In the Gospel for Tuesday of the 29th Week, Jesus reminds us to be ready, but what does that mean? Let’s consider four ways that the Lord describes.
READY to WORK – Jesus says, “gird your loins,” which is the ancient equivalent of saying, “roll up your sleeves.” The Lord has a work for us and wants us to get to it. He’s not thinking of a worldly career, but rather things such as raising children in godly fear, pursuing justice, and growing in holiness. The Lord wants us to work in His Kingdom.
We must commit to prayer, Sunday worship, reception of the sacraments, obedience, and holiness. The Lord has a particular work for each of us based on the gifts He has given us. Some can teach, others work well with senior citizens, still others have a good head for business and can provide employment at a just wage. Some are called to priesthood or the religious life. Some are called to suffering and to offer that suffering for the salvation of souls. Some serve in strength, others in weakness. In some way, all are called to serve, to work. So, work with what the Lord gave you to advance His Kingdom. Part of being ready means doing our work.
READ the WORD – The Lord says, “light your lamps.” Taken from a literal standpoint, this refers to getting ready as described in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). In another sense a lamp is a symbol for Scripture. For example, Your Word, O Lord, is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Ps 119:105), We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).
So, from today’s Gospel we can also understand that an essential part of being ready is being rooted and immersed in Scripture and in the teachings of the Church. In this increasingly secular world, so hostile to the faith, our minds are bound to be sullied unless we read Scripture every day. How can our minds be sober and clear if we are inebriated by the world? Being ready means reading Scripture each day and basing our life on it.
REMAIN WATCHFUL – The Lord says, “and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. … Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
There are different ways to watch and wait. There is the passive watching and waiting such as one might do when waiting for a bus to come, but there are other more active ways such as a waiter might exhibit as he hovers in the background anticipating the needs of the diners. It is this watchful and waiting spirit that the Lord has in mind here. If we have invited guests to our home, we prepare our house and make sure everything is in order as we await their arrival. In a less literal sense, to set our house in order is to sweep clean our soul of sin and all unrighteousness, by God’s grace, and to remove the clutter of worldliness. Regular confession and daily repentance sweep clean the house of our soul; simplifying our life and minimizing worldly attachments de-clutters the house of our soul.
Have you prepared the house of your soul for the Lord’s arrival? If you haven’t, the Lord says that you may experience him as a thief; He is not really a thief, though, because everything belongs to Him. If we have not renounced our worldliness and greed, if we have not de-cluttered our lives worldly attachments, the Lord will come to take back what is His; He will seem a thief to us because we think it is ours. It’s never a good idea to call God, the Lord and owner of all, a thief!
REFLECT on your reWARD – The Lord says, Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.
The Lord is clear that He has a reward for those who are found ready. It is prefigured in the banquet of the Eucharist, wherein the Lord prepares a meal and feeds us. The Lord says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). And I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom (Luke 22:30).
For most of us in the Western world today, food is easy to come by and not given a great deal of thought. In the ancient world this was not so, and one of the pleasures people looked forward to most was a hearty meal in the company of friends and family. The Lord offers us the magnificent blessing of Heaven, where we will be with Him and those whom we love forever in unspeakable joy and peace.
Do you meditate often on Heaven and long for its rewards? It seems strange to me that we speak so little about Heaven. Because it is not a place any one of us has been, it’s hard to fully understand what it will be like, but we should be reflecting often on the joy awaiting us there. Part of being ready to go home to Lord is longing for that day. When we want to do something we eagerly prepare for it; we are motivated and make sacrifices to do it.
Last year a group from my parish traveled to the Holy Land. Many of them saved money for two years through a payment plan to be able to go. In preparation, we gathered together periodically, studying maps and reading Bible stories. On the day of departure many in the group arose early and arrived at the airport hours ahead of time. Eagerly reflecting on Heaven and the joy awaiting us there should be similar. If we desire Heaven we will more naturally get ready and lay aside whatever is necessary to make the passage there.
So, here are four ingredients constituting a recipe for readiness. You’d better set your house in order ’cause he may be comin’ soon!