Semper paratus – always ready!

On the Gospel of Luke (12:32-48)

A friend of mine who was a seminarian in America woke up every morning to a neighbour’s call of ‘are you ready’! To which he replied ‘always ready’. The words of Christ in Sunday’s gospel are strong and forceful and call for a radical way of living; to always ‘stand ready’ in waiting for the Lord. But we, by nature, are impatient animals. Who likes to wait in a queue? Whether it be in the doctor’s clinic or near a toll bridge most of us want to get done with the doctor, or to the other side of the toll bridge, so we can get on with our day’s business.

Jesus also teaches in this gospel that we should gaze upwards to the treasures of heaven not forward to what the world offers; and yet humans like to be able to hold on to things of treasure, to at least see them or touch them.

Our Lord finally warns us that to know God’s will for us and not to follow it will result in one being punished for disobedience. A warning which is very stark.

But what overall meaning does this gospel have for us today?

One possible answer is to ask another question: ‘Is knowing God’s will for us at the same time a blessing and a curse’? A blessing because God has touched our lives in a very profound way and points out the path of salvation. A curse because now that we know “what the master wants” we must follow it, every hour, of everyday, so that when Jesus arrives he finds us “at this employment”.

There is incredible tension with this reality – whether one is called by God to the married state, is a student, a son, a daughter, a priest or religious – we all must do what the master wants and yet we also sin: “if we say we have not sinned we make Jesus a liar” (Jn. 1-1:10). And so as we do our duty and wait, and stand ready, “dressed for action”, we still have to deal with the fact of our sinfulness. And so how are we expected, in this state of broken human nature, not to get impatient waiting? Will we not be wearied as the temptations of the world try and draw us away from the door through which the bridegroom will return?

But this is not the way Christ wants us to live. As Jesus tells us elsewhere, he has come to make things easier for us not to put more burdens on us, “for my yoke is easy and my burden light”. Doing what the master wants, while waiting until he returns, is meant to be joyful. What God calls each one of us to in life is especially made for us to bring us happiness, to the point that we wait with eager anticipation at the door for his return, and are able to answer Christ’s call when he knocks at the door ‘are you ready’?, ‘semper paratus’.

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