Did you catch that second-to-last verse from today’s gospel (Luke 19:11-28)? We’ve often heard different versions of this parable, but Luke’s version doesn’t appear to be read at any Sunday mass, even in Cycle C, which draws mainly from the gospel of Luke. If I were a betting man, I would be willing to wager that most Catholics have never heard this gospel passage. Jesus is telling this parable because some of his followers think that he is going to Jerusalem to establish his kingdom. It is as if he is saying, through the parable, “No, not now. I have to go away for a while first.”
In the parable, what happens to those who rejected the authority of the king while he was gone? “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.” (Luke 19:27). Lest a reader think that the harshness of this passage is an isolated case, I note that the agreement with the Book of Revelation’s letter to the church at Sardis (read at mass yesterday) is chilling: “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life…” (Rev 3:4-5). None of us should be willing to risk having our name blotted out from the book of life.
Oh, yes, the Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and generous in forgiveness. But he is also just. Love of God is paramount, but a little fear (the proportionate awe that keeps our pride in check) is a good and necessary thing.