The Visitation of the Lord

Click here for today’s Scripture readings.

Amos 8:4-7
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13 or 16:10-13

This is a complicated gospel. It will take more than one key to unlock the door! Luke Timothy Johnson (The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina Series) points out that the word used for the ‘rich man’, who is the employer of the crafty steward, is the same word the gospel has used for Jesus, “Lord”. Therefore, the crisis that comes upon our steward in the parable is the ‘visitation of his lord’! How does the steward handle such a thing? How might we handle the ‘visitation of Our Lord’? Under pressure, the steward continues to manage his master’s money, even now producing an end result to his advantage. Some of his masters debtors owe him a new debt of gratitude, and then some!

The steward uses possessions well, so must disciples. The second key is to remember that earlier in the gospel we were told how disciples should handle possessions. “Sell your possessions. Give alms….Where your treasure is, in that place your heart also will be” (13:33-34).

We want to be ready for the Lord’s visit. Our possessions will serve us best if we give alms. Like the steward who eased the burdens of those indebted to his employer, so our almsgiving helps those in need and brings us favorable judgement from Our Lord.

Last week the parables of the gospel invited those who had closed their hearts to Jesus to be lifted up, to be found, to be happy. There is a sense of change of today, although we do not see that in the steward. The gospel stands alongside the Prophet Amos. Preparing for the Lord’s visitation and using our possessions correctly can not be just about us. We have solidarity with the poor.

When Mary visits her kinswoman Elizabeth, (1:43), Elizabeth says to Mary, “How do I deserve to have the mother of my Lord visit me?” This gospel scene is popularly called the “visitation”. Luke may not have connected the idea of the ‘visits’ experienced by the steward and Elizabeth, but Mary does what a faithful disciple should do. Mary’s visitation places her at the service of Elizabeth. Mary comes seemingly unbidden to give what she has to help Elizabeth in her time of need.

Next week we will hear a parable of those who reject Jesus. They will be compared to the wealthy man who rejects the beggar Lazarus. There are a few verses that fall between today’s gospel and the story of the rich man and Lazarus that we will not hear read in church. They serve as a reprise of the story of the crafty steward: Pharisees love money, God knows the heart, the law and the prophets were proclaimed up to the time of John the Baptist but now the kingdom of God is proclaimed.

Ouch! Amos is tough, but Luke who is gentle can also pack a wallop. We need a visitation strategy. God loves to surprise, so do not forget God’s pattern of showing up when least expected. Ask Moses, Jeremiah, Gideon, Elijah, Mary….Our treasure and our hearts go together. But is our treasure possessions, money, or the poor, our brothers and sisters?

Father Bill Murphy, C.P. is the pastor of St. Joseph Monastery  Passionist Parish in Baltimore, Maryland.

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