‘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.
Roman soldiers wore mini-skirts, which enabled them to run at full speed when they had to; they had no need to “gird up their loins”, as older translations of this passage had it. But Jews, who wore full-length garments, would have to arrange themselves before taking off at speed. Garments tied up about the waist are an image of readiness in the Scriptures. See this line-out, for example: Exodus 12:11; 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 9:1….
“Be dressed for action.” But there is no action! There is only waiting. This sounds like a false alarm. But it also sounds just like a description of meditation. In meditation you remain fully alert, yet completely at rest. We usually do one or the other, seldom both together. We are usually alert only when we are doing things, and when we stop doing things we get drowsy or fall asleep. When a Zen master was asked how one should meditate he said, “Sit alert in front of that rock and wait for it to grow a bit.”
Jesus was constantly exhorting people to stay awake: Mt 24:42; 25:13; Mk 13:33; 13:34; 13:35; 13:37; Lk 21:36…. In regard to the present reading we have to remember that a Jewish wedding feast could last a week, so the servants had ample time to nod off. "Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes." This sounds like an additional ‘Beatitude’: we could add it to Luke’s list in chapter 6, which is shorter in any case than Matthew’s. There is an interesting twist: when the master returns and finds the servants awake, Jesus says, he will serve them, reversing the roles of master and servant. The Son of Man came, we remember, “to serve and not to be served” (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45).
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