8. Sunday after Trinity
This reflection on the words of Jesus: “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” [Luke 12;40] presents us with several problems because we look for ways of finding out the future. We want to know about the future, we fret about the future, we fear the future, so we look for ways of cracking the code, for ways of knowing. But, from a Christian viewpoint, there are problems, if God is treated like a fortune teller who predicts that I’m going to get a new job, win the lottery or something equally exciting, what has happened to my freewill, to my freedom to make choices? And what is it saying about our ability to manipulate God, so that he becomes little more than the genie in the lamp, emerging from time to time to enquire respectfully “And what is your command today, O Master?”
Jesus tells us in the passage “not to fear” the times and seasons are in God’s hands, and to seek to command the future is to confront God, is to dabble in things we should leave alone. Of course we may say “If only I’d known that was going to happen”, or we may also say “thank God, I didn’t know that would happen.” But though knowledge of the future can be safely left in God’s hands, it does not mean that we are to be indifferent or fatalistic about our own lives, or about what lies ahead. Doris Day may have sung “che sara sara, whatever will be will be,” when she was just a little girl, but it won’t do for us!
Jesus talked in our Gospel about a burglary, and how if the owner had known, he would have taken appropriate precautions beforehand. The trouble today is that burglaries are so common that we do tend to be fatalistic about them. It’s similar to the view that you die when your time has come, as though to mean that there is a recording angel sitting up in heaven calling in people on a predetermined day, a bit like pleasure boats on a lake! Such attitudes are no basis on which to build a positive Christian spiritual life. We are called to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. In other words we are challenged as to where we stand, how prepared we are. We are, like the boy scouts motto of old, “be prepared” be ready at all times, like faithful servants awaiting the return of their master, not knowing when he will appear, but with everything prepared.
But in real life, how often is it like that? We see the results of lack of preparedness all around us – we see it in politicians who are driven by events instead of taking a grip on what is happening and setting the agenda themselves, I see it in myself, rushing round trying to find the papers I need for my meeting that starts in ten minutes’ time, as if no one had told me that I was due at a meeting. So, we need to examine ourselves, we need to recognise within us all those things which war against the work of the Spirit in us, we need to accept that all too often we allow the course of our lives to be dictated by external forces, by events which take control of us and make us angry and helpless, instead of purposefully looking for God’s will in the things that happen to us, and shaping, under God, the course of our minds and souls.
We need to turn away from all that because in fact, though we may have become accustomed to muddling through, there is something profoundly un-Christian about it, it is, in its own way, leaving too much to chance, as if guided by horoscopes, placing our destiny in the hands of – God knows what! There is no guarantee that life will be benign. The only guarantee is that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. [Luke 12;34]
Fr. Edward Bryant