When I was eleven or twelve years old, there was a veterinarian in town by the name of Gary Daley. Gary went to his heavenly reward in 2012 after a battle with cancer. My mom worked with Dr. Gary at Lander Veterinary clinic, where Gary is still spoken of in high regard. He was a kind and generous man–merciful even–especially to me. Gary had almonds, and in the winter of 1987 he hired me over Christmas break to walk back and forth in the orchard piling up the small branches to place them in the center of the row where they could more easily be picked up by the tractor. I worked eight hours a day over Christmas break, at $5 an hour, and on his lunch break, he took me to Carl’s Jr. and paid for lunch. Not too bad. He was a good and generous boss. Did I mention merciful too?
Well there I was one day, working in the orchard, and it was just so still and peaceful. I was picking up sticks but started to get a little sleepy. “Maybe I’ll just relax for a second on this bed of sticks that I had piled up.” How embarrassed I was to wake up and see Gary standing there when my eyes opened–caught! quite literally, sleeping on the job! Gary asked if I was ready for lunch and never once mentioned it. He paid me a full day’s wage and never, for as long as he lived brought it up.
I have never forgotten it. I’ve held onto the shame and the embarrassment of working for someone so kind and generous, and while I should have worked harder for him because he was so good to me, I thought only of myself, how tired I was, and took a nap. I was just a kid, that’s true, but even then, I knew better, and I know better still.
The Gospel we heard today is not meant to instill fear in us, but it should cause us to reflect a bit about the quality of our work in the Lord’s absence. Our Lord Jesus, the Son of man, is a good and generous master too. He has put us in charge of his children, his Church, the earth, and all that is in it. We are in right-relationship with him–we have faith. Faith is having what our heart desires the most–a wonderful relationship with the unseen God that was purchased for us by the blood of his only begotten son. We are his trusted servants not because of anything we have done, but only because of God’s love and generosity towards us.
What will the Lord Jesus find when he returns to judge the living and the dead? Will he find faith upon the earth? Will he find a people who have daily committed themselves to doing his will, living right, and being generous and kind to others, especially the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant? Will the master find us being generous toward the poor, concerned about the earth and its resources, kind toward our neighbor–not only the one right next door, but also the one beaten and battered along the side of the road? Or will he find us instead asleep in the orchard? Today we are warned, “you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Be prepared!
I don’t think this is a reason to be afraid, but it is absolutely a call to wake up. It’s a reminder that we need to get our act together. The master’s return is long overdue and we are in the second or even third watch–we must be vigilant like those blessed servants in the Gospel–not out of fear, but because we have been so greatly loved, been given so much freedom and responsibility. We have faith. We are in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, let us do as Abraham did–he obeyed when he was called, despite uncertainty, he went wherever the Lord called him to go, and his descendants were as numerous as the stars in the sky, countless as the sands on the seashore.
God wants to bless us, he wants us to remain in faith, but we must stay awake. He is merciful, but won’t we be embarrassed at our present state should he return today? There’s still time. Get up and pick up some sticks.
In loving memory of Dr. Gary W. Daley, November 19, 1951 – November 6, 2012. May he rest in peace. Amen.