I imagine the words of Jesus today may seem a bit heavy - especially
at this time of year when the summer heat tends to make many of
us feel a little sluggish and lazy. Yet Jesus calls us to vigilance
and readiness. Perhaps it’s precisely because it may be
more difficult for us to hear this message now that the Church
places this Gospel before us today as a reminder of what never
fails to be important: namely, that we always be prepared for
the Lord’s coming.
Many of us have been trained to hear these words in reference
to the Lord’s final coming to us at the moment of death.
And that surely is one way in which we can understand his message.
In fact, this is one of the Gospel passages that is often chosen
for funeral Liturgies, precisely because that interpretation is
so obvious. And that final encounter with the Lord can come quite
unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. But notice that nowhere
here does Jesus mention death or the end of the world. He speaks
rather about the coming of the Son of Man, which can be understood
in a variety of ways.
Intellectually, we know that the Gospel message speaks a great
truth. We know that this earth is not our permanent dwelling place,
but that we are travelers on a journey to another place. We know
that life as we experience it now will some day come to an end.
That is a part of the message we heard last weekend as well, urging
us not to become so attached to this earth’s goods that
we ignore the cultivation of the only goods that we can take with
us. Emotionally, however, we may find it difficult deal with all
of this. There is much on this earth that is to our liking. We
get used to this world. We find a level of comfort here and there
is much that brings us happiness and contentment. What is to come
later is largely vague and not well defined. We know well what
we will have to give up; we’re not sure of what we will
receive. We are often conditioned by society to believe that any
thought of this life’s end is gloomy and morbid, not to
be discussed because, after all, science may one day make even
The two images that Jesus uses in the Gospel, one joyful –
that of the master returning from a wedding feast, and the other
tragic – that of a thief coming in the night, are meant
only to illustrate the element of surprise connected with the
Lord’s coming. Perhaps a great part of the surprise will
be precisely in confounding our fears and apprehensions. As I
think of the many encounters recorded in Scripture between Jesus
and all kinds of people, there does not come to mind a single
instance in which anyone ran from Jesus in fear. Just the opposite
is true. Jesus took away fear. People continually approached him
with great confidence bringing every kind of difficulty and problem
of life. There was something about this person Jesus that won
them over, drew them close to him, and replaced fear with peace.
If there is any fear connected with the coming of the Son of Man
it will be so for those who have lost sight of the Jesus of the
Gospels who welcomed the little children, forgave the adulterous
woman and healed the lame and the blind and the deaf. If there
is fear connected with the coming of the Son of Man it will be
so for those who have missed his coming over and over again during
their lifetimes in moments simple and profound, ordinary and exceptional.
If, however, we have worked to develop a relationship with Jesus
during our pilgrimage on earth, we will, indeed, be prepared for
his coming again and which will remove all fear forever.