‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be ready for the Master’s return, vigilant’
None of us like to be caught out, caught napping, or caught unawares, unprepared, not ready for a visitor with our house or kitchen in a state and perhaps nothing for a visitor to eat. Equally none of us wish to be caught out when there is an unanticipated inspection of our work, when we are being scrutinised, and especially if we are unprepared.
None of us want to be stopped by the Gardaí at a checkpoint. Often and we well know it by know where the Garda speed vans are – we know where to slow down, and we might even be warned by oncoming traffic by flashing lights in a 50km speed zone. But how much greater the relief and satisfaction when and we breathe a sigh of relief when a squad car is at the side of the road and we have kept to the speed limit.
We think of being on the watch also because there may have been a burglar on the prowl. We think of someone who hasn’t made enough plans or taken enough steps to guard their property or their valuables, of when we hear of someone broken into. I will never forget the story of neighbours of mine at home who came home from their annual holiday only to find that their house had been broken into and a large kitchen knife found in a bedroom upstairs!
If we are that cautious and careful about our bodies and our material welfare, the parables today challenge us to think: what of our souls and our spiritual welfare, of our future, of our calling, of our ultimate destiny? It is not that God wants to catch us out and pick His moment to when we are at our weakest, to snatch us as it were from this life.
Today’s Gospel is therefore a call to a greater attentiveness and vigilance as to what it means to be Christian, in thought, in speech, in action and also in moments of trial and temptation.
We think of the example of the greatest Christian woman of all, the Mother of Jesus, who was first and foremost a great listener and observer, and we are given examples of her attentiveness, that is of her practical living out of what she had heard. She went with haste to visit and attend to her pregnant cousin Elizabeth and stayed until the birth of John the Baptist; she was the first to notice that there was no wine at Cana – without her watchful, loving and observant eye and concern, a wedding would have been remembered for all the wrong reasons.
The sense of readiness is also well explained in the following story
The story of the two soldiers
A general turned up one day in the trenches in World War One and asked a junior officer to pick two of his best solders, only one of which would be chosen for a secret mission.
Two soldiers were sent for – one was immaculately attired, rifle gleaming, shoes polished to a reflective shine, down to the polished buttons and pressed suit the soldier’s uniform was exemplary.
The other soldier was sent for, his rifle too was perfect, but everything else about him was rough and care-worn.
The general said ‘I’ll take the second man, I commend a man ready for inspection, but what I want is a man who gets the job done.’
Being ready therefore is the Master finding us at our employment, of being trustworthy – that is literally being found worthy of the trust placed in us.
Christ wants us to carry out His mission readily and with a generous heart, not with one eye over our shoulder. With our sleeves rolled up:
“Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
[Teresa of Avila]