but they will still be punished. So what does that warning mean put in the context of the modern Church? It means the judgment will be more severe for the servants/leaders of the Church who fail because they have knowledge of the fullness of faith and know what is expected by the divine Master. The presupposition in these sayings in verses 47-48 is that those who are instructed by the Master with tasks in His household will also be given the ability to carry them out; therefore, no excuse will be tolerated.

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013; revised 2016

Catechism References:
Wisdom 18:13 (CCC 441)
Psalm 33:6 (CCC 292, 703)
Hebrews 11:1-2 (CCC 146-7)
Hebrews 8-19 (CCC 145, 2572)
Luke 12:32 (CCC 764)
Luke 12:35-40 (2849)