32nd Sunday Year A - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2005 

Today’s Gospel advises us to Stay Awake.  Actually, a more appropriate moral might be Be Prepared!  None of the teen-aged girls in the story managed to stay awake but five of them were prepared, and so fared well.  Be Prepared!  Two questions immediately arise: How?  And determining the answer to that is the prior question: prepare for what?  Be Prepared for what?  You can prepare for a holiday, for example, so as not to be inconvenienced: bring clothes that can handle a change in the weather, have your accommodation booked, your return fare paid, enough cash in your pocket or credit card account.  But to prepare to enjoy your holiday, to be happy on it, calls for something else: because whatever else you bring, whoever else you  bring, you certainly bring yourself: you cannot get away from yourself.  To be happy, at home or on holiday, depends on the kind of person you are.

Jesus calls us to be prepared for eternity.  Our experience of that depends not on what we bring but on the kind of person we are.  It is hardly a question of arriving with a number of Plenary Indulgences, or having the nine First Fridays, or the five First Saturdays, under my belt – unless they have succeeded in their purpose and have formed in me the same heart and mind as the real Christ’s.  How I fare in eternity, whether I shall enjoy it or not, whether it will be a good experience or not, will be a factor simply of: can I love?  Can I love God, myself, and others (because I am destined to spend eternity with all three!).  Can I love then will be a factor of: Do I love now.  Indeed, do I enjoy loving God, myself and others?

You would think it would be easy.  So why have I not grown into a wonderfully loving person?  Why is God still “out there”?  Why am I frightened to tell you who I am?  Why am I selective and even unwilling to even bother to try to love some people?  especially when loving moves beyond mere tolerance to become real in care, forgiveness and service?  Sadly experience shows that growing in love inevitably involves dying to self, dying to self-absorption, to self-centredness, to comfort (and my comfort-zone).  It involves surrendering my obsessive need to control, my anxious covering up and unwillingness to own the real me.  I am not instinctively good at it; but if I persevere, I can find it even congenial: it fits; it makes sense; it’s good.

When I have grown to the stage of enjoying relating in love to God, my own self and to others, then I am prepared for eternity.  I suppose that most of us will be only half-ready by the time we die, perhaps hardly half.  Thank God for the second chance, for Purgatory!  Being stretched will be tough, dying to self will be focussed and relentless, but the gradual growth will be wonderful and the final outcome assured.  Given that certainly, whether the actual occasion of stepping onwards  into eternity be a peaceful death in bed from old age, a less peaceful one from sickness, a car accident, an earthquake or a flood, even a terrorist bomb, ultimately the how is irrelevant and hardly deserves worrying about.  But it is worth engaging seriously with the preparation right now.

Every Eucharist can help, though it does not do so inevitably.  Each Eucharist can be for us the chance to open ourselves once more to the action of God’s Spirit drawing us to align our hearts and minds with the heart and mind of the dying Jesus.  It is a call for us to celebrate the triumph of loving, against the odds, to commit ourselves yet again to the on-going project central to the spirit of Christ: the shaping of God’s Kingdom of justice, peace and love in the day-to-day world of our own family, neighbourhood and nation.  When shared in with awareness and commitment, it is a wonderful school preparing us for eternity.