Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Be aware of this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
Peter said, "Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?"
The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you,he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one of whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded."
St Paul writes that we are people who have come back from the dead to life, and that the risen Christ lives within us. In the gospel Luke seems to suggest that Jesus has gone on a long journey and has disappeared over the horizon. But these two viewpoints are not in contradiction. We are advised to live daily, even moment by moment, as though the Son of Man were at the door, already knocking and ready to come in. Another key to the readings occurs in the word "servant" or "slave," at least for Romans and Luke. Paul urges us to be "obedient slaves of justice." The biblical notion of justice goes even deeper than a fairer distribution of this world's goods. It is rooted in God's utter fidelity, being true to God's own self and to his promises. To Moses on Mount Sinai Yahweh appeared as "a merciful and gracious God rich in kindness and fidelity" (Ex 34:6). Therefore, as slaves of justice, we must live with an awareness of God's great fidelity.
Only as slaves of justice are we true to our inner self, to our authentic personality, made in the image of God. The terms servant or slave recur often in the gospel. There is the parable of the unworthy steward who began abusing the servant girls, then eating and getting drunk. This steward is a slave himself, only of a higher position, but has forgotten most elementary norms of justice to others. The wise steward-slave was to be a just and faithful in his treatment of his fellow-servants.
The master comes unexpectedly, and in all sorts of ways Jesus is knocking at our door, literally everywhere. He is rising to new life in people and places where we would least expect it. Such is "God's secret plan." We, as chief stewards of the house, must not mistreat nor abuse anyone. We need to care tenderly for each person. We need to be very solicitous about the use of God's good earth. Any moment, any time Jesus will come and knock.
Personally, I don't much like surprises. I like to have a good idea of what lies ahead and when it is coming. But we know from experience that the unexpected does happen. It is that experience of the unexpected that features in today's gospel. The burglar breaks through the wall of a house at an hour nobody expects; and the master arrives home at a time when his irresponsible servant is not expecting him.
Jesus shows that there can be the element of the unexpected in his relationship with us and ours with him. The Son of Man comes at an hour we do not expect. We may be inclined to relate that to the hour of our death; sudden and unexpected death is certainly a reality. However, the coming of the Son of Man to us in the course of our lives can also be unexpected. The Lord may call us to do something we had never thought about; he may prompt us to take a path we have never taken before. He can come to us through unexpected people, through people we would never associate as the Lord's messengers. His word may speak to us in a way we have never heard it before. The gospel reading suggests that when it comes to the Lord, we can expect the unexpected. As Isaiah says, his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts. What is important is that we are open and receptive to him.