Romans 5: 12, 15b, 17-21
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.
For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 40: 7-10, 17
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
Luke 12: 35-38
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves."
Have you ever needed to stay up all night? Most likely, this was easier or harder to do depending on the reason. For instance, if you were up to study for an exam or to meet a work deadline, it might be a struggle to stay awake; you would be fighting sleep, probably resenting the fact that you were awake, and relying on the strength of discipline alone. But say you were awake awaiting the arrival of a new baby, or were up caring for a sick family member or waiting for a grown child to return home after a night out. In times like these, sleep is not even an option and we gain a sort of superhuman strength to keep alert even as our bodies tire. The key difference in these situations is love; if we are doing something out of duty, the discipline can feel like a burden. But when we are motivated by concern for a loved one, no one needs to tell us to stay alert.
This kind of love is what Jesus is asking for in the Gospel today. While He likens us to servants waiting for a master, the sort of alertness that stays up through the night comes much more easily if we are motivated by love over duty alone. While it is possible to serve God out of a sense of duty or just wanting to be a good person, the discipline of the Christian life will feel like more of a burden, or a task to check off the to-do list, and we will not have the same edge as those servants who are keeping themselves awake, poised to respond to the Master as soon as they see Him coming. We may go to Mass, say prayers, donate our money to the poor, but unless we deeply love the Lord, we will not be fashioning our lives around seeking Him and doing His will in every aspect of our lives.
We cultivate love for the Lord by spending time in prayer and learning about who He is. St. Paul reminds us today of Jesus’ incredible love and mercy, which He showed us by sacrificing Himself for our salvation. When we take time to ponder this, as well as all the grace and goodness He has shown us, we recognize not only our need for Him, but our hearts can’t help but overflow with love and gratitude for who He is and what He has done. It is then that we can pray like the Psalmist, “I delight to do your will, oh my God,” and we can have the same disposition as the watchful servants, whose focus is square on the Master.
The greatest saints were close to the Lord because of their great love for Him. It was this love that impelled them to live the way they did, to keep their focus on Him and to seek to do His will in all things. If your faith life feels like a duty to fulfill that is wearing you down, ask to be renewed in love. Seek the Lord for the grace to live as those faithful servants waiting for their Master.