19thSunday of the Year ( C ) 2019
‘You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’. This sentence is a bit heavy; bit like a threat. Usually, these kind of readings we get at the end of the year when the church focusses on the last things. But this is summer, we’re supposed to be on holiday, sea-side, sun and sand, eating ice-creams that sort of thing. However, real life can come even when we are on holidays. I remember being on a beach. I noticed a group of people around a man lying still on the sand. It seems he was dead, a heart attack or something. Someone left the group and came to a phone near why I was, so I could hear the conversation with this man’s wife. The caller told her that her husband had had an accident and had been taken to hospital. This poor woman had no idea that when she got to the hospital she would find her husband dead.
So even though we are at a time of summer holidays I suppose what the gospel is saying to us is always be ready. We can spend our lives getting ready for something or other. Getting ready for work, for school, for an appointment. Right now I am getting ready to go on the Camino de Compostella next month. Some of you may know about the Camino, it’s an ancient pilgrimage through Spain to the tomb of St James, in Compostella.
Truth to tell I have been ready for the last month. I have made a list of everything I will need: a map and a guide book, these are essential, the right kind of clothing and especially footwear, toiletries: a torch for walking in the morning before light; a good hat, sun tan lotion, plasters for blisters. I’ve bought euros for the daily expenses. I’ve yet to get insurance; I must do that before I leave. Then I am ready.
‘The Camino’, as it’s called, is like a pilgrimage of life. You could call life a journey or even better a pilgrimage. And we should always be ready for that pilgrimage. However, what we need are not guide books and clothing, euros and insurance, but other things, things that will last. On our pilgrimage through life we need first and foremost faith and trust in God: better than any map or satnav. With this faith and trust you will never get lost, you may take the wrong turn now and again, but you’ll never get lost. Then fill up your rucksack with virtues; beginning with kindness: be kind to people as you journey through life; even those who are not kind to you; this will be your heavenly insurance. Put also in your rucksack generosity; be generous and the Lord promises that He will overlook our innumerable sins: just as well. Be compassionate: as you journey through life you will meet other pilgrims who will be suffering and far worse than blisters: many people you meet will have heavy crosses to bear; your compassion will make that cross lighter. You will need the sacraments; this will be your food, your nourishment to keep you going, especially when the journey gets tough. And finally, don’t forget to put prayer in your heavenly rucksack. It is prayer that will keep you in touch with your heavenly Guide. Prayer will always keep you on the right road.
In this way we shall be ready for life and even for death. It is now we prepare for death; not by being morbid, but by living in such a way today, that if tomorrow never comes we will be ready.