Jesus’ Take on “The Grasshopper and The Ants”

HOMILY FOR 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 2019

Gospel: Lk 12:32-48

Five Hundred or so years before Jesus, Aesop recorded a Fable entitled “The Grasshopper and The Ants.”  It went like this:

One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat.

“What!” cried the Ants in surprise, “haven’t you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?”

“I didn’t have time to store up any food,” whined the Grasshopper; “I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone.”

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

“Making music, were you?” they cried. “Very well; now dance!” And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.

Moral:  There’s a time for work and a time for play.

Sound a little bit like Jesus’ parable, doesn’t it?  BE PREPARED! Folk wisdom can be found throughout the ages in Ancient and Biblical literature alike.  WISDOM is a gift from the Holy Spirit, guaranteed in the Church and Synagogue but never limited to it. And we well know how wisdom builds on wisdom from one age to the next. So, what did Jesus add to the sagacity of his time for our time?  He says,  “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  His listeners knew full well He was speaking about the End Times—the End of All Things.  But they also knew that Promise of the Ages could be experienced in aspects of their lives in their day.  In our day, we know that Christ attends to us, is with us, guides us through Sacraments and all acts of faith, hope and love.

Jesus also says, those who are “prepared”– those who live open to Christ and His Spirit–will have great rewards in the here and now and future.  He also says those who are not prepared will be “beaten” – an image not to be taken literally but understood as “beaten down,” discouraged, despaired, debilitated by doubts, fears, vengeance, greed—the results of a faithless life.  

In the ensuing years, the fable of “The Grasshopper and the Ants” has evolved into one with more Christian aesthetics in the just the same way we have come to interpret what sounds like Jesus’ harsh sayings in newly inspired ways.  In the more recent rendition, the Ants have compassion on the Grasshopper, invite him into their colony for the winter to entertain them with his fiddle. Everybody eats to the sound of music, and afterward, dancing ensues, celebrating a kind of heavenly banquet!  The implication here is that with compassion comes a new consciousness that there’s a unique work for everyone to do –many gifts but one Spirit.

This vision of all working, living and playing together, adds much to how we read Jesus’ parable of the Faithful and Prudent Steward.  To get right down to it:  Why put us through the suffering of being without Christ, living in despair, hurt, anger, begrudging what we have or envying what we don’t have–when Jesus offers abundant hope, solace, energy and grace-filled resources as needed.  The Gospel reminds us that although Jesus is ever-present at our door, we are tempted not to open it, or we can’t or won’t because we’re more focused on our fiddling than on God who gave us the ability to fiddle in the first place!   On the surface Jesus’ parable threatens us with punishments for failing to live the Gospel.  More importantly, Providence inspires us to acknowledge our weakness and fallibilities not to cultivate guilt but to strengthen our resolve–if we let it–to hear Jesus knocking at our door and let him in!

HOW shall we keep the LIGHT of faith burning in our hearts and homes to let Jesus in?   We may do so by cultivating an ever enthusiastic “Yes”  to living with integrity, honesty, fairness in our work and leisure. We can cultivate a deeper Christ Awareness in what we choose to read, how we speak, engage in dialogue regarding family matters, news, politics or local community matters.  We do these things not to “please Jesus” who loves us unconditionally but to grow in solidarity with Him, to allow ourselves to experience His friendship more fully, conscious He is HERE and Comes to Us Continually.

Furthermore, we may live faith, hope and  love daily by saying “No” to lies, by refusing to ignore the deep realities of issues, people, places and things; by saying “No” to blaming others and saying “Yes” to exploring and sharing in solutions to daily dilemmas and wider woes of city, state and world. 

In Christ, and through Communion with Him, we allow ourselves to be Enlivened, energized by the Holy Spirit for all the work at hand, balanced by proper “sabbath” rest and leisure – all in a proper balance of time and place exemplified by the Change of Seasons, themes and ideas supported by fable and parable alike.    Humility offers Heaven on Earth as we affirm and live-out Jesus’ words: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

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