Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year
Hebrews 11:1-2 8-19
Dressed for Action
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit”. This is the advice we are all given by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Expect the Unexpected
We are told to be on the alert. Get ready for whatever is coming. The best way to deal with unexpected situations is to learn to expect them. When someone is learning how to drive, part of that learning should be to practice meeting unexpected situations. I’m talking about the what if’s of driving. What if the car in front of you should suddenly stop? How do you prepare for that? Keep your distance at all times from the vehicle in front of you. Don’t tailgate. Try to look ahead of that vehicle to see if there are any obstacles in the road, detours, etc. You don’t wait until the car ahead of you suddenly stops before you start thinking about the way to avoid an accident. Be alert. Be ready.
We are forever seeing that more preparation is needed in order to cope with the unexpected. Right now many different countries and communities are involved with making plans. Perhaps they are one of those places that have experienced some natural disaster and want to be more prepared next time. Or maybe they are trying to make decisions about how to best keep their communities safe from human causes of evil. You and I also must be in a state of preparedness.
Planning for Life
What are some of the more common things in life that we have to be ready for? Pain, illness, death – of self, of others; birth, healing. Loss of friends; making new ones. Temptations, evil; moral decisions, opportunities for good. We need to be prepared to handle the negative experiences that come our way, and to take advantage of the life-giving experiences that also cross our paths.
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” These words from Jesus imply that life is not just something that happens to us. Life isn’t just a burden that is thrown onto our backs. Being prepared to meet life demands readiness.
Strengthening our faith is the central way we can prepare for life. As Christians our response to life should be one that comes from the deepest centre of ourselves–our belief in God, in Jesus, in the Spirit. It is here that we will find the resources we need to cope with life.
When we are involved in making preparations, being vague and indefinite does not do us any good. If I want to prepare for a camping trip, then I have to pay attention to detail. If I don’t I could find myself in the middle of the woods without proper food or cooking utensils, or with an air mattress that is full of little holes, or a tent that leaks. So also in our spiritual lives we need to be definite.
There is something that every religious order has been using since religious orders began. It is called a ‘rule of life’. This just means a framework within which the members of the religious order live. It always consists of certain forms of prayer usually said in common at specified times. It will outline the requirements for meditation and spiritual reading, and will also talk about the obligations to the members of the community. Many other things are also included in the rule.
A Rule of Life
For you to grow in your spiritual lives and to be ready to face life with a Christian response, you also should have a rule of life. This would be a schedule of certain spiritual practices. This can be a very great help to you. There are a lot of advantages to having a personal rule of life. It can help clarify your own self-expectations in the area of prayer and spiritual devotions. It provides you with a certain system of growing in the faith. If you don’t have such a schedule, you can go for a long time neglecting prayer and the things of the spirit. When you are faithful to a plan of life, it becomes much easier to bring your faith to all the dimensions of living.
Many of you already have the beginning of a plan. You know that every Sunday you will gather at your parish celebration of the Eucharist. Each morning and evening you take a few moment to pray. This should be the absolute minimum. But along with that you need to schedule in spiritual reading and, hopefully, some quiet time for your own reflection. Some of you have devotions that you may have learned from your parents that you still find useful. If you are married, part of your plan could be a yearly enrichment program for you as a couple. If you are single, a yearly retreat or workshop of some kind could be a valuable addition to your plan.
Some people have a hit and miss kind of spirituality. Maybe I’ll pray today–maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll read something good today–maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll go to Mass next Sunday–maybe I won’t. We all know that if we operated this way in our job, we would soon be out of work. Our faith life demands at least the same kind of commitment.
“Be dressed for action, and have your lamps lit”
In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS